The Bats In Austin Texas

The bats in Austin Texas probably form one of the world's best bat spectacles. Every year, between March and October, 750,000 to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats ( Tadarida brasiliensis) make the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, their home.

Justin Wright from Life Outside the Cubicle has very kindly let me use some footage he took of the bats when he used to live close to Congress Avenue Bridge (lucky him :-)):

A Mexican free-tailed bat's long, narrow wings mean it can whizz around at very high speeds. In fact they can go as fast as 60 mph (97 kmh)! To see so many bats darting around so quickly must be a real sight to behold.

At first glance, the Congress Avenue Bridge might seem like a strange choice for a spring and summer home. But all the nooks and crannies created by the joints underneath the bridge make perfect spots for the bats to sleep in during the day and to return to after an evening of hunting.

So what do they eat? Insects, tons of them, every evening. This is no exaggeration, the bats in Austin Texas that roost at the bridge have been estimated to eat up to 14,000 kg of insects a night (around 30,000 insects)!

Many of these, like the cotton bollworm moth, start off as larvae that cause agricultural damage. Although I guess from their point of view, the larvae just doing what they need to survive.

If you're planning on going to see the bats as they come out of the roost, then there's a special bat hotline. Call 512-416-5700, ext 3636 to find out when they're likely to start emerging and do come back and tell us what it was like :-)

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