Although bats are nocturnal, many species emerge from roosts to forage during twilight, despite a presumed high risk of predation at this time. Here, we describe twilight foraging by a maternity colony of Schneider's leafnosed bat (Hipposideros speoris) in the dry zone of Sri Lanka and determine the dietary benefits of such behavior. Bats usually began foraging during dusk, sometimes before sunset, and also foraged during twilight in the morning. Mean use of available twilight by four radio-tagged bats was 75 percent. Twilight foraging made up, on average, 47 percent of the total foraging time of these bats (range = 25–96%), although twilight consisted of only 12 percent of the available time between sunset and sunrise the next morning. Eight species of potential predators (7 birds and 1 mammal) were observed within a 1 km radius of the colony, of which 5 species are predicted to regularly capture bats. Bats took a wide diversity of prey (11 insect orders, including at least 27 families, and spiders) that ranged in wing length from 2.0 to 54.0 mm. Major orders in the diet were Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, and Diptera. Prey of secondary importance included Hemiptera, Hymenoptera, Isoptera, and Neuroptera. Bats captured large numbers of insects that were only available or had marked peaks in abundance during twilight. These groups included small, swarming insects (especially flies) that have peaks in flight activity at dusk and dawn, large diurnal species (especially dragonflies) that have crepuscular activity, and winged termites that emerge in swarms at dusk. Access to these insects was a clear benefit of twilight foraging.
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Vol. 33 • No. 4