The Austin Bats
Aug 15 , 2011
The world’s largest urban bat colony is one of the most exciting and ecologically fascinating attractions this city has to offer. Through an unknowing and fortuitous bridge design, the city of live music has also become the home to the Austin bats, playing for packed crowds every night and all summer long.
Behind the Austin Bats Bridge
Currently named after the 45th Governor of Texas and beloved Austin resident, the Ann W. Richards Bridge goes by many other relatively straightforward monikers: the Congress Avenue Bridge, South Congress Avenue Bridge, and the Austin Bats Bridge. This cement arch bridge stretched above the Colorado River, uniting Congress Avenue to the north and South Congress Avenue to the south. Most interestingly, it is a staple of Austin tourism. Its final name—the Austin Bats Bridge—comes from the massive bat colony currently residing inside small gaps within the concrete.
Where to Watch
If you’re looking for front row seats to the Austin bats show, there are a couple of prime spots perfect for watching this incredible event. If you want to spend a few extra bucks, the most intimate experience is from a special Austin bats boat, equipped with a red spotlight so you can get a good look at this massive flood of furry flyers, which reaches up to 1.5 million bats at its peak.
Each evening before dusk, boats depart from the south side of the river. Friendly guides will take you down the Colorado River for a glimpse at the beautiful Austin skyline, and when the time is right, they’ll steer under the famous bridge for a close-up look at the world’s largest urban bat colony. The sight may be jaw dropping, but make sure to keep your mouth closed while maneuvering beneath the structure to keep your mouth guano-free.
Another phenomenal view is from the little patch of grass on the east side of the river. Set up a picnic or just have a seat, and watch them pour and glide in huge numbers from the Austin bat bridge. The benefits? This one is free, and you have an on-the-house perspective of the red spotlights shining from the boats, enhancing your viewing—and wallet-friendly—pleasure.
Austin Bats Schedule: Time of Year and Day
Each evening, as the sun sets, bats around the world depart from their caves or in this case, their bridges. Austin bats, which are technically Mexican free-tailed bats, are no different. Head over to the Ann W. Richards bridge around sunset, grab yourself a spot, and prepare to watch the flight unfold.
The migration from Latin America to Austin begins around February, and picks up through May when most of the bats arrive. In June, the mothers give birth, and some tend to stay within the safety of the bridge to protect and nurture their new pups. However, as the young learn to fly, spectators are in for a treat. July, August, and specifically September are the best months for observing Austin bats, and during these months the colony is at its most populous state. In October and November, the Austin bats become Latin American bats, and head further south. By December, there’s not too much to see until the cycle begins again.
Not batty for the watching the bats? Check out the 5 best things to do in Austin.