Texas happens to be the battiest state in the country. It is home to 32 of the 47 species of bats found in the United States. Not only does it hold the distinction of having the most kinds of bats, it also boasts the largest known bat colony in the world, Bracken Cave Preserve, near San Antonio, and the largest urban bat colony, Congress Avenue Bridge, in Austin. Visitors from around the world flock to Texas to enjoy public bat-viewing at several locations throughout the state.
Created in collaboration with Bat Conservation International, this site offers a brief summary of what each site has to offer as well as directions, contact information, and photo and video previews.
We encourage you to visit some of these amazing sites and experience the wonder of a Texas bat emergence!
A Year in the Life of a Mexican Free-tailed Bat
Mexican free-tailed bats (also known as Brazilian free-tailed bats) are the most common bat found throughout Texas. In most parts of the state, Mexican free-tailed bats are migratory and spend the winters in caves in Mexico. They begin their migration to Texas in February and by early spring female bats form large maternity colonies where they will raise their young. There are only a small number of suitable sites for these large maternity colonies because the bats require high humidity and temperature levels. In June, mother bats give birth to one pup each. Male bats do not help in raising the young and form smaller “bachelor” colonies away from females.
Bats are mammals, so the pups are born live and weigh about 25 percent of their mother’s weight. They feed from their mother’s rich milk located in mammary glands found under each of her wings.
The Mexican free-tailed bats’ milk is so rich that the pups grow fast and are ready to fly within four to five weeks of birth. It is estimated that baby Mexican free-tailed bats roost in densities of up to 500 pups per square foot. It is amazing to think that mother bats are able to find their own baby amongst thousands of pups by using their sense of smell and by knowing the sound of their pup’s call.
By early August, most pups are flying and foraging on their own. It is at this time of the summer when the most spectacular bat emergences often occur as the colony size might easily double. When the first cold fronts start pushing through in late October to mid-November, the Mexican free-tailed bats begin their migration to Mexico for the winter.
Viewing a bat emergence is one of the most memorable and exciting experiences in nature.
The following guidelines are intended to help you enjoy watching bats without causing harm to them or yourself.
When to arrive. What to expect.
Realize that a bat emergence is not a predictable event. No one can be sure when bats will come out or if they will even come out at all. Bad weather, cold temperatures, and other factors can cause bats to vary their emergence times. Go to the website for the bat viewing location you will be visiting to determine recent approximate emergence times.
Keep your distance from the bats while they are emerging.
Most viewing sites have designated seating areas where you can view the bats comfortably out of the direct flight path of the bats. If viewing bats emerging from a bridge, avoid standing directly beneath the bridge and move to the side instead. Giving bats the space to fly minimizes disturbance to the bats and avoids any collisions.
Do not touch!
If you happen to find a bat on the ground, DO NOT TOUCH IT! For the safety of the bats and yourself, give the bat space and avoid contact. The bat could be a youngster learning to fly or an ill bat. Wild animals may bite when threatened. Bats, like other mammals, can contract rabies, but the vast majority do not. Please never touch or handle a bat. Notify the site’s manager or volunteer or call a local animal control office.
No bright lights.
Please do not shine any type of light at the bats, including cellphone lights or the flash on your camera. This unexpected light disturbs the bats and may alter their emergence behavior and facilitate capture by predators.
Do not bother the bats!
Do not throw any objects at flying or roosting bats. Do not poke bats. Bat roosts are very important sites for bats to raise their young and to rest when not foraging. Bats at these Texas sites are protected by state law.
It is important to keep your voices low while viewing a bat flight. Loud noises can disturb the bats and cause them to alter their emergence behavior.