People love bats, but it seems only in baseball or Gotham City. The real deal kinda freaks people out.
But it shouldn’t. Bats are actually one of the great critters on this planet. Without them, the environment and its many ecosystems would suffer greatly, and you and I would be awash in bugs. Bats provide pollination and seeding and are so vital to some ecosystems that the absence of bats in some parts of the world would cause entire plant species to die out. And bat guano is such a powerful fertilizer that many crops in many areas of the world would dry up if bats were not around.
Less freaked out? Good. Now you can check out the best place to bat-watch in Austin. The Congress Avenue Bridge, right downtown, is home to the largest urban bat population on Earth. More than 1.5 million bats call Austin home, and anyone who lives or visits the city should be thanking their maker that this fact is true. Bats generally eat their bodyweight in bugs every night. Which means that if all those bats went hunting at once, there’d be 40,000 fewer pounds of bugs by daybreak.
Fortunately, most Austinites know how valuable (and harmless to people) bats actually are. With some help from Bat Conservation International, bat tourism now brings in about $8 million to Austin every year.
The best views are from the Austin AmericanStatesman’s Bat Observation Area, which comes complete with educational kiosks and, in the summer, educators from BCI itself. The view from here is free, but if you want to spring the $8 to get a better look, take a bat cruise and watch the nocturnal beauty of an oft-maligned, yet totally noble and needed creature of the night.