Texas Living

Haunt These Texas Bat-Watching Sites

By Peter Simek 10.4.18

Waiting for the bats to emerge at sunset on Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin should be on every Texan’s bucket list.

There is perhaps no better destination for bat lovers than Texas. Home to 32 of the 47 species of bats found in the United States, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Texas has both the largest known bat colony in the world — at Bracken Cave Preserve near San Antonio — and the largest urban bat colony, which sits underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge.

But there are plenty of other places to spot and learn about these wonderful creatures.

Important Critters for Texas’ Ecosystem

Bats have gotten an unfair rap over the years, portrayed as dangerous bloodsuckers or dirty flying rodents. Bats aren’t rodents, and in reality there’s nothing spooky about these surprisingly adorable Halloween mainstays. In fact, bats play a vital role in Texas’ ecosystem.

That’s because some bats consume as much as their own weight in insects every night, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Colonies help to control insect populations that damage crops and spread disease. Bats that eat fruit help distribute seeds and produce important fertilizer. They are also a source of food for owls, hawks, and falcons.

Texas Bats in Austin

The Best Viewing Spots

When the little pups born in early summer are strong enough to fly on their own, the colony migrates from Texas south to Mexico for the winter. When they return the following year, the bats will find the same roost that they will continue to inhabit for many years.

  • Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin: This international bat conservation helps protect Texas’ largest urban bat population.
  • Bracken Cave Preserve, San Antonio: The largest bat colony preserve in the world is home to more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats.
  • Bamberger Ranch Preserve, Blanco County: David Bamberger volunteered at Bracken Cave for years before building his own bat cave. Visitors pay $10 for a chance to see the bats emerge each evening in the summer.
  • Clarity Tunnel, Caprock Canyons State Park: This abandoned railroad tunnel located along a trailway has become the home of a bat colony that migrates from the site to Mexico each September.
  • Camden Street Bridge, San Antonio: Watch thousands of bats take flight from underneath the bridge for their nighttime feedings.
  • Waugh Drive Bridge, Houston: You can watch these guys year-round, since they don’t migrate.

Happy Haunting

If you go out in search of bats, remember to keep your distance and do not touch. Bats may carry diseases that can harm humans, and you may carry things that can harm bats.

If you do not shine bright lights, stay quiet, and do your best not to bother the bats, you’re in for quite a show.

For more Texas adventures, check out our statewide city guides.

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