What weighs less than half an ounce, can travel an average of 60 miles an hour, and can eat up to two-thirds its body weight in one night? Our friendly nocturnal neighbor, the Mexican free-tailed bat!
Also known as tadarida brasiliensis, the Mexican free-tailed bat is one of several species of bats that take up residence beneath the Yolo Causeway. With a quarter-million migrating bats roosting in the space beneath Interstate 80, it’s the largest urban colony in California. The causeway provides the protection the bats need from predators such as hawks and falcons, allowing them to feed and birth their young in the summer before returning to Mexico.
Each evening these little guys (and gals) emerge from their dwellings in long ribbon formations (known as the “flyout”) to hunt for the moths, mosquitos, and other insects that make up their diet. They can fly at very high altitudes — as much as 10,000 feet — swooping over the farmlands and rice fields to munch on their nightly meal.
June through September, visitors are invited to watch the bats in action through the annual Bat Talk and Walk program hosted by the Yolo Basin Foundation. The events allow guest to learn more about these amazing animals and their many benefits to the ecosystem. The tours are open to children and adults alike and include an up-close-and-personal visit with bats, an informational presentation about their lives, and a walking tour through the wetlands.
“Seeing bats flying in the wild is a unique, interesting, and educational experience,” said Corky Quirk, program coordinator with the Yolo Basin Foundation. “The Bat Talk and Walk is all about learning about our native wildlife and the bats that live here under the Yolo Causeway.”
The Yolo Basin Foundation hosts other bat-centric events aimed at helping to educate the public about these beneficial (and often misunderstood) flying mammals. These include bath-themed craft days for children, public bat-counting events, and bat house building workshops.
Although the tours are already filled up for 2023, they’ll start up again next June, so mark your calendars to reserve your spot in advance!