What is the Big Bat Year?

365 days, 195 countries, 1300+ species of bats.
Now, that would be completely unrealistic but the Big Bat Year is merely an attempt at reaching those ludicrous numbers.

As every Big Year, the goal is to try to see as many species of possible over the course of one calendar year. My playground? The World. However, I will be restricting myself to 33 countries. The target species? Bats. Hundreds of them.

There are a few differences with a bird big year though as bats and birds differ quite strongly in some regards.

First, the bat diversity is much lower, hence less travel is needed. Second, they are nocturnal, but the days can be spent looking for roosts / visiting caves / resting.
Using a simple R script (more details on that soon), I selected the countries where I could encounter the most species to limit unnecessary travel. Additionally, because there are much fewer localised bat species than bird species, travel within a country will be limited. Spending more nights in one location, covering all habitats is better than trying to visit as many locations as possible.

In South America for example, many species are widespread but rare, to the contrary of birds, making detectability the limiting factor rather than geographical distribution.

You might be wondering how this relates to conservation. Well, big years are popular, the keenest birders amongst you will know that. For Noah’s 2015 and Arjan’s 2016 big years, they even managed to get the attention of the mainstream media.

That is a great opportunity to convey the importance of bat conservation to a large audience.

In other words, it is all about promoting bat conservation from a unique angle, here by giving bats a voice (one we can hear, without any special equipment this time).

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Nils Bouillard


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