Journal Article

Analyzing NEXRAD doppler radar images to assess nightly dispersal patterns and population trends in Brazilian free-tailed bats (<i>Tadarida brasiliensis</i>)

Jason W. Horn and Thomas H. Kunz

in Integrative and Comparative Biology

Published on behalf of The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

Volume 48, issue 1, pages 24-39
Published in print July 2008 | ISSN: 1540-7063
Published online June 2008 | e-ISSN: 1557-7023 | DOI:
Analyzing NEXRAD doppler radar images to assess nightly dispersal patterns and population trends in Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis)

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Operators of early weather-surveillance radars often observed echoes on their displays that did not behave like weather pattern, including expanding ring-like shapes they called angels. These echoes were caused by high-flying insects, migrating birds, and large colonies of bats emerging from roosts to feed. Modern weather-surveillance radar stations in the United States (NEXt-generation RADar or NEXRAD) provide detailed images that clearly show evening bat emergences from large colonies. These images can be used to investigate the flight behavior of groups of bats and population trends in large colonies of Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) in south-central Texas which are clearly imaged by local NEXRAD radar stations. In this study, we used radar reflectivity data from the New Braunfels, Texas NEXRAD station to examine relative colony size, direction of movement, speed of dispersion, and altitude gradients of bats from these colonies following evening emergence. Base reflectivity clear-air-mode Level-II images were geo-referenced and compiled in a GIS along with locations of colonies and features on the landscape. Temporal sequences of images were filtered for the activity of bats, and from this, the relative size of bat colonies, and the speed and heading of bat emergences were calculated. Our results indicate cyclical changes in colony size from year to year and that initial headings taken by bats during emergence flights are highly directional. We found that NEXRAD data can be an effective tool for monitoring the nightly behavior and seasonal changes in these large colonies. Understanding the distribution of a large regional bat population on a landscape scale has important implications for agricultural pest management and conservation efforts.

Journal Article.  9096 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Biological Sciences

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