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534 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 11, No. 3
Characteristics of Lasiurus intermedius (Northern Yellow Bat)
Roosts on Sapelo Island, Georgia
Laci S. Coleman1,2, Katrina M. Morris3, and Steven B. Castleberry1,*
Abstract - We radio-tracked 3 male and 1 female Lasiurus intermedius (Northern Yellow Bat) to
16 unique roosts on Sapelo Island, GA in summer 2010. All bats roosted in Tillandsia usneoides
(Spanish Moss) hanging in hardwood trees. Trees used as roosts were similar in height as surrounding
trees but were larger in diameter. Mature hardwood stands appear to be important roosting
habitats for Northern Yellow Bats in areas where Pinus (pine) and mixed-pine hardwood habitats
dominate the landscape.
Lasiurus intermedius Allen (Northern Yellow Bat) occurs in the Coastal Plain of the
southeastern United States from Virginia to Texas, and south throughout much of Mexico
into Honduras (Webster et al. 1980). Although Northern Yellow Bats have been documented
roosting in a variety of structures throughout the range, in the southeastern US
the species most commonly roosts in Tillandsia usneoides L. (Spanish Moss) hanging in
hardwood trees (Constantine 1958, Hutchinson 2006, Jennings 1958, Menzel et al. 1999).
Most roosts of Northern Yellow Bats have been described from anecdotal observations
(Constantine 1958, Jennings 1958) or systematic searches from the ground (Hutchinson
2006). Menzel et al. (1999) used radiotelemetry to locate 5 roosts of 1 male on Sapelo
Island, GA. Herein, we describe characteristics of additional Northern Yellow Bat roosts
on Sapelo Island located using radiotelemetry.
Sapelo Island is a 6677-ha barrier island located approximately 5.5 km off the coast
of Darien, GA. Forest cover primarily is Pinus (Pine) and mixed pine-hardwood with
interspersed patches of mature hardwood forest dominated by Quercus virginiana Miller
(Live Oak). We used mist nets set over fresh water to capture Northern Yellow Bats from
18 May–2 June 2010. Radio transmitters (0.33 g; Blackburn Transmitters, Nacogdoches,
TX) were attached to the interscapular region using surgical adhesive. Transmitters averaged
1.6% (range = 1.5–1.8%) of bat body mass. We tracked bats to their roost trees
during the day and attempted to identify the specific roost location within the tree by
visually searching from the ground. For a subset of bats not observed during the day, we
attempted to locate the roost as the bat emerged at dusk. Roost trees were characterized
by recording species, diameter at breast height (dbh), height, and a description of the
roost (foliage, moss, bark, etc.). We also recorded species, dbh, and height of all overstory
trees (≥10 cm dbh) within a 0.04-ha plot centered on each roost tree. We compared
height and dbh of roost trees to surrounding trees using Wilcoxon Sign-Rank Tests. We
accepted statistical significance at P < 0.05.
We captured and radiotagged 4 Northern Yellow Bats, 3 non-reproductive males
and 1 pregnant female, and identified 16 unique roosts. We tracked all bats to at least
one roost. We did not document multiple bats using the same Spanish Moss clump.
Individuals were often found at the same roost for multiple days or returned to previously
used roosts after switching. The female was located for 14 days at 10 unique
1Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602. 2Current
address - Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and
State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0321. 3Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Nongame
Conservation Section, Social Circle, GA 30025. *Corresponding author - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes of the Southeastern Nat u ral ist, Issue 11/3, 2012
2012 Southeastern Naturalist Notes 535
roosts, switching roosts 10 times. Males switched roosts a mean of 4.3 times (range =
2–9). One male was located for 14 days at 3 unique roosts, while the other two were
located for 2 days at 2 roosts and 1 day at 1 roost, respectively.
Similar to previous observations, bats always roosted in Spanish Moss hanging on
live hardwood trees. Although it is unknown why Northern Yellow Bats roost in Spanish
Moss, Hutchinson (2006) noted that Spanish Moss appeared to protect roosting Northern
Yellow Bats from intense rainfall. Bats roosting in Spanish Moss also may be less visible
to predators. As previously noted (Constantine 1958, Hutchinson 2006), we observed that
clumps of Spanish Moss used as roosts typically were suspended underneath branches
with no clutter below, providing a clear flight path when entering and leaving the roost.
All roosts were in hardwood trees within hardwood-dominated stands. Menzel et al.
(1999) similarly reported that all 5 roosts of a single male Northern Yellow Bat on Sapelo
Island were in Live Oak-dominated habitats. Live Oaks have been noted as the primary
roost tree in previous studies (Constantine 1958, Jennings 1958, Menzel et al. 1999),
but we found roosts in Live Oaks (n = 7), as well as Q. laurifolia Michaux (Laurel Oak;
n = 5), Q. nigra L. (Water Oak; n = 3), and Nyssa sylvatica Marshall (Blackgum; n = 1).
Given the preference of Northern Yellow Bats to roost in Spanish Moss, it is unclear
whether selection of hardwood trees as roosts is related to tree characteristics or the presence
of Spanish Moss, which occurs more frequently on hardwood trees (Garth 1964).
Previous studies have shown that forest bats typically select roost trees that are taller
and have a larger diameter than surrounding trees (Kalcounis-Rüppell et al. 2005). Although
mean height of roost trees (15.4 ± 3.2 m) and surrounding trees (14.2 ± 1.3 m)
were similar (P > 0.05), mean dbh of roost trees (45.5 ± 3.0 cm) was larger (Z = 109.0,
P = 0.034) than surrounding trees (33.2 ± 1.2 cm). Many hardwood species, particularly
Live Oaks, tend to allocate growth to large horizontal branches as they mature rather
than growing upward, resulting in a relatively uniform canopy height within these stands.
Although the height of roost trees was relatively uniform, Northern Yellow Bats selected
trees with larger diameters than surrounding trees. Authors have suggested that trees extending
above the general crown serve as a visual reference and are more easily located
by bats returning to the roost (Hein et al. 2008, Vonhof and Barclay 1996). For Northern
Yellow Bats, the larger diameter of roost trees may serve as the reference that allows them
to locate the roost tree.
Our observations support previous findings that hardwood stands are important
roosting habitats for Northern Yellow Bats. Use of hardwood trees as roosts may
coincide with the preference of the species to roost in Spanish Moss which grows
most frequently on hardwoods. To benefit the Northern Yellow Bat, management that
promotes retention of mature hardwood stands should be considered in areas of the
southeastern US where pine and mixed pine-hardwood stands dominate the landscape.
Acknowledgments. We thank E.L. Oxford and B. Knight for field assistance. N.P. Nibbelink
provided GIS assistance and an early review of the manuscript. We thank the Georgia
Department of Natural Resources for housing, field transportation, and logistical support.
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Seminole Bats in response to landscape-level forest management. Journal of Mammalogy
536 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 11, No. 3
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