It's Bat Season!!!
March 11, 2017 5:02 PM   Subscribe

Texas State Flying Mammal. The Mexican free-tailed bat became the official flying mammal of the State of Texas when Governor George W. Bush signed Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 95 - The Mexican Free-tailed bats' wings are actually "hands." The long ridge across the top is like our index finger and the ribs on its wings are the rest of its "fingers."
From March thru October, come see the official flying critter of Texas.
World Famous Austin Colony
Largets Colony in Bracken"
Catching the Little Feller By Hand

The Mexican free-tailed bat or Brazilian free-tailed bat is a medium-sized bat that is native to the Americas, regarded as one of the most abundant mammals in North America. Its proclivity towards roosting in huge numbers at relatively few locations makes it vulnerable to habitat destruction in spite of its abundance. The bat is considered a species of special concern in California as a result of declining populations. It has been claimed to have the fastest horizontal speed of any animal, reaching top ground speeds of over 160 km/h; its actual air speed has not been measured.
The largest populations of Mexican free-tailed bats live in Central Texas and Mexico, but they are also common throughout much of western North America, southward through Central America, and into the arid and semi arid regions of western and southern South America. They live in many habitats, including urban areas, and range- from deserts to piñon-juniper woodlands and pine-oak forests. Although bachelor colonies of free-tails have been found at elevations over 9,000 feet, large nursery colonies tend to prefer relatively dry areas below 5,000 feet. Mexican free-tails typically live in caves, abandoned mines, or tunnels, and also roost in buildings, under bridges, in rock shelters, in hollow trees, and in cliff-face crevices.
posted by shockingbluamp (14 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
They've got such cute ears and noses!!
posted by FirstMateKate at 5:14 PM on March 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yay for bats!
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:40 PM on March 11, 2017

Watching the bats come out from under the Congress Ave bridge is awe-inspiring, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is in Austin during the appropriate months. It's also worth estimating the number, then calculating how many insects the colony eats every night. Austin would be a much harder place to live without the bats....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:59 PM on March 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

For a number of years we had a minor league hockey team here called the Austin Ice Bats. Yep, ice hockey in Texas with a flying mammal mascot...
posted by jim in austin at 6:27 PM on March 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks for sharing these videos - they totally brightened my day. Bats are just the coolest!
posted by FireFountain at 6:44 PM on March 11, 2017

Yeah, the Austin bats are an incredible sight. This is great, thanks!
posted by Room 641-A at 6:48 PM on March 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

The bats were part of the sun's machinery,
Connected to the machinery of the flowers
By the machinery of insects. The bats' meaning

Oiled the unfailing logic of the earth.
Cosmic requirement — on the wings of a goblin.
A rebuke to our flutter of half-participation.
Ted Hughes
posted by runcifex at 7:58 PM on March 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

The big freetail colonies here are maternity roosts. Earlier in the spring just the adults fly, so the flights are less spectacular, but in late summer after the pups start flying, their numbers swell to the point where on otherwise clear evenings, they'll light up the weather radar. I managed a screen shot of it a couple years ago.

There's a great flight out of Green Cave north of Brackettville (on the Kickapoo Caverns State NA property) as well, & you can get pretty close on the official viewing nights. The time I went, there was a hawk diving into the swirling cloud of bats trying to catch its dinner, & while it did have some luck, apparently grabbing a bat out of the air even when they're inches apart is no easy task. That hawk earned its supper.

You can only go in Bracken in the winter when the bats are in Mexico (or you'll die of ammonia poisoning), but the guano mound is incredible. At the most active peak of the mound, it's a literally seething mass of various insects that feed entirely on guano & bat carcasses. When an old/ill bat falls or dies, it's consumed down to the bone within minutes & the edges of the guano mountain are strewn with uncountable millions of bat bones. I have a 1/2 pint mason jar full of skulls I picked out of the mound, & one fully articulated spine & rib cage. It sits on the shelf with my carbide lamps.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:35 PM on March 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Here's my good friend Jim Kennedy on an episode of Dirty Jobs, where they visit bracken to talk about his job as a bat biologist for Bat Conservation International.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:46 PM on March 11, 2017

Many happy evenings under the bridge for me too.

But as opposed to what other flying mammals? Squirrels don't actually fly, they just glide to the ground. What else ya got in Texas? Hard to be proud of a win when the other side never shows up.

But yay for fruit bats. One of the few things about Austin that hasn't been ruined by Californication, growth, irony, SXSW, republicans, or gun nuts.
posted by spitbull at 8:49 PM on March 11, 2017

I feel like the contest for "state flying mammal" can't possibly have as fierce competition as say... state bird, or state flower...
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 9:54 PM on March 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I feel like the contest for "state flying mammal" can't possibly have as fierce competition as say... state bird, or state flower...

Anyone else find it funny that the Texas state flying mammal is the Mexican free-tailed bat?
posted by mikelieman at 1:31 AM on March 12, 2017

Let's not forget that they are flying through the power of jazz hands!
posted by TedW at 4:51 AM on March 12, 2017

But as opposed to what other flying mammals?

As opposed to the other 32 species of bats in Texas. Worldwide, there are 900 to 1200 species of bats (opinions vary), amounting to 20% or more of all mammal species.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:04 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

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