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

Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists: Good Practice Guidelines (3rd edition) is the essential reference guide for ecological consultants working on bat surveys. This edition was published in 2016 following a review and update.

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) although stocks are running low.

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.

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.

What if I have questions about the guidelines?

In addition to us not having the resources, it is not in BCT’s remit to give advice on how to interpret the guidance, as this should be for the ecologists own professional judgement. However feedback on the guideline’s usability can be made to Jan Colllins:

Interim Guidance Note on Night Vision Aids

This Interim Guidance Note aims to provide clarification regarding the role of night vision, infrared and thermal imaging cameras (night vision aids or NVAs) in bat emergence surveys. It also relaxes the current requirement for dawn surveys where the quality of emergence surveys is improved by the use of night vision aids. The note has been produced in lieu of the publication of Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists Good Practice Guidelines 4th edition, now predicted to be later in 2022. The note supersedes the 3rd edition (Collins, 2016). The text has been prepared by Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), discussed and agreed with the Statutory Nature Conservation Body (SNCB) mammal specialists and the Technical Review Board for the 4th edition of the survey guidelines have also been given the opportunity to comment.

Professional Training Standards

The exact balance between judgement, guidance and evidence will vary. We have recently done some work on our Professional Training Standards as part of a partnership project with CIEEM and Natural England on Earned Recognition for licensing. We have published an interim 2nd edition of our Professional Training Standards. These outline in more depth the level of knowledge and skills required for different tasks.

Reviewing and updating the guidelines

BCT is currently reviewing and updating the guidelines, alongside our Technical Review Board, with the aim of publishing a 4th edition in 2022 to align with the latest research and practice. Please send any comments to

We are also currently working on updating our core sustenance zones for bats. For now, our paper on how we've determined core sustenance zone sizes for different species is here and our reference list is here.

Finally, BCT collaborated with researchers to produce a paper on survey methods for bat roost detection, which will inform the next edition of the guidelines. This research showed that:

'Daytime inspections were efficient in detecting open‐roosting species such as Plecotus species but were likely to miss the presence of crevice‐dwelling ones (here Pipistrellus species) which may lead to erroneous conclusions if no acoustic surveys are subsequently prescribed to confirm their absence. A minimum of three and four acoustic surveys are required to be 95% confident that a building does not host a roost of Pipistrellus species and Plecotus species, respectively, thus exceeding current recommendations.'