By the Region: Great Spots for Birding in Louisiana
Louisiana’s subtropical climate, forests and position within the corridor of a major North American migratory flyway make the state a haven for a huge variety of birds and travelers who want to see them in their natural habitat.
Here is a crash course on some cool off-the-beaten-path places where you can get your birding fix.
Red River National Wildlife Refuge in Bossier City. A seven-mile trail system provides access to what is said to be a critical stopover point for more than 200 species of migratory songbirds and shorebirds, plus wintering grounds for waterfowl and wading birds. Be sure to check out the visitor center, which houses frequent interpretive programs.
C. Bickham Dickson Park in Shreveport. This 585-acre Bickham Dickson Park is Shreveport’s largest urban park - featuring open fields, bottomland hardwood forests, a 200-acre oxbow lake, and the Red River. Over 200 bird species have been recorded at the park, including the yellow-crowned night-heron, red-headed woodpecker, eastern bluebird, loggerhead shrike, and Baltimore oriole.
Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in Tallulah. This hardwood bottomland is said to rival any inland Louisiana location for birding. Common species include wood duck, wild turkey and numerous warbler species. Be sure to check out an extremely informative display on ivory billed woodpeckers in the refuge’s visitor center.
Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Monroe. Check out the 1,600-acre lake, nature trails, boardwalks, pier, observation deck, nature center and more. This refuge offers plenty of bird-watching spots. Next to the visitor center you’ll find the Conservation Learning Center with animal exhibits, an arboretum with native Louisiana woody plants, and a prairie demonstration area with native wildflowers.
J.C. "Sonny" Gilbert Wildlife Management Area in Harrisonburg. This management area which is unusually hilly compared to Louisiana’s typical topography has a waterfall that doubles as a nesting spot for bald eagles. Surrounding forests are home to several warblers and flycatchers.
Kisatchie National Forest’s Longleaf Trail in Cloutierville. This Scenic Byway traces through Louisiana’s six-district national forest. Kisatchie’s primary bird draw is the red-cockaded woodpecker, plus dozens of breeding, wintering and resident species including broad-winged hawk, eastern towhee, flycatcher and waterthrush.
North Toledo Bend State Park in Zwolle and South Toledo Bend State Park in Anacoco. Park the RV or stay in a cabin for your birding adventures along the Toledo Bend Reservoir, one of the country's largest man-made reservoirs. This area is ideal for birding, paddling, hiking and more.
Pintail Wildlife Drive in Cameron. Located inside the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, this loop hosts ducks, geese and numerous other waterfowl by the thousands during winter months. Year-round regulars include the roseate spoonbill, white-faced ibis, American avocet, black-necked stilt, green heron, killdeer, great blue heron, gallinule, neotropic cormorant, tricolored heron and snowy egret. Thanks to boardwalks and a gravel trail, the area is easily accessible and tripod friendly.
Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge in Franklin. Bayou Teche NWR is a 9,028-acre refuge situated along and on either side of Bayou Teche, an ancient channel of the Mississippi River. Here, you can spot native species such as neotropical songbirds, wading birds and waterfowl. The Refuge’s primary objective is to restore and manage bottomland hardwood forests, cypress-tupelo swamps, and marshes in order to provide high quality and diverse habitat to support the Louisiana black bear.
Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area in St. Francisville. It is no wonder noted naturalist and author/painter of Birds of America, John James Audubon, at one time resided in this region of Louisiana. The management area is a hardwood forest where various woodpeckers, vireos, thrushes, warblers, wood storks and herons dwell among steep slopes, bluffs and creek bottoms.
Louisiana State University Campus Lakes in Baton Rouge. It is said that the lakes near LSU’s main campus are home to nearly 200 bird species including egrets, herons and ibises. Mass sightings of American white pelicans during cooler months are known to clog traffic on lake-adjacent roads, as passers-by slow down to admire the flocks.
City Park in New Orleans. As one of the oldest urban parks in the U.S., City Park’s 1,300 acres of hedges, fields and live oaks are home to migrant flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, wood-warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, buntings and orioles during fall and spring.
Bayou Petit Caillou at Marguerite Moffett Audubon Sanctuary in Chauvin. Bayou Petit Caillou and other small bayous in Terrebonne Parish are habitats for a variety of bird life, including least bittern, clapper rail, roseate spoonbills, herons, egrets, ibis, white and brown pelicans. The Marguerite Moffett Audubon Sanctuary protects 108 acres of brackish marsh and shallow open water near Chauvin along the banks of Bayou Petit Caillou.
For the serious Louisiana birdwatcher, this article has downloadable brochures on three major birding trails spanning the state: The Mississippi River Birding Trail (30 sites in 13 parishes); the Red River Birding Trail (82 sites in 18 parishes); and the Zachary Taylor Parkway Birding Trail (27 sites in 10 parishes. The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area has even more detailed information for both budding bird lovers and seasoned ornithologists.