BUFFALO BAYOU looking East towards downtown
Looking from atop the Waugh Street bridge, Buffalo Bayou flows east towards the Gulf of Mexico
The bats generally fly out from the bridge and hug the south bank for about 1500 feet before the column rises up and flies over the trees towards the dandelion fountain and then disperses to fly over the city and beyond, looking for insects.
ANATOMY OF BATS
The bat's wing, which provides both lift and thrust, incorporates the same basic arm and hand bones found in humans and most other mammals, except that in bats the hand and finger bones are very long and slender and they have fewer digits. One of the forearm bones, the ulna, is reduced in size.
Flight membranes are very thin sections of the skin stretched between the arms, fingers, body, legs, and feet. Rather delicate-looking, these membranes are more resistant to tearing by sharp objects than rubber gloves.
The muscles that move the wing are located on the chest, back, and shoulder rather than on the wing. This allows the bat to fly with less expenditure of energy. Bat legs are used more for flight than for moving about on land. The pelvis and legs are reduced in size, which contributes to a slender body figure.
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Spectators sit and wait for the bat flight at a 3rd Friday Family Night presentation. Many visitors are just passing thru on a visit to Metro Houston.
This is a maternity colony with about 1100 baby bats among the Mexican Free-tail bats inhabiting the bridge during April to June.
The nearest large bat colony to Houston is the Congress street bridge in Austin, Texas.
Due to Houston's climate - Our bats do not migrate like the other bat colonies in Texas, they are here year round. On a warm winter evening, above 50°F, a bat emergence is can be observed.
Visit often! On Halloween night you might just see a bunch of ghouls wearing capes toasting the bats with bloody marys. We have observed this spectacle for the past few years.
Information about MEXICAN FREE-TAIL BATS
Bat information from Wikipedia:
Binomial name: Tadarida brasiliensis
The Mexican Free-tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) a medium sized bat. Their bodies are about 9 centimeters in length, and they weigh about 15 grams. Their ears are wide and set apart to help them find prey with echolocation. The fur color varies from dark brown to gray.
The Mexican Free-tailed Bat is widely regarded as one of the most abundant mammals in North America and is not on any federal lists. However, its proclivity towards roosting in large numbers in relatively few roosts makes it especially vulnerable to human disturbance and habitat destruction. Documented declines at some roosts are cause for concern. It is considered a Species of Special Concern due to declining populations and limited distribution in Utah.
Mexican Free-tailed Bats live in caves in the western and southern United States, Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, central Chile and Argentina. Their colonies are the largest congregations of mammals in the world.
The largest colony is found at Bracken Cave, north of San Antonio, Texas, with nearly 20 million bats; research indicates that bats from this colony congregate in huge numbers at altitudes between 600 and 3,200 ft (180-1000 m), and even as high as 10,000 ft (3000 m). It is believed that these bats are feeding on migrating cotton bollworm moths, a severe agricultural pest.
When the baby bats are born, their mothers leave them behind in the cave while they go out to hunt insects. She remembers where she left her "pup" by recognizing its unique "cry" and smell.
The species is very important for the control of pest-insect populations. But its populations are in an alarming decline because of the pesticide poisoning and the destruction of their roosting caves.
One of the most cost-effective ways to help this highly beneficial bat is through key roost protection, public education, and provision of "bat-friendly" bridge designs and other artificial roosts.
In Austin, Texas, a colony of Mexican Free-tailed bats summers (they winter in Mexico) under the Congress Avenue Bridge just ten blocks south of the state capitol. It is the largest urban colony living in a bridge in North America with an estimated population of 1,500,000 bats.
Each night they eat 10,000 to 30,000 pounds of insects. Each year they attract 100,000 tourists who come to watch them.
VOLUNTEERS COLLECTING DATA
Gulf Coast Master Naturalist Scott Keister, with volunteers Bonita Pernell and Bill Foss, check and compare data on their weather instruments.
Data is currently being gathered by Texas Parks & Wildlife, urban wildlife biologist Diana Foss with volunteers from the Texas Master Naturalist local area chapters.
Many volunteers are from these organizations::
Bayou Preservation Association
Buffalo Bayou Partnership,
City of Houston Parks & Recreation Dept,,
Houston Zoo staff and docents,
Texas Parks & Wildlife Urban Wildlife program,
Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept., State Bat Biologist,
Volunteers from the public in the City of Houston and local area communites.
NOTE: Most of the bat facts used in this web site is from a draft titled "Houston Bat Project, Bat Fact Sheets" written by Diana Foss, urban wildlife biologist, tpwd
Web site created & maintained by Odie Asscherick, Texas Master Naturalist, Galveston Bay Area Chapter. To email Webmaster use WaughStreetBats@aol.com
This web site was created to highlight volunteer efforts to collect data for Texas Parks & Wildlife about Bats in Bridges. At the time of its creation in July of 2005, there was no web site in the Houston area set up exclusively with information about the Mexican free-tail bats currently inhabiting the Waugh Drive bridge over Buffalo Bayou.
Bats are not new to Houston, only media about bats. Bats have resided in the Waugh Drive bridge since 1993.
Texas Master Naturalists have studied the bats under the Waugh Drive bridge since June 2000.