Fighter-pilot dogfights no longer blaze across the night skies of Europe, but other fliers may still duel to the death up there. Researchers in Spain propose that bats hunt down migrating birds in midair.
The biggest bat in Europe, the greater noctule, or Nyctalus lasiopterus, eats many birds during the spring and fall migrations, says Javier Juste of Doana Biological Station in Seville. He and his colleagues reached that conclusion after analyzing 14,000 bat droppings during the course of a year.
"It's the only bat known to get the profit of migrating birds," Juste says.
Birds by the millions stream over Europe between winter havens in Africa and northerly breeding grounds. For a predator, the mass of birds is "a big, big chocolate bar coming by," Juste says.