I would fill the feeders at night after the hummers had flown to their nighttime roosts, but in the morning two of the three feeders would be empty. At first I thought it might be due to the thunderstorms we were getting which are usually accompanied by high winds. I thought perhaps the wind made the feeders sway and caused the nectar to leak out. But, it was still happening when the nights were calm. So, I took the feeders in for the night and set them out first thing in the morning. This saved my nectar but didn’t solve the mystery.
Gus grabs the camera and opens the door just enough to poke the end of the lens out the slit. I grab the cats and shut them in the bedroom so they won’t escape through the open door. Then, we both watch amazed as bat after bat swoops in for a brief sip of nectar, then darts rapidly away again. At times there are three to four bats at once. I leave Gus at the window and turn on the computer to research what species we are seeing. Once we upload the pictures I can compare them to the images and behavior I find. It doesn’t take me long to discover that we are watching Lesser Long-nosed Bats. According to the Sonoran Desert Museum, these are an endangered species here in AZ. They are nectar feeders and pollinators with their primary food sources being saguaros and other upright cacti as well as agave blooms. The saguaros blossom in the spring as the bats are migrating back to the Sonoran Desert from Mexico, and the agaves blossom in the fall providing food for their southward migration.
I also discover that the Town of Marana has a Lesser Long-nosed Bat Monitoring Program where citizen scientists actually measure the levels of nectar in their hummingbird feeders before it gets dark and then again in the morning. Well, mine start out at least half full and are fully drained by dawn. While the bats seem to like the feeders in the back yard, they seem to leave the one on the kitchen window alone. I can only guess this is due to the fact that it’s not quite as easy to swoop up to and fly away from safely.
I thought at first that I would don a hat and jacket and rush out to grab my nectar feeders and bring them in for the night, but since discovering that this species of bat is endangered and migratory (so they won’t be hanging around forever) I decide to leave the feeders up for the night. I hope they enjoy the feast and have a safe journey southward. As for me, I am shaking my head in disbelief. I never thought I would be helping to feed bats!