Lafayette and South Louisiana is a birder’s paradise, offering some of the best bird watching opportunities in the nation.
The terrain ranges from prairies and live oak cheniers to wetlands, bayous and lakes. Rice farms attract ducks and other waterfowl, while wetlands provide food and shelter for rookeries. There are resident species, such as wading birds and waterfowl, that visitors can spot year-round and migratory birds flying through on the Mississippi Flyway.
The America’s Wetland Birding Trail consists of 115 bird watching sites in 12 trails within 22 Louisiana parishes. The Atchafalaya Loop, for instance, takes birders through the largest river swamp in North America, and includes bottomland hardwood ecosystems, wildlife management areas and the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge. Be sure and visit Lake Martin-Cypress Island Preserve, one of the largest bird rookeries in North America with its approximate 20,000 nesting pairs of spring wading birds. Now and through late spring look for all kinds of egrets, great blue herons, little blue herons, roseate spoonbills, warblers, vireos, white ibis and anhingas, among others.
At Lafayette and heading south is the Vermilion Loop, which takes visitors through marshlands toward the Gulf of Mexico. In the spring and fall birders may spot migratory neotropical songbirds. Waterfowl may be seen year-round within the rice farms and coastal prairie lands.
Local bird-related festivals include the winter Eagle Expo in Morgan City, the spring Bayou Teche Black Bear & Birding Festival in Franklin (April 29-21, 2013) and the Lafayette Hummingbird Day in the fall.
This Saturday, March 30, 2013, at 9 a.m., Dr. Jay Huner of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette will speak on his challenge to see as many bird as possible in Louisiana in 2012, known as “The Big Year”at the Lafayette Wild Birds Unlimited. Other events happening this spring at Wild Birds Unlimited include a bird chat with field trip April 6 and May 4, shorebird identification with Clint Jeske of the National Wetlands Research Center on April 11, and a discussion of edible plants with Charles Allen on May 11.