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Bats are killed by wind turbines in North America and Europe in large numbers, yet a satisfactory explanation for this phenomenon remains elusive. Most bat fatalities at turbines thus far occur during late summer and autumn and involve species that roost in trees. In this commentary I draw on existing literature to illustrate how previous behavioral observations of the affected species might help explain these fatalities. I hypothesize that tree bats collide with turbines while engaging in mating behaviors that center on the tallest trees in a landscape, and that such behaviors stem from 2 different mating systems (resource defense polygyny and lekking). Bats use vision to move across landscapes and might react to the visual stimulus of turbines as they do to tall trees. This scenario has serious conservation and management implications. If mating bats are drawn to turbines, wind energy facilities may act as population sinks and risk may be hard to assess before turbines are built. Researchers could observe bat behavior and experimentally manipulate trees, turbines, or other tall structures to test the hypothesis that tree bats mate at the tallest trees. If this hypothesis is supported, management actions aimed at decreasing the attractiveness of turbines to tree bats may help alleviate the problem.
The Journal of Wildlife Management © 2008 Wiley