Bat Watching in Austin
Emergence of the bats of the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas at dusk.
Nature in the midst of sophistication marks Austin, Texas. The Austin bats are proof of this. Every year during March and April Mexican free-tailed bats migrate to Austin from the south and make their home under the Congress Avenue Bridge. The bridge’s crevices make safe hiding places for the bats, who are mostly pregnant females. Female bats each have one baby, called a pup.
Each night at dusk, crowds gather near the bridge to watch the bats take their nightly flight to find food. As the pups grow they join their mothers on the nightly food flights. When the population peaks, there may be as many as 1.6 million bats taking flight and it can take up to forty-five minutes for them to all leave the bridge.
The bats took residence under the bridge after it was renovated. Initially, Austinites were not too sure if they liked bats for such close neighbors, but after fears of rabies and other diseases were alleviated by assurances from wildlife experts, most Austin residents welcome the bats.
Photo by NPS [Public domain]
Where to Watch Bats
The Congress Avenue Bridge bats are now a great tourist attraction, drawing thousands of visitors each year. You can safely watch the bats from the Statesman Bat Observation Center. The center was erected across from the bridge courtesy of the American-Statesman, a local newspaper. You can also observe the bats from the Four Seasons Hotel and from the Radisson Hotel or it's new restaurant, Dine. Lone Star Cruises and Capitol Cruises offer special bat observation cruises on Lady Bird Lake.
Experts recommend that you take an umbrella for protection from bat droppings if you are going to be in a location that these mammals fly over. You should also take some insect repellent. It is unlikely that you will come into contact with a bat, but if you find an injured bat, for your protection as well as the animal’s do not touch it. Call animal control or a wildlife center to care for the animal.
The bats of the Congress Avenue Bridge are an interesting addition to Austin, Texas’ attractions. You are sure to enjoy this unique sight. You can call the Bat hotline for more information on when the bats take flight (512-416-5700 ext. 3636), or you can check out current bat emergence times online.
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