Austin bats are fast becoming symbols of Texas's capital city, thanks to the evening flying and feeding shows that they put on between March and November. More than a million of these curious creatures roost under the Congress Avenue Bridge (also known as the Austin Bat Bridge) where it spans Lady Bird Lake, and on an evening to evening basis in spring and fall, you can expect to see people congregating around dusk to watch them emerge.
Once dusk starts to set in, the Austin bats, which migrate to Austin from Mexico, leave their roosting site en masse to fly down river in search of insects to eat. Forming a long ribbon, they often head off in an easterly direction, causing a fair amount of ruckus. It's quite the show, and since the bats consume a healthy amount of mosquitos from night to night, Austin residents have come to embrace them over the years.
Austin bat watching has become a very popular pursuit since Mexican free-tailed bats started roosting under the Congress Avenue Bridge in 1980. Hundreds of thousands of pregnant females figure among the annual winged visitors, and they give birth to single pups after reclaiming the underside of the Lady Bird Lake overpass. By August, the pups are ready to hunt for insects themselves, and they start partaking in the evening feeding frenzies. On any given night, the Austin bats consume around 20,000 pounds of insects, and according to locals and the Austin-based Bat Conservation International, the most spectacular flights tend to take place on hot and dry August nights.
Numerous vantage points offer good views of the Austin Bat Bridge at dusk, including the lakefront restaurants and hotels that can be found close by. One of the nearby hotels is the luxurious Four Seasons Austin, and its lobby lounge is known for the lake and bridge views that it affords. For those who are interested in dining overlooking the Austin Bat Bridge, the Four Seasons lobby lounge offers both drinks and light fare. The Embassy Suites Austin Downtown Hotel and the Hyatt Regency Austin are two other hotels worth keeping in mind if you want to be close to the Austin Bat Bridge.
While dining overlooking the Austin Bat Bridge can be enjoyed at a lakeside hotel or restaurant, it is also possible to enjoy a picnic on one of the banks near the bridge. You can also stand on the bridge itself and look down from above. If you're not interested in dining overlooking the Austin Bat Bridge, you might prefer a boat cruise or a Segway tour that has the bat show as a main highlight. Kayak tours that highlight the bats are also available.
It is worth noting that weekend nights tend to see healthy crowds gathering around the Austin Bat Bridge. Anyone interested in enjoying a more relaxed viewing experience might prefer dropping by on a weekday night. Also worth noting is the fact that the closer you get to the water, the more insects you will likely have to deal with. In any event, applying some insect repellent is a good idea, especially if you are planning on getting out on the water or are finding a spot close to it. For those who are driving over for a look at the Austin bats, free parking is available in the Austin American-Statesman lot after 6 p.m.