Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local researchers are seeking volunteers from Marana, Avra Valley and the Northwest to monitor use of their home hummingbird feeders by nectar-feeding bats.
"If your hummingbird feeders mysteriously drained during the night last summer, the midnight raiders may have been bats," said Raul Vega, AGFD regional supervisor.
Most of Arizona's 28 bat species eat insects. Two species – the lesser long-nosed bat, listed as endangered by the federal government, and the Mexican long-tongued bat, an Arizona "species of concern" — drink nectar and eat pollen from plants such as saguaro and agave.
They are described as "gentle, beneficial pollinators" that live in caves and mines. They are becoming common visitors to Southern Arizona hummingbird feeders in late summer and early fall, traveling in search of food. Over time, have found their way to hummingbird feeders in the greater Tucson area before returning to Mexico in the fall.
Habitat conservation planning by the Town of Marana and the City of Tucson includes efforts to evaluate potential effects upon the lesser long-nosed and the Mexican long-tongued bat in the western portion of the Tucson basin.
"We are particularly interested in bats visiting hummingbird feeders in Marana, Avra Valley, northwest Tucson, Three Points, Diamond Bell, Green Valley and Corona de Tucson," a release said. "Information from anywhere in southeastern Arizona is useful."
Volunteers in the citizen science project are asked to monitor their feeders at least three times a week in June and continuing until the bats leave. Fluid should be measured just before it gets dark, and in the morning.
Willing participants in the hummingbird feeder monitoring project may contact Ted Fleming, adjunct professor at the University of Arizona, at email@example.com. People should submit their names and addresses (cross streets are acceptable), Zip code and the general dates they've noticed feeders drained. Photos of bats using the feeders are also useful.
Those without access to e-mail may call 797-5609. They'll be provided information about this year's monitoring protocol.
The 2010 hummingbird feeder monitoring program website can be located at the link www.marana.com/bats.
More bats are visiting feeders
The use of hummingbird feeders by bats has been documented in southern Arizona for many years. In 2006, large numbers of bats were detected foraging on hummingbird feeders in the urban areas surrounding the Tucson basin. Bats visiting the feeders are now being detected more widely in southern Arizona. Volunteers are currently monitoring bats as far north as Dove Mountain, and as far south as Nogales in Santa Cruz County.