Fascinating Facts about Austin’s Most Curious Tourist Destination
Since the early 1980s Austin has been known as a unique event for thousands of resident and tourists each year— the nightly emergence of the Congress Ave. bridge bats. As we celebrate Bat Appreciation Day (April 17th) let’s look at some of the most intriguing facts behind Austin’s favorite flying mammals:
- Mexican free-tailed bats
- World’s largest urban bat colony
- Migrate each spring from central Mexico to various roosting sites throughout the southwestern U.S.
- Most of the colony is female and in early June each one gives birth to a single baby bat, called a pup
- At birth the babies weigh one-third as much as their mothers (the equivalent of a human giving birth to a 40-pound child!)
- The bridge unintentionally became hospitable to bats in 1980 when renovations created crevices on the underside, making it an ideal bat roost
- Downtown businesses initially reacted with fear that the bats would scare customers away
- There was serious consideration to renovating the bridge once again to have the bat colony eradicated
- Bats are gentle and incredibly sophisticated animals with nothing to fear as long as you don’t try to handle them
- This species has a low incidence of rabies
- It is estimated that every night, Congress Ave. bridge bats eat between 10,000 to 30,000 pounds of insects, including agricultural pests
- The best time to view the bats emerging is April-October
- Mexican free-tailed bats have been measured at aground speed of 99 mph
- You can view the bat exit on top of the bridge; below at the Statesman Bat Observation Center adjacent to the Congress Bridge; or on one of many bat cruises which put you directly underneath the swarm.
- More than 100,000 people per year visit the bridge to witness the bat flight, generating ten million dollars in tourism revenue annually
The iconic bat statue at Congress Ave and Barton Springs Rd is a testament to how Austin has grown to embrace our flying seasonal transplants.