Fiordland Bat Diaries: The Saw

Department of Conservation —  17/03/2022

Catching bats is a tricky business. We have a few tools up our sleeve to help like special nets and traps but when you are looking for a needle in a hay stack a lure helps too. Effective and inexpensive acoustic lures are a work in progress so for years we have used a cheap easy option which works for short-tailed bats, a bird squeaker. It makes both sounds audible to us (similar to audible sounds bats make) and ultra-high-pitched sounds we can’t hear but the bats can. But what to do when you are a helicopter flight away from home and that small but precious piece of kit has been forgotten!?

Play the saw of course!

The Saw
📷: Bex Jackson DOC

Based in a small two person hut options for a replacement bird squeaker were lacking. A bird squeaker is a piece of metal with a wooden surround you rotate, the friction between the two makes the squeaking sound, with the help of rosin used on violinist’s bows. After some trial and error going through possible hut options, a small piece of wood rubbed against the wood saw were found to be the best substitute. And it sure did the trick, 16 bats were lured into our net before midnight by the sweet (but rather unpleasant) sound of the saw playing.

📷: Jamie McAulay DOC

It is hard to know what exactly the bats are attracted to, whether it is the audible or ultra-high pitched sounds. Another one of the million unanswered questions relating to bats. But it works and that is enough for us. Indeed a visiting German bat researcher was so taken with the technique that we gave her one of our spare bird squeakers and she has now revolutionised catching bats in Germany.

📷: Warren Simpson DOC

I’m thankful for the saw but it isn’t the most user-friendly lure to use, its transportableness for one thing is a bit wanting. Next time I’ll be triple checking the bird squeaker is packed before heading away.

📷: Jamie McAulay DOC

If you missed Fiordland Bat Diaries Part 5 – Trees check it out here to learn about some of our fantastic forest

4 responses to Fiordland Bat Diaries: The Saw

    Brenda Lawson 04/04/2022 at 3:40 pm

    My neighbour Edith Alvey (recently passed at 88) always had a small bottle and polystyrene when she took us walking – about 45 years ago!


    I tend to use a wetted small glass bottle and a piece of expanded polystyrene to attract birds rather than an Audubon squeaker – works well for birds and much cheaper

    Anne Coplestone 17/03/2022 at 12:30 pm

    Am so grateful for what you folk do for our beloved native species. Thank you.


    Those squeakers are fine until they get wet. A piece of white polystyrene on a glass bottle works well.