Flexible behaviors permit gregarious animals to exploit spatially and temporally favorable conditions for reproduction. Evening emergences of Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) in south-central Texas were recorded to determine changes in colony dynamics and to evaluate hypotheses associated with predator avoidance and seasonal energy demands. In 2007, median parturition date was 18 June and lactation lasted about 54 days. Juveniles commenced flight after 41 days, then continued to suckle for 2 weeks before being weaned. Onset of evening emergence was correlated with sunset, beginning, on average, 11.8 min after sunset (95% confidence interval = 7.1, 16.6), which is later than reported in previous studies. Pregnant females emerged later than their roost mates, consistent with a predator avoidance hypothesis. Lactating females emerged after sunset, but earlier than other bats, consistent with the hypothesis that this is a period of high energy demand. Juveniles emerged later than adult females while they continued to be suckled, but emerged earlier as they matured and were weaned, suggesting a trade-off between predator avoidance and energy demands. Our observations indicate that evening emergence behavior of T. brasiliensis varies with environmental cues but is mediated by the energetic demands of reproduction.
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