They dive into the crowd and leave the rest up to fate.
Caroline Brighton (Oxford Flight Group)
These bats may think they have the element of confusion on their side.
It turns out some, like the Swainson’s hawk, know how to foil the defense.
For the study, they spent 21 days recording hawk attacks on bat colonies pouring out of the Jornada caves in New Mexico.
It might seem reasonable that the birds pick individual bats from the crowd and chase them around until they’re close enough to grab the bat with their talons.
But that’s actually not what these predators are doing.
“The hawks appear first to turn into the swarm, and then to extend their legs in a grab maneuver directed at whichever bat they find themselves on a collision course with as they close range.”
This tactic works best for the birds in crowded settings, as it raises the chances that they’ll collide with prey while diving toward their imaginary target.
It also makes the process of snatching prey a lot less confusing for the birds.
The authors hypothesize that hawks aren’t the only ones that use this strategy, and it could be more common among predators than we realize.
If that’s the case, then strength might not lie in numbers, at least for bats, fish, and other small creatures trying to avoid being someone’s next meal.