Artificial intelligence discovers rare bat

23 Aug 2021 | No. 2021-38

A passive bat detector, left outside to automatically trigger and record bat calls as they fly over, set up in a garden in West Sussex as part of the Chichester Bat Recording Project, has recorded the social calls of the extremely rare Kuhl’s Pipistrelle.

Normally found around the Mediterranean, Kuhl’s Pipistrelle is believed to be a rare visitor to Britain with only a handful of records to date. Kuhl’s Pipistrelle can easily be overlooked because it produces echolocation calls that are very similar to Nathusius’ Pipistrelle, which is commoner in the UK, but its social calls are different and diagnostic.

Over three nights this summer, a bat detector used in a garden as part of the citizen science project logged 55 audio recordings that contained the social calls of Kuhl’s Pipistrelle. It is likely that these would have been missed if it wasn’t for the BTO’s Acoustic Pipeline, which identified these automatically as Kuhl’s Pipistrelle, and so flagged that something special had been recorded at this location.

Reactions to the discovery

Ken and Linda Smith, co-ordinators of the bat recording project for Chichester Natural History Society, said, “We started using the bat detector four years ago, leaving it overnight in the gardens of Society members and their friends and have been amazed by the number of bat records at every garden. Coming across this rare bat is very exciting and shows how much more there is to learn about these fascinating animals.”

Dr Stuart Newson, lead scientist on bat monitoring at BTO, said, “I am really excited by this finding. It is thought that the range of Kuhl’s pipistrelle is expanding northwards, so it is interesting to speculate whether this represents a vagrant or an establishing population”.

What is the BTO Acoustic Pipeline?

The BTO Acoustic Pipeline is a tool for accurate species identification and data management for acoustic monitoring, in conservation, management and site assessment.

The Pipeline uses cutting-edge machine learning techniques and cloud computing to automate the processing of audible and ultrasonic audio data. It has been used for a wide range of commercial projects, citizen science projects and bioacoustics research. 

Contact details

Mike Toms (Head of Communications)

  • Mobile: 07850 500791
  • Email: press [at] (subject: News%20release%20enquiry)

Notes for editors

  • The Chichester Bat Recording Project is organised by the Chichester Natural History Society.
  • The bat recorder used is a Wildlife Acoustics Song Meter SM4BAT FS.

About BTO

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is the UK’s leading bird research charity.

A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to BTO’s surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK.

BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Belfast (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects.

BTO’s work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.

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