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Falcon hunting bats

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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 11:05   #1
Gobbag
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Falcon hunting bats

On holiday in Corfu earlier this week I was watching the dusk from our hotel balcony as the bats were coming out. Suddenly a raptor appeared - unmistakably a falcon but silhouetted against the sky in the low light, so my already shaky identification skills were unable to say what species. I watched the bird chase a bat, jinking sharply towards it when it got close - the bat was quick enough to jink away without being taken. Rather than pursue that bat, the falcon chased another one and the same thing happened. The bird seemed to be making its way across the hillside and the impression I got was that it was more interested in its journey but opportunistically having a go at grabbing a late snack as it passed.

I saw, I think, four strikes but no bats taken. I had never seen or heard of falcons hunting bats before but there are a few reports of this on the net - peregrines hunting bats in the Americas and also the imaginatively named bat falcon, but I have found no mention of this behaviour in Europe. Googling falcon identification I would say that the size, the silhouette (which is still burned on my mind's retina) and the flight pattern suggest a hobby but I can't be sure and I also don't know whether this is a likely sighting in Corfu in October.

Any thoughts?
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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 11:10   #2
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Hobbies, Peregrine and Eleonora's Falcons are the most likely species in Corfu but I have seen other species going after Flying Foxes in Southern India.
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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 11:12   #3
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Peregrines hunt at night (as shown by nest corpses of nocturnal migrants), at least when there is enough light for them to do so, but they do have fantastic eyesight.

Eleonora's also hunt at night (not sure how regularly) and may fit better. Presumably still around as they are a late breeder.
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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 11:28   #4
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I've seen Hobbies hunting Noctules locally a few times, normally approaching from low in the six o' clock but still almost invariably being detected and evaded - usually by a quick drop towards the ground. I'm fairly certain I would have mentioned it on one of the John's Mammals threads but it would have been some years ago.

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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 14:44   #5
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I've heard an anecdotal report by one birder of a Hobby successfully catching a Noctule. It's worth noting that the latter species can sometimes be observed even before dusk, apparently during migration time.
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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 15:09   #6
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Seen Sooty Falcons by Dead Sea Israel hunting bats, something they routinely do.
As others said, in Greece, Eleonora's Falcon, Hobby, or Peregrine most likely, especially the former which I have seen hunting bats in Mallorca.
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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 15:34   #7
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Thanks, everyone, for your quick replies. I'm inclined to think it was a hobby. Not bulky enough for a peregrine. Eleonora's, perhaps, which I've seen in Skiathos and Menorca but I had a strong impression of a sharp angle on the trailing edge of the wings.

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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 20:57   #8
Deb Burhinus
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gobbag View Post
I'm inclined to think it was a hobby. Not bulky enough for a peregrine. Eleonora's, perhaps, which I've seen in Skiathos and Menorca but I had a strong impression of a sharp angle on the trailing edge of the wings.
Agree Hobby more likely - Eleonora’s tend to hunt over the sea during/post breeding taking advantage of migrating passerines.
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Old Saturday 12th October 2019, 11:30   #9
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I've seen a Merlin hunting for bats in Cuba. It was waiting till dusk and when the bats emerged it was an easy catch. A nightly event apparently. Another birdwatcher had seen it happening and sure enough the Merlin was right there on cue.

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Old Saturday 12th October 2019, 19:25   #10
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There's some mention of bats in Drewitt and Dixon's 2008 study of urban peregrine prey, and Chapman's book on the hobby mentions a noctule as prey. I've seen a few attempts myself (by peregrines), and at least one successful catch, but not in Europe. Both species are certainly capable of hunting in the very early morning or late evening when bats are about, but hunting behaviour is tricky to observe in those conditions. Most predation on bats in the UK is probably somewhat opportunistic; to the best of my admittedly meager knowledge, Europe doesn't have anything like the concentrations found in the southern U.S. and elsewhere?
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