The Low-Down on Austin’s Famous Congress Avenue Bats

If you hang out in Austin for any period of time, you’ll notice something - the people here are crazy about bats. There are bat statues, bat murals, and once, Austin even had an ice hockey team named after the bats. So what’s the deal with the bat’s, you ask?  Read on friends!

Austin is Home to the Largest Urban Bat Colony IN THE WORLD

Mexican free tail bats and babies nesting in central texas

Mexican free tail bats and babies nesting in central texas

That’s right, Austin is home to the world's largest urban colony of bats!  Each year in March, over 1.5 million Mexican free tail bats return to the Ann Richards Congress Avenue bridge to birth and raise their young. Surprisingly, the colony is almost exclusively female (minus the young), as the males stay behind in Mexico awaiting their mates return in September.  No one knows exactly why the males stay behind, it’s just one of the mysteries still surrounding these amazing creatures. 

Bats Eat Bugs

Bat sculpture in downtown austin

Bat sculpture in downtown austin

If you’ve ever been outside in Austin in the summer, you might have noticed the bug situation - there are tons of them.  Mosquitoes, the scourge of southern summers, are plentiful here and it’s a constant battle keeping them at bay. Each night, Austin’s bat population comes to the rescue, eating some 10,000 - 20,000 pounds of insects, including mosquitoes and other agricultural pests. This free service the bats provide to the city’s human inhabitants is invaluable, and Austinites are very thankful for the critical role they play in the urban ecosystem.

Bats are Entertaining

austin ice bats logo…..can you tell this is from the ‘90’s??

austin ice bats logo…..can you tell this is from the ‘90’s??

As it turns out, bats are fond of dramatic exits. Each night, on que, the bats emerge, en masse, from their nests under the bridge to feed. The bats’ nightly mass exodus takes almost an hour to complete and is truly a natural wonder. This spectacle is truly a sight to behold, and onlookers start gathering around the bridge in the evening, jockeying for the best viewing position. When the bats start to emerge, they are so densely packed together that from a distance it can look more like a stream of smoke than a bunch of tiny individual creatures.

Bat Viewing Facts

So now that you know what’s up with the bat’s, you’re probably wanting to know the best way for you to them. Here are a few facts for viewing Austin’s Congress Avenue Bats: 

  • Best dates to see the bats are June to October

  • The bats always fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge to the east

  • Bats start their flight at sundown, around 8:45 to 9:00 at night

  • Local tour operators can take you to the best viewing spots

Our Congress Avenue Bat Tour is one of our most popular tours because people love the bats! This tour will take you along the Butler Hike and Bike Trail to a viewing spot right by the bridge where you can see the bats emerge in all their glory. It's a fun and easy tour that is perfect for riders of all skill levels.

If you are planning a trip to Austin during the summer or fall, you definitely want to make seeing the bats a priority. We promise, these little critters are top notch performers and never fail to disappoint their adoring audiences.