Watching The Flight Of The Bats From The Austin Bat Bridge

Recently, the GolfBlogger family took a trip to Austin, Texas to escape the winter doldrums of Michigan. I played golf at the Omni Barton Creek Fazio Canyons and Coore & Crenshaw Cliffside Courses, we ate barbeque, took a day trip to San Antonio to see the Alamo and Riverwalk and saw the famous Austin Bat Bridge

The Austin Bat Bridge is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony, with as many as 1.5 million bats. Formally known as the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, the structure crosses the Lady Bird Lake.

Attracting bats was not the intention of the engineers, but it turns out that crevices beneath the bridge made an ideal habitat. The resident Mexican Free Tailed bats are migratory, wintering in Mexico, but a warm winter and early spring had them back in force when we visited in late February.

The bats are obviously densely packed into those crevices. As many as 500 pups squeeze together into a square foot of crevice.

Austin Bat Bridge
The Bat Bridge in Austin, Texas

Those 1.5 million bats eat some ten to twenty thousand pounds of bugs each night as they fly up and down Lady Bird Lake at speeds of up to 60 mph. Considering that bugs weigh next to nothing, 20,000 pounds is an incredible amount.

Watching the bats emerge has become such an event that the Austin American Statesman has established a bat watching station next to the bridge. As many as 100,000 people each year come to watch the swarms.

I’ve had a thought that here in Ann Arbor, the city should try to retrofit one of the bridges that crosses the Huron River to attract bats. Mexican bats are out of the question, but there surely is some way to create a friendly habitat for northern species. Eating all the mosquitoes and other pests could be nothing but a health benefit for the humans of the city.

Interesting Fact: The Bacardi logo is an image of a Mexican Free Tailed bat. The bats eat the pests that might otherwise harm the sugarcane that is the foundation of rum.

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