My 12 Best Bird Watching Spots in Louisiana You Should Try


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Louisiana is known for its bayous and pine forests, which also provide excellent habitat for the 470 and more species of birds found here. It can be not easy, though, to know the best spots for bird watching in Louisiana. This is why we have put together a list of the best places you should visit to watch birds.

The best bird watching spots in Louisiana are the areas found on the coast at Grand Isle, in the central area in the Kisatchie National Forest’s Longleaf Trail, in the north at C Bickham Dickson Park and the Red River Wildlife Refuge, and in the wetlands of Cypress Island Preserve and Toledo Bend.

You can see a table with the most exciting birds at each of my top 12 birding spots in Louisiana:

PARKINTERESTING BIRDS YOU CAN SEE
Bickham Dickson ParkBaltimore Oriole and Red-headed Woodpecker
Red River Wildlife RefugePainted Bunting and Pied-Billed Grebe
Kisatchie National Forest’s Longleaf TrailCanada Warbler and Hermit Thrush
Lake Fausse Pointe State ParkPileated Woodpecker and Prothonotary Warbler
Blackwater Conservation AreaSummer Tanager and Black-throated Blue Warbler
Grand IsleBlack-whiskered Vireo and Varied Thrush
Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife RefugeRed-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman’s Sparrow
Cypress Island PreserveRoseate Spoonbill and Snowy Egret
Toledo Bend State ParkCommon Goldeneye and Osprey
J.C. “Sonny” Gilbert Wildlife Management AreaBald Eagle and Wild Turkey
Tensas River National Wildlife RefugeLoggerhead Shrike and Rusty Blackbird
Cameron Prairie National Wildlife RefugeMarsh Wren and Black-necked Stilt
Best Bird Watching Spots in Louisiana

Read on to learn more about my choices for the top bird watching spots in Louisiana and what they have to offer you.

Best Bird Watching Spots in Louisiana
Best Bird Watching Spots in Louisiana

TIP: If you are interested in checking out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Best Places to Bird Watch in Louisiana

Louisiana is on the Mississippi flyway for bird migration. This is one of the states where several migrating birds first arrive on shore after crossing the Gulf of Mexico. It is a terrific state to bird watch in with its many creeks, bayous, lakes, marshland, and pine forests providing ample habitat for birdlife.

  1. C. Bickham Dickson Park, Shreveport

I have spent many a weekend walking trails in this park and marveling at the number of birds here. There are usually Wood Ducks in the lake, and the surrounding lake edge is where you may disturb a skulking Green Heron. 

Baltimore Orioles nest here, and you can find several woodpeckers in the forest, including the Pileated, Red-headed, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Northern Flickers are also usually flying around too.

One year there was also a Vermillion Flycatcher that could be found perching in a tree near the large dam in the park. This is definitely a park worth visiting when you are in the northwestern part of Louisiana.

  1. Red River Wildlife Refuge, Bossier City

Just across the Red River from Shreveport is Bossier City. Here you can find this wildlife refuge with a trail all along the Red River’s edge. Spring migration sees this area packed with all sorts of songbirds.

Keep an eye out for Painted Buntings. The male buntings often perch and sing from the tops of trees in summer. For such brightly-colored birds, they can be tricky to spot.

The river has many water birds like Pied-billed Grebes, Gadwall, and Blue-winged Teal. If you are in the Shreveport-Bossier area, visiting this refuge and C. Bickham Dickson park is a good idea.

  1. Kisatchie National Forest’s Longleaf Trail 

The Kisatchie forest is south of the city of Alexandria. It is full of wildlife and rich in bird species. You can even find the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker here.

This is not the only woodpecker. You can also expect to find Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, and Pileated Woodpeckers. 

You can also find Canada Warblers and Hermit Thrushes. A complete checklist of bird species has been recorded here, which you can use when you visit the area.

