Waugh Drive Bat Colony
There is something amazing going on underneath the Waugh Drive Bridge near Buffalo Bayou.
One of Houston’s best-kept secrets is our bat population. The Waugh Bridge Bat Colony consists of Mexican free-tailed bats that emerge nightly to stretch their wings and feed on area insects.
Unlike many other Texas bat colonies that migrate south during the winter months, the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony remains in Houston throughout the year. This may be the largest colony of Mexican free-tailed bats that resides in Texas all year. The huge majority of bats at other bridges and caves migrate to Mexico for the winter.
The 1.5 million bats at the Congress Avenue Bridge Bat Colony in Austin, for example, begin migrating south to Mexico in the fall months, ending their twilight emergences until the following spring.
Bats play key roles in keeping a wide variety of insect populations in balance. In the U.S., brown bats often eat mosquitoes and can catch up to 1,200 tiny insects in an hour. Large colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats eat tons of pests weekly.
In 2006, a bat observation deck was installed in Buffalo Bayou Park for your convenience in watching the Waugh Street bat colony.
A second bat colony lives beneath the Watonga Drive Bridge in northwest Houston. If you would like to observe the bat colony at either of these locations, these tips will help you:
BAT VIEWING ETIQUETTE
Viewing the bat emergence can be one of the most amazing experiences in nature. Please be "bat friendly" & enjoy watching the bats without causing harm to the bats or yourself.
- Please sit or stand several feet away from the bridge during the emergence to give the bats plenty of room to fly. Please do not stand under the bridge during the emergence.
- Bats prefer the dark, especially when first emerging from their bridge crevices. Do not use flashlights or camera flashes during the emergence.
- Loud voices can alter the bats’ emergence behavior. Please be considerate by keeping noise levels down. Please supervise your children & pets.
- Please do not throw objects at flying or roosting bats.
- Do not touch or pick up a grounded bat for any reason. If the bat is on the ground, it may be a young bat still learning to fly, or it may be ill. Grounded bats will bite in self-defense.
- Bat Conservation International
- Buffalo Bayou Partnership
- Houston Zoo
- Texas Master Naturalist
- Texas Parks & Wildlife Department