Bird wonderland creates a watcher's paradise
The state’s location on the Mississippi Flyway attracts an “overwhelming number of birds,” says Jennifer Coulson, head of the Orleans Audubon Society. (Photo by Stephen W. Banks)
Louisiana’s mild climate and varied terrain make it a paradise for those who enjoy bird watching, and the many loops of America's Wetland Birding Trail around the state make access easy.
The state’s wetlands are an ideal resource for wintering water birds, while other feathered friends use the state as a stopping-off spot as they migrate. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
• Lake Fausse Pointe State Park, in St. Martinville in south Louisiana, is a 6,000-acre wildlife wilderness. The park’s swamp, lake and trees are perfect spots for birds to nest and feed. Look for Red-shouldered Hawks, tanagers, flycatchers and Little Blue Herons, and listen for the sweet call of the Prothonotary Warbler.
• An amazing number of birds, including Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, bald eagles, hawks, falcons, gulls, owls, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, jays, wrens and Brown Pelicans populate the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Lacombe. The refuge, about 35 miles from New Orleans on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, has hiking and biking trails and a nature boardwalk to make for easy access for birders.
• The wading bird rookery at Cypress Island Preserve, halfway between Breaux Bridge and Lafayette in Cajun Country, is home to thousands of nesting birds. The preserve’s walking and driving trails and a new boardwalk are great spots to see Snowy Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, trans-gulf migratory songbirds – and an occasional alligator. (Walking trails are closed from June through October for alligator nesting season.)
• In the northern part of the state, Bodcau Bayou Wildlife Management Area*, 17 miles northeast of Bossier City, has recorded more than 140 species of birds in its swamps, wide bayous, upland streams, pine hills and grasslands. Look for the Wild Turkey, Barred Owls, White-breasted Nuthatches and the rare Prothonotary Warbler.
• Louisiana also boasts good birding sites in its wetlands and barrier islands. America’s Wetland Birding Trail honeycombs south Louisiana with 115 birding sites in 22 parishes. Birding doesn’t require much equipment – grab the binoculars, some sunscreen and your camera, and you’re ready to go.
*Note: To visit any of Louisiana’s Wildlife Management Areas, you must have one of the following: a valid Louisiana fishing license, a valid Louisiana hunting license or a Wild Louisiana Stamp. You can buy these online at WLF.Louisiana.gov or by calling 1-888-765-2602. For more information, see also Atchafalaya.org.