Birding in Louisiana, Bird Watcher's Paradise
The state’s location on the Mississippi Flyway attracts an overwhelming number of birds.
Great White Heron a.k.a Great Egret
Roseate Spoonbills nesting
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, 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, is home to thousands of nesting birds. The preserve’s walking and driving trails and a boardwalk are great spots to see snowy egrets, roseate spoonbills, trans-Gulf migratory songbirds and an occasional alligator. (The walking trail starting along the levee is closed from June through October for alligator nesting season.)
In the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, check out the Indian Bayou National Wildlife Refuge, a 28,000-acre public-access area containing some of the country's most productive wildlife habitat. It's a paradise for hunters, fishermen, boaters, nature photographers, bird-watchers and all outdoor enthusiasts - and is abundant with wading birds like the great blue heron and the great egret, along with mallards and wood ducks.
Down in Louisiana’s southwest corner, you’ll find Peveto Woods Sanctuary, which for many birds is the final resting stop before they migrate south over the Gulf of Mexico for the winter. Accordingly, it’s the first stop in the springtime for birds headed north from Central and South America. The sanctuary, located in Cameron, is a stop on the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road.
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 complete a Self-Clearing Permit. This can be done either in person at a WMA Self-Clearing Permit Station or on the WMA app. Additional instructions can be found on the Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries website.
Judi Russell is a New Orleans, Louisiana-based freelance writer.