In gregarious species, the choice of colony location is especially crucial as the costs associated with breeding near conspecifics are important and the quality of a breeding patch is known to affect individual fitness. Consequently one could expect robust decisionmaking rules regarding colony location. The conceptual framework of animal aggregation with regards to habitat selection emphasizes that the presence and success of conspecifics are cues to habitat selection. Based on this, we explored how the distribution of breeding colonies could inform us about how habitat selection operates in bats. The data set we used was provided by a volunteer network whose first aim is to advise citizens facing bats in distress or bats in their homes. The dataset contained information on the locations of 105 serotine (Eptesicus serotinus) breeding colonies in a French region primarily dominated by an agricultural landscape. The methodology used for calculating habitat availability was based on the comparison of habitats surrounding serotine colonies to habitats surrounding random points. We found that serotine bats positively select pastoral and aquatic habitats regardless of the comparison used. The strong correlation between our results and those obtained with radio-tracking or acoustic methods underlines the robustness of this spatial distribution approach. The analysis of the history of the serotine colonies over a period of nearly 20 years showed that when attics are restored by the owners without the help of the bat rescue network, the probability of a departure of colony is greater. In addition, monitoring reduces the occurrence of an unsympathetic building restoration.
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Vol. 16 • No. 2