Y’all, it’s Bat Appreciation Day! Austin is home to one of the most famous and one of the largest urban bat colonies in North America. Every night around sunset March through September you can see our migrating Mexican Free-Tailed Bats at two locations in Austin. This natural phenomenon is a free, family friendly, educational and fascinating wildlife experience that is not to be missed!
The most famous spot to watch our bats is the Congress Avenue Bridge, while the McNeil Overpass and I35 Bridge intersection in Round Rock hosts the largest urban bat population. These Texas bridges act as nurseries for baby bats! In March the mature bats migrate to the Austin area and seek a safe place to have their pups. The cracks on the underside of the bridge have a cave-like appeal and the summer sunshine on the road above incubates the cave to keep the babies warm at night when the parents leave to feed.
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The Austin bats fly nightly just before sunset and exit the east side of Congress Avenue Bridge in a cloud. They start out low over Ladybird Lake and then climb well over our city. It takes about forty five minutes for the mass exodus of 1.5 million bats. Watching their wings darken the sky will give you chills! The Round Rock bats will fly right overhead and you’ll see closer to 4 million!
These super-cool critters are an important part of our Austin ecosystem because each night they consume millions of annoying insects such as mosquitos, flies, and roaches. The bats reduce our need for harmful pesticides that could contaminate our food and water. Our bats also bring a welcome influx of tourists and revenue to our community.
Bats navigate at night with echolocation and these athletic mammals can fly more than 60 miles per hour and might travel as far as the coast and back in a single night! After their dinner flight these nocturnal creatures return to their roost under the bridge to sleep the day away.
You’ll want to grab a spot to watch these fun little creatures about 45 minutes before sunset. Free parking is available at both locations. Bring a blanket or folding chair to sit on unless you can get a spot to stand on the bridge. Help protect our bats by staying quiet when they emerge and never shine flashlights or try to handle the bats.
By August the baby bats are big enough to take flight and hunt for bugs at night and this is when we see the largest clouds – just before they head south for the winter. Austin celebrates peak season with Bat Fest, a family friendly festival with a costume contest for kids!