• Ratcliffe, John M.
  • Dawson, Jeff W.
  • University of Toronto


We present behavioural data demonstrating that the little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus, and the northern long-eared bat, M. septentrionalis, can glean prey from surfaces and take prey on the wing. Our data were collected in a large outdoor flight room mimicking a cluttered environment. We compared and analysed flight behaviours and echolocation calls used by each species of bat when aerial hawking and gleaning. Our results challenge the traditional labelling ofM. lucifugus as an obligate aerial-hawking species and show that M. septentrionalis, which is often cited as a gleaning species, can capture airborne prey. As has been shown in previous studies, prey-generated acoustic cues were necessary and sufficient for the detection and localization of perched prey. We argue that the broadband, high-frequency, downward-sweeping, frequency-modulated calls used by some bats when gleaning prey from complex surfaces resolve targets from background. First, because calls of lower frequency and narrower bandwidth are sufficient for assessing a surface before landing, and second, because there are few, if any, simple surfaces in nature from which substrate-gleaning behaviours in wild bats would be expected. 


Bats were caught using modified harp traps from abandoned mica mines which are night-roosts, then housed in wooden bat boxes to be taken to QUBS for experiments