  1. Lake Fausse Pointe State Park, in St. Martinville

This is a 6000-acre area in the Atchafalaya Basin. The Atchafalaya Basin is the largest swamp in the entire United States. It is located in the south-central region of Louisiana. Lake Fausse Pointe State Park is an excellent spot for bird watching. 

There are walkways you can walk along and bird watch from. You can expect to find beautiful birds like the bright yellow Prothonotary Warbler. Keep an eye out for Pileated Woodpeckers in the Cypress trees, herons, and ducks in the water.

  1. Blackwater Conservation Area

The Blackwater Conservation Area is found in east Baton Rouge Parish in Louisiana. It consists of wetlands and woodlands. About 150 species of birds have been recorded here to date. You will likely see many water birds and types of warblers, woodpeckers, and flycatchers. 

During migration, you can see many Black-throated Blue Warblers, Summer Tanagers, Tennessee Warblers, Baltimore Orioles, and many other bird species. This is a good place I would choose if I were ever in the Baton Rouge area. 

  1. Grand Isle

This is a 7-mile-long barrier island found off the coast of Louisiana. The many habitats include beaches, tidal flats, marshlands, grasses, and forests.

This is the place to be during spring and fall migration when you can get “fallouts” of birds. A “fallout” is when bad weather, such as a storm, forces birds down into the vegetation of an area. 

The area is often teeming with warblers, water thrushes, and tanagers. You can also see whistling ducks and geese. It is also a good spot for seeing some rare bird species. The rare Black-whiskered Vireo and Varied Thrush have both been recorded in Grand Isle. 

At least 309 bird species have been recorded in Grand Isle. Even a rare Trumpeter Swan and Barnacle Goose have shown up here.

It is a must-visit spot for bird watchers because of the high numbers of species you can see and the good chance of sighting a rare species. I would put this as my go-to spot during spring migration in Louisiana.

  1. Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge is found on the northern shores of Lake Pontchartrain in Tammany Parish. Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and Bachman’s Sparrow occur here.

The area is significant for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker since this is an endangered species that has suffered due to habitat loss.

There are both hiking trails and a boardwalk you can walk along. You can find Bald Eagles and numerous waterfowl in the water. The area is most popular on weekends, so it is best to try and visit during the week, if possible, to avoid crowds.

  1. Cypress Island Preserve

This region comprises 9,000 acres of indigenous Cypress-Tupelo swampland. The preserve has a large rookery on Lake Martin, where you can find and photograph large numbers of Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Little Blue Herons, and Roseate Spoonbills nesting. 

There are trails and boardwalks that you can walk on while searching the swamp for birds. The place is well-known for wading and watering birds like the Black-bellied Whistling Duck and Anhinga.

The preserve includes a hardwood forest with many birds, including cardinals, titmice, chickadees, and woodpeckers. You can also find Barred Owls and Red-shouldered Hawks in the preserve. 

  1. Toledo Bend State Parks 

There is a North and South Toledo Bend State Park. Both parks are located on the Toledo Bend Reservoir, and the entire region is more than 220,000 acres in size. It is designated as an important bird area. The vegetation on the shores of the lake is hackberry, oaks, and pine trees. 

You can see many water birds here, including the Common Goldeneye, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Pied-billed Grebe, and American White Pelican. Black Scoter can also be observed in the reservoir. A rookery at Toledo Bend also has many egrets and heron nests.

You should also scan the shores and skies for Bald Eagles and Osprey. Another benefit of Toledo Bend State Park is that you can camp here, making birding at sunrise easier.  

  1. J.C. “Sonny” Gilbert Wildlife Management Area

Located in central Louisiana, this area is suitable for watching Bald Eagles, which nest here. The topography contains hilly areas, ridges, and creek bottoms. Forest habitats and streams flow through the area.

This wildlife management area is one of the few areas of the state with hills. This allows you to see more birds and enjoy the scenery.

  1. Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge

The Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge is found in northeastern Louisiana. This refuge is part of the Mississippi river alluvial plain and consists of bottomland hardwood forests. It is a great place to find turkeys, warblers, and many other birds, including woodpeckers, titmice, and thrushes.

