Great Tits recorded preying on bats

A research team has reported Great Tit preying upon bats– the first time this has been recorded. The scientists, led by Peter Estók at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, were studying bats in caves in north-east Hungary. They noticed that the birds responded to hearing the pipistrelle bats, entered the cave and started to peck at the bats them which were sheltered in crevices. The researchers staked out the cave and spent 22 days observing over two winters. The birds were recorded killing bats 16 times.

It’s not known if this is a strange new behaviour learned by the local population, or whether other Great Tit might include bat predation as part of their feeding habits.

To me, this is a typical opportunistic strategy by the birds. The Great Tit is a species that hunts for animal prey in crevices frequently. As you can imagine, to a hungry tit this is a common puzzle to solve – a meat resource partly hidden. What’s it going to do? Peck peck peck. What does a bat do while squeezed into a tight space? Nothing if torpid, or try to hide, probably, but it’s cornered. Meanwhile the bird has been ‘rewarded’ by food so of course it tries again. Peck peck peck peck peck peck peck. Etc.

Surely no more vicious than ripping into a large beetle grub or moth?

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