Videos hint at why tree bats may die at wind turbines

thermal image of bat at wind turbine

Heat-sensitive cameras give hints as to why tree bats fly so close to wind turbines.

Image courtesy of Paul Cryan

Wind turbines can be deadly for bats. Each year tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands are thought to fall victim to the tall, whirling turbines. Now, footage from heat-sensitive cameras suggests one reason why. Air currents at wind turbines appear to mimic the way air flows around tall trees. Tree bats in particular use these air flows to find food, other bats and a place to roost. Following similar air flows at wind turbines may lead more tree bats than non-tree bats to their deaths, scientists suggest September 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Bats investigate wind turbines, with the bat in the second clip 
repeatedly returning after close encounters with the turbine blades.
Credit: P.M. Cryan et al/PNAS 2014.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

More Stories from Science News on Animals