The visitor center is worth attending because they have a very informative write-up on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. There are boardwalks and hiking trails you can walk on. 

The refuge is rich in birdlife, with 200 species recorded here. You can expect to come across Turkeys and many songbirds. The near-threatened Golden-winged Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Loggerhead Shrike, and vulnerable Rusty Blackbird have been recorded in the refuge.

  1. Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge is well-known for the Pintail Wildlife Drive. This drive is 3 miles long, allowing you to see as many as 230 species of birds. 

The drive goes through the wetland areas and grassland and shrubbery. There is also a boardwalk that lets you get closer to the marshes if you want. This boardwalk runs next to the drive.

Black-necked Stilts, Roseate Spoonbills, and Marsh Wren are common in the area. You can also find Boat-tailed Grackles and Crested Caracara here.

Best Time to Bird Watch in Louisiana

Any time of year is good for birds in Louisiana, which is in the south and does not experience a long winter. December is the optimal time for seeing waterfowl such as ducks, teal, and geese.

Warblers and other small migrating passerine birds are best seen in mid-March to April when spring migration occurs. 

You can also see many warblers during the fall migration, but since they will not be in breeding plumage, they will be more challenging to identify.

During spring migration, warblers are in breeding plumage, and their bright colors and distinctive markings make identification much more effortless. Birds are also more apt to sing and make their presence known in spring than in fall.

Remember that Louisiana is known for its mosquitoes, so be sure to wear bug repellant when out in the woods and bayous. The state is also hot and very humid, particularly in the summertime.

The Louisiana State Bird

Brown Pelican: The State Bird of Louisiana
Brown Pelican: The State Bird of Louisiana

The Brown Pelican is the state bird of Louisiana. The pelican is also depicted on the Louisiana state flag. These large birds are easy to identify and often fly in flocks along the Louisiana coastline. 

The pelican takes anywhere from 3 to 5 years to reach adulthood. They were once endangered, but steps were taken to protect these birds. 

Bird Watching Laws in Louisiana

Louisiana has laws about wildlife, including birds. A person is not permitted to breed wild, domesticated game birds, including turkeys, doves, quail, pheasants, and waterfowl, unless they have a license to do so. 

My Favourite Equipment for Bird Watching

Bird watching is one of the least expensive hobbies out there, but you still need some equipment to get the most out of it. 

The essential equipment to start bird watching is a pair of binoculars. My preference is 8 X 42 binoculars. The number 8 is how much the magnification is, while 42 is the field of view in millimeters of the lenses.

A pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars on Amazon is an excellent choice for both beginners and experts. 

In time, you can choose more expensive models and also opt to buy a spotting scope like the Celestron Ultima 80 on Amazon.

These are a lot more expensive compared with binoculars though, so if you are only a beginner, start with binoculars first. A spotting scope is only helpful for birds far away, such as out on a pond or seashore.

Bird Watching Ethics

There are a few rules or guidelines you should abide by as an ethical birder. These are listed below.

  • Do not enter private lands without prior permission from landowners.
  • Follow all the rules in refuges and reserves, including cleaning up any garbage from your campsite.
  • Do not disturb birds on nests.
  • Do not use apps and play songs to call up birds when they are hungry, tired, and breeding during spring and summer.

Conclusion

Louisiana is a great place to go bird watching. The cypress swamps and forests provide lots of habitat for birds. Every part of the state has terrific spots for seeing a range of bird species.

You can find good spots along the coast where migrating species first make landfall. The many bayous in the state provide ample opportunity to see waterfowl and other swamp-loving species. Planning a bird watching trip to Louisiana should be on your bucket list.

TIP: If you are interested in checking out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Rae Osborn

Rae Osborn is an avid bird watcher and holds a doctorate in Biology. Her interests in birds began as a child growing up in South Africa. She has continued to study birds and has bird watched in the United States and South Africa.

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