Austin, Texas hosts the largest urban colony of bats in North America. Beginning in late March through early fall, millions of migratory Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) make their way to Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin.

Congress Avenue Bridge - Red Sunset.
A dramatic deep red sunset accentuates the bats in flight at Congress Avenue Bridge. Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife.

During the day, Austin’s seasonal bats roost compactly in the bridge’s joints and understructure. At sunset, they begin to emerge, delighting and surprising viewers as millions of bats – yes millions – take to the sky for their nightly meals of insects. Commonly overheard: how do that many bats fit under that bridge?

Austinites offer all sorts of tips on how to best experience Austin’s flying mammals: Arrive early, at least a half hour before sunset. Arrive even earlier to get coveted positions. Stake out a spot on the bridge that faces east. Or head to a grassy area at Austin American-Statesman’s Bat Observation Center on the southeast side of the bridge, and bring a blanket to claim a grassy spot. Lady Bird Lake, below the bridge, also offers excellent bat viewing. Bat cruises are available as well as kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rentals through several vendors. Just make certain you’re not paddling directly underneath the bats.

MORE INFO

  • San Antonio and Houston offer similar experiences from city bridges. Which Texas bridge offers the best urban bat-viewing experience? Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Camden Street Bridge in San Antonio, Waugh Bridge in Houston, or Watonga Boulevard Bridge in northwest Houston? (Ah, you thought we had a favorite?) We suggest you visit all of them.
  • Texas is home to 32 of 47 bat species found in the United States.
  • Many Texas zoos, nature centers, and parks offer seasonal bat talks and walks and bat-supporting gardening classes.