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Bobcats, blue jays and bats: A guide to backyard wildlife in Central Texas

The rolling Hill Country isn’t just home to your friends and neighbors—it is well known for its diverse ecosystem and impressive wildlife.


From turtles sunbathing on Lady Bird Lake to bats feeding on the Congress Bridge to animals that make bumps in the night, you can find it all in the Central Texas habitat. Very few of our animals are harmful but almost all of them are a sight to see.

These are just a few of the critters you’re likely to spot while you’re in Austin, but you can click here for more information.

Mammals

We didn’t include coyotes on this list, as you’re likely to see them all over North America.

Bats

(USFWS Headquarters)

Danger level: ✅ Low, just don’t touch

The symbol of the city, Austin is home to more than a million Mexican free-tailed bats depending on the time of year, with the most visible around July and August. Both the Congress Avenue bridge and Round Rock’s McNeil bridge are maternity colonies, where females give birth to pups in the summer. Austin is famous for bat-watching when the creatures feed, which tends to fall around sunset between March and August.

Fun fact: Bats tend to live up to 11 years in the wild.

Bobcats

(Linda Tanner)

Danger level: ⚠️ Medium, admire from a safe distance

Texas is home to a number of wild cats—bobcats tend to prefer habitats in the Hill Country but you’re unlikely to spot one in the wild in Austin. An adult bobcat measures about 3 and a half feet in length, weighing 12-36 pounds, and eats small mammals, birds, domestic sheep and occasionally deer. Bobcats typically don’t cause great damage or attack humans, but it's best not to disturb one if you spot it. Mountain Lions are also native to the southern parts of the Hill Country.

Fun fact: Bobcats are the only native Texas cat important to fur production.

Nine-banded armadillo

(Rich Anderson)

Danger level: ✅ Low, just don’t touch

As the official small mammal of Texas, you can find armadillos wandering all around the state except the Trans-Pecos. You’re most likely to see an armadillo using its sharp claws to dig for some tasty grubs, which can be harmful to crops, or build a den. They can be quite noisy when foraging and if you startle an armadillo, it might jump straight up into the air before quickly scuttering out of sight. If you see one of these armored little guys, do not touch it, as armadillos are the only animal known to carry leprosy and are illegal to sell in Texas.

Fun fact: Armadillo mothers give birth in springtime to four fully-formed identical quadruplets.

Raccoons

(Tambako the Jaguar)

Danger level: 🆘 High, do not approach

With their unique coats, raccoons can be easily spotted in Austin, likely digging through trash or going through your plants. They’re known for looking cute but raccoons have a high risk for rabies and often act aggressively, so don’t feed or socialize with them. Covering trash cans can be a good way to keep them out of your garbage.

Fun fact: Raccoons will often make dens in logs or tight, enclosed spaces.

Reptiles and amphibians

These little guys are often spotted at Lady Bird Lake.

Frogs, toads and salamanders

Danger level: ✅ Low, just don’t touch

There are a plethora of all three residing in Central Texas, if you’re quiet enough to spot one. The American bullfrog, green tree frog and spotted chorus frog mark the most well-known in town and tend to be harmless. Coach’s Spadefoot and Woodhouse’s toads are common as well, and you might see a Barton Springs Salamander while paddleboarding, but they’ll stay away.

Fun fact: The brighter the colors, the more likely these critters are to be poisonous.

Turtles

(Alan Vernon)

Danger level: ✅ Low, just don’t touch

You’ve probably seen a mix of red-eared sliders, softshell and snapping turtles sunning on a log while on Lady Bird Lake. Turtles can live upwards of 30 years on a diet mostly consisting of small fish, plants and decaying matter. Turtles ribs are infused with its shell, so it never outgrows its home. It’s possible that these little reptiles will bite, but unlikely, and could carry salmonella but they are nothing to be afraid of.

Fun fact: If there isn’t enough space for everyone to sun, turtles will stack themselves on top of each other.

Snakes

(Tom Spinker)

Danger level: Medium, admire from a safe distance.

There are over 105 different types of snakes living across Texas but there are only four you need to be concerned about in Austin: the western diamondback rattlesnake, the broad bandit copperhead, the western cottonmouth and the Texas coral snake are all venomous. The rat snake is often confused with the rattlesnake, since they have similar snaking tails, though it is not venomous. The best way to avoid a bite is to give the snake space and do not handle it.

Fun fact: The shape of a snake’s head is an easy indicator of whether or not the snake is venomous—snakes with triangular heads tend to be venomous but a rounded head is a good sign.

Birds

There are over 660 species of birds living across Texas.

Blue Jays

(Brian Kushner)

Danger level: ☺️ Harmless

These blue beauties look pretty, but don’t be fooled, they’re loud and aggressive toward other birds. Blue jays are known for attacking owls and imitating a hawk call to scare away any threats. However, blue jays are normally tame around humans.

Fun fact: These birds are known for eating the eggs of other birds to frighten them away.

Grackles

(Madeline Poster)

Danger level: ☺️ Harmless

More likely than not, Grackles are the source of the bird noises that annoy you most. With a look similar to that of a blackbird, a bit taller and more iridescent. Grackles are known for their cocky struts and eating anything at their disposal.

Fun fact: Grackles are the number one threat to corn crops.

Golden-cheeked warblers

(Duane Angles)

Danger level: ☺️ Harmless

This yellow-cheeked bird only nests in Central Texas, leaving for Mexico in July to spend the winters, and takes up residence in wooded areas. The golden-cheeked warbler is categorized as endangered by both Texas and U.S. standards.

Fun fact: The golden-cheeked warbler is the only bird that breeds in Texas to exclusively nest in Texas.

Popular

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation


🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway

‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”