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Bats vs. Buildings

September 11, 2017

Scientists discover why bats fly into tall buildings.


A single greater mouse-eared bat about to take off Stefan Greif

A greater mouse-eared bat about to take off in flight. (Stefan Greif)


Bats vs. buildings. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Today’s gleaming skyscrapers may seem like second nature to the modern businessperson, but animals like bats haven’t adapted to them. Max Planck Institute for Ornithology sensory ecologist Stefan Greif says bats treat the vertical surfaces like mirrors, often resulting in collisions. His team reports in the journal Science that the problem is one of basic physics: the echolocation calls that bats use to navigate around trees and other natural objects simply bounce off of smooth manmade structures differently.

STEFAN GREIF (Max Planck Insitute for Ornithology):

We found that bats perceive smooth vertical surfaces as open flyways because their calls are not being reflected back to the bats.


Greif says collisions can be reduced by building these structures far from bat colonies and by installing ultrasonic devices that deter bats away from existing buildings. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.