Houston is many things; an oil and gas mecca, the fourth largest city in the U.S., and home to several sports teams, but you probably didn’t know that it is also home to 11 different species of bats and the third largest bat colony in Texas. Yes, those birds you see flying around at dusk every night probably aren’t birds at all, but instead are bats emerging for their nightly dinner.
One of the best places to see them is at the Waugh Street Bat Bridge. Located near downtown Houston, the Waugh Street Bridge spans Buffalo Bayou, a 53 mile waterway running from the Katy Prairie all the way to the Houston Ship Channel. The construction and location of the bridge make it the perfect home for a colony of 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats that live in its crevices year round. Houstonians should consider themselves lucky to share their big city with this colony of bats because they eat 2.5 tons of insects each and every night.
Buffalo Bayou Partnership provides a great way to see this colony through their Waugh Bat Colony Boat Tours. Make a reservation and hop on a boat about an hour before dusk for a leisurely tour of the bayou as you head toward Waugh Street Bridge. You will not only learn all about the bats from the tour guide, but you’ll also hear about other wildlife found on the bayou and even some Houston history, facts, and trivia. Susan Weber, the tour guide extraordinaire on my boat trip, was very knowledgeable about everything related to the bayou and never seemed to tire of all the bat questions asked of her. Even the kids onboard listened quietly to what she had to say.
As dusk nears, you will get closer to the bridge and finally park to wait for the bats to emerge. On the night of my trip, we were watching the bridge closely listening to their chatter when all of a sudden they began flying out. At first it was just one or two and then thousands began to emerge at one time. It was quite a sight to behold as the sky filled with the sights, sounds and smells of bats. However, we weren’t the only ones waiting for the bats to emerge, there were several bat predators including hawks, herons and even turtles waiting for their dinner, too.
Whether you are looking for something different or want a night out with the family, the Waugh Street Bat Bridge and Buffalo Bayou Partnership boat tour provides just that. You will go home having witnessed something special on the bayou in Houston, Texas.
By Gabi De La Rosa
Feature photo courtesy Nick Nicholson