Rare bat recorded via artificial intelligence

An acoustic recording project detected the social calls of a Kuhl's pipistrelle bat, a species which is rarely seen or heard in the UK.

Kuhl's pipistrelle bat. © Stazione Teriologica Piemontese

The Kuhl’s pipistrelle bat is native to the Mediterranean region, with only a handful of records in Britain. However, a bat detector set up in a private garden in West Sussex caught and logged over 50 audio recordings containing the social calls of this species.


The bat detector was running as part of the Chichester Bat Recording Project, and the audio was uploaded to the BTO’s Acoustic Pipeline along with the other recordings from the project. The Acoustic Pipeline automatically identified that these social calls were being emitted by a Kuhl’s pipestrelle and flagged the recordings as being special and unusual for that location.

“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,” say Ken and Linda Smith, co-ordinators of the bat recording project for Chichester Natural History Society.

“Coming across this rare bat is very exciting and shows how much more there is to learn about these fascinating animals.”

The automatic bat detector set up in a garden. © Linda Smith
The automatic bat detector set up in a garden. © Linda Smith

The echolocation calls of the Kuhl’s pipestrelle is incredibly similar to the Nathusius’ pipistrelle, which is resident in small numbers in the UK but is much rarer than either common or soprano pipistrelles.

However the social calls of the Kuhl’s pipestrelle are very different and are diagnostic.

“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,” Dr Stuart Newson, lead scientist on bat monitoring at the BTO.


Main image: Kuhl’s pipistrelle bat. © Stazione Teriologica Piemontese