Planning a visit to Austin? Or are you an established Austinite who wants to learn more about the citys famous nocturnal residents?
The Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge is located right in the heart of downtown Austin. It is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world, with an estimated 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) roosting under the bridge during the warm summer months. Most of the colony at Congress Avenue Bridge are female, and in early June each one gives birth to a single baby bat – called a pup. In total, nearly 750,000 pups are raised at the bridge each year. At dusk, visitors to the bridge are witness to an unforgettable spectacle of nature as the bats come streaming out to patrol the city and surrounding farmlands for flying insects.
1. Check Congress Ave Bridge’s website for recent bat emergence times, weather, and parking
Paid parking is available in the Austin American-Statesman parking lot at 205 S. Congress Ave. Check here to find bat emergence times for the past several days, but keep in mind that the bats keep their own schedules, so we can’t predict exactly when they will wake up and fly!
2. Visit Nightwing
Nightwing, the famed bat statue sits on the south end of Congress Avenue Bridge. Before the evening aerial show, go visit the statue and snap a picture for your Instagram or Twitter feeds. Dont forget to tag us @BatConIntl or use the hashtag #Bats so we can like and share!
3. Bring insect repellent
Mexican free-tailed bats may be insect-munching machines, but that doesnt stop the mosquitos from looking for a tasty snack themselves. Bring bug spray youll thank us later.
4. Watch from below
While many bat enthusiasts choose to watch the emergence from atop the bridge, we suggest you venture below and get comfortable on the lawn of the Statesman Bat Viewing Area. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and settle in on the small hill to wait for the bats to emerge. If the bats come out close to or after dark, you may want to move down to the trail that runs parallel to the water.
5. Remember – the bats MIGHT wait until after dark to emerge.
Think of it this way – most of these bats are mothers that give birth in June to one baby bat – called a pup. These mamas feed ONLY their own baby, their own survival means their pup’s survival too! So waiting until the hawks, falcons, and grackles have gone to roost is safer for mama bats.
6. Take your camera
You’ll want to brag to your friends. Take your camera and snap some beautiful magic hour shots of the bats.
7. Turn around!
After the bats take flight, they typically fly along the river close to the trees to avoid predators. After a while they begin to climb to an impressive altitude over 10,000 feet. Turn around and on nights when they emerge before dark, you will see this cloud of bats spiral up towards the sky as they search for their favorite foods corn earworms and cotton bollworm moths.