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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 15;9(1):e85628. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085628. eCollection 2014.

Seasonal survival probabilities suggest low migration mortality in migrating bats.

Author information

Community Ecology, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Bellinzona, Ticino, Switzerland.
Urban Ecology and Wildlife Research, SWILD, Zurich, Switzerland ; Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf, Zurich, Switzerland.
Museo Cantonale di Storia Naturale, Lugano, Ticino, Switzerland.
Swiss Ornithological Institute, Sempach, Luzern, Switzerland.


Migration is adaptive if survival benefits are larger than costs of residency. Many aspects of bat migration ecology such as migratory costs, stopover site use and fidelity are largely unknown. Since many migrating bats are endangered, such information is urgently needed to promote conservation. We selected the migrating Leisler's bat (Nyctalus leisleri) as model species and collected capture-recapture data in southern Switzerland year round during 6 years. We estimated seasonal survival and site fidelity with Cormack-Jolly-Seber models that accounted for the presence of transients fitted with Bayesian methods and assessed differences between sexes and seasons. Activity peaked in autumn and spring, whereas very few individuals were caught during summer. We hypothesize that the study site is a migratory stopover site used during fall and spring migration for most individuals, but there is also evidence for wintering. Additionally, we found strong clues for mating during fall. Summer survival that included two major migratory journeys was identical to winter survival in males and slightly higher in females, suggesting that the migratory journeys did not bear significant costs in terms of survival. Transience probability was in both seasons higher in males than in females. Our results suggest that, similarly to birds, Leisler's bat also use stopover sites during migration with high site fidelity. In contrast to most birds, the stopover site was also used for mating and migratory costs in terms of survival seemed to be low. Transients' analyses highlighted strong individual variation in site use which makes particularly challenging the study and modelling of their populations as well as their conservation.

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