Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists: Good Practice Guidelines 3rd edition

Following extensive feedback from different user groups the Bat Conservation Trust has produced Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists: Good Practice Guidelines (3rd edition). The guidelines were revised, updated and reviewed by experts and feature new chapters and content. This is the essential reference guide for professional ecologists working with bats.

BCT has made the full document available to download as a non-printable PDF by clicking here. Please note that the security techniques used in this document are only compatible with recent versions of Adobe Reader. This document may not be readable in many non-Adobe PDF readers and in-browser viewers. We suggest you use Adobe Reader XI or Adobe Reader DC on PCs or the most recent version available on other platforms. Please only contact us if you have further problems when using these versions of Adobe Reader.

Hard copies are now available from NHBS for £29.99 (BCT members receive a 20% discount).

The production and printing of the publication was sponsored by: Applied Ecology Ltd, Arcus Consultancy Services Ltd, Corvus Consulting, Echoes Ecology Ltd, The Ecology Consultancy, Ecosulis, Just Mammals Consultancy LLP, Kestrel Wildlife Consultants Ltd, Mott MacDonald and Tree Surveys.

Overview of main changes

The guidelines have been re-structured to improve accessibility and flow: the chapters follow the process of bat surveys from design through survey types to data analysis and reporting. Each of the survey types chapters has the same structure and these are colour coded. The index will also help users to find what they're looking for.

New sections and chapters include:

  • Elements that influence survey design
  • Species Core Sustenance Zones*
  • Preliminary ecological appraisal for bats
  • Framework for assessing suitability
  • Bat roost inspection surveys for trees
  • Acoustic surveys at potential swarming sites
  • Advanced Licence Bat Survey Techniques
  • Data Analysis and Interpretation
  • Protocol for collecting droppings for DNA analysis

*Download a paper on how we've determined core sustenance zone sizes for different species here and our reference list here.

The 'Surveying major infrastructure projects' chapter from the 2nd edition has been removed in favour of setting out survey design principles applicable to projects of all scales.

The 'Surveying proposed onshore wind turbine developments' chapter from the 2nd edition has also been removed as wind farm guidance is, at the time of writing, being drafted by a partnership of relevant organisations. This guidance should be published later soon; until this guidance is available, the 2nd edition wind farms chapter is still applicable and can be downloaded with the 3rd edition of the guidelines by clicking on the image above.

Professional judgement and surveyor experience

The guidelines are not a prescription for professional bat work. They do not aim to override professional judgement and cannot be used to replace experience. Deviations from the methods described are acceptable providing the ecological rationale is clear and the ecologist is suitably qualified and experienced. In some cases it may be necessary to support such decisions with evidence, particularly if they may lead to legal challenge.

The abilities and experience of bat ecologists who follow good practice are not disputed. Unfortunately, cases of poor practice do occur, both as a result of inexperience and the misinterpretation of these principles by less experienced surveyors and planners.

The exact balance between judgement, guidance and evidence will vary. Our Professional Training Standards were released alongside the 2nd edition of these guidelines and will be updated again. These outline in more depth the level of knowledge and skills required for different tasks.

We will be reviewing the guidelines periodically to assess the need for updates. Please send any comments to