The bats of Congress Avenue Bridge – Austin

This was another of the things that drew me to visit Austin. The thought of being able to see the nightly movement of approximately 1.5 million bats.

I had read comments about it not being worth it since it was too crowded and not really worth watching, but decided this was something I wouldn’t be able to experience many other places in the world.

Remember to check the webpage for what time they are most likely to appear depending on when you visit.  The emergence times are updated weekly.

The first wave appear just after sunset and it can take a few hours before all the bats have come out.

You can choose to watch from the park below the bridge, standing on the bridge or joining one of many boats that cruise the river.

The bridge is the home of the largest urban bat colony in North America and they stay here from March to November. The bats that live in Austin are Mexican free-tailed bats. Each spring these bats migrate from Central Mexico to Austin. In the beginning of July each female gives birth to one pup. Within five weeks these pups can fly and feed themselves.

These bats do a great service to the city of Austin. Nursing mothers consume their body weight in insects nightly. The size of the colony varies from year to year, but it can consume between 10,000 and 30,000 pounds of insects nightly.

Bats have always lived in Austin, but not always in as large numbers as today. In 1980 the city did a major reconstruction of the deck of the bridge. This created 16″ deep crevices underneath the bridge making perfect living and breeding quarters for the bats.

I had a few misconception about bats explained while I was there. Bats are not blind. They have excellent vision, but they also use echolocation to more effectively hunt insects in total darkness.  Bats are not flying rats. They are mammals and apparently more related to dolphins than rats. They are not dirty. The groom themselves thoroughly just like cats do. There are 1,250 species of bats in the world, only 3 of these feed on blood. You would have to travel to Latin America to find the vampire bats.

Like with many animals the bats are loosing their natural habitats. You can help with putting up bat houses in your garden! It is a wooden box with built in crevices and openings at the bottom. You can find more information about this on BCI’s webpages

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I guess I have to upgrade my Web page to be able to upload videos. You can see a short clip I added on my twitter page if you’re interested. @AnnaESaeland

 

 

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