Behavioral Patterns of Bats at a Wind Turbine Confirm Seasonality of Fatality Risk

Shifra Goldenberg, Paul Cryan, Paulo Gorresen, Lee Fingersh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus Citations


Bat fatalities at wind energy facilities in North America are predominantly comprised of migratory, tree-dependent species, but it is unclear why these bats are at higher risk. Factors influencing bat susceptibility to wind turbines might be revealed by temporal patterns in their behaviors around these dynamic landscape structures. In northern temperate zones, fatalities occur mostly from July through October, but whether this reflects seasonally variable behaviors, passage of migrants, or some combination of factors remains unknown. In this study, we examined video imagery spanning one year in the state of Colorado in the United States, to characterize patterns of seasonal and nightly variability in bat behavior at a wind turbine. We detected bats on 177 of 306 nights representing approximately 3,800 hr of video and > 2,000 discrete bat events. We observed bats approaching the turbine throughout the night across all months during which bats were observed. Two distinct seasonal peaks of bat activity occurred in July and September, representing 30% and 42% increases in discrete bat events from the preceding months June and August, respectively. Bats exhibited behaviors around the turbine that increased in both diversity and duration in July and September. The peaks in bat events were reflected in chasing and turbine approach behaviors. Many of the bat events involved multiple approaches to the turbine, including when bats were displaced through the air by moving blades. The seasonal and nightly patterns we observed were consistent with the possibility that wind turbines invoke investigative behaviors in bats in late summer and autumn coincident with migration and that bats may return and fly close to wind turbines even after experiencing potentially disruptive stimuli like moving blades. Our results point to the need for a deeper understanding of the seasonality, drivers, and characteristics of bat movement across spatial scales.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4843-4853
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Published 2021. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-75560


  • conservation behavior
  • ecological trap
  • migration
  • renewable energy
  • thermal infrared
  • video surveillance


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