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Experience Austin’s Bats from the Water

By Renee Cornue
Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation

If you’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the Congress Avenue Bat emergence, then you might know that 30 years ago, Dr. Tuttle was exceedingly instrumental in establishing protection and public affection for the nearly 2 million Brazilian free-tailed bats that now call the bridge home. If you haven’t yet had the fortune to experience this urban phenomenon, it’s quite a local, and global, treasure.

True to Austin’s promise to keep it weird, you may be surprised to learn that our friendly neighborhood bats comprise of the largest urban colony of mammals worldwide. Together we live with the bats in harmony as millions of tourists from all over the world come and share in our awe. 

Thanks to the free-tailed bats of Central Texas for consuming more than 200 tons (that’s 400,000 pounds) of insects on an average summer night, for drastically reducing our daily intake of bug repellent and mosquito bites, and for saving farmers millions of dollars annually in avoided pesticide use.

We recommend spending five minutes at before planning your excursion. Here, Merlin has shared his personal secrets for best viewing times and locations. For the most magical bat-viewing experience (and the best photo-ops), the water is the best place to be as the dark bats are silhouetted against the skies above. You have the freedom to float directly under the emerging guardians-of-the-night, make your way down the Colorado River for the big picture, or both!

Five years after “retiring” from an already impressive lifelong career in bat conservation, Merlin Tuttle decided his work was not yet finished. He founded MTBC in 2014, in order to most effectively share his 60-plus-year legacy of experience, diplomacy, and photographic documentation of bats. Through Merlin’s efforts, amazing strides have been made to protect bats all over the world, including our free-tailed friends right here, but there is much more to be done! Donations support MTBC’s continued dedication to empowering other organizations and individuals for greater progress.

Tourists observing the emergence of 1.5 million Brazilian free-tailed bats from crevices beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. Emergences