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Annual Migration Drives Austin Batty

June 01, 1997

It's not as romantic as the swallows returning to Capistrano, but the annual migration of free-tail bats from Mexico to Austin, Texas, still draws thousands of tourists mid-March through November.

The main attraction is a spooky show each sunset in which the winged mammals emerge, by the thousands, from nests underneath a bridge across Town Lake. At their peak in August, about 1.5 million take to the sky. Most are females or their young; most of the males stay in Mexico, according to Robert Benson of Bat Conservation International Inc., a nonprofit educational and conservation group in Austin.

Austin claims North America's largest urban bat colony. The animals pack themselves into crevices formed by expansion joints of the Congress Avenue Bridge.

There are bat-viewing platforms near the east end of the bridge. In addition, Capital Cruises runs nightly bat tours on the lake; telephone (512) 480-9264.. The Lone Star Riverboat goes out about twice weekly; tel. (512) 327-1388. Adult fares for each are $8. For information, contact the conservation group at P.O. Box 162603, Austin, TX 78716-2603; tel. (512) 327-9721.

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