By Penny Fox
There are few better places for birding than Louisiana. Because of the warm climate and accommodating ecosystems, especially in the southern area, Louisiana is known as a year-long birding state. There are several sanctuaries and wildlife refuges throughout the state that have been established to protect endangered bird species and provide areas for migratory birds to winter and reproduce. Here are the five best birdwatching hikes in the state!
Much effort has been put into reclaiming abandoned farmland and recreating the forests in the northeast Louisiana Delta area of the state. Several bird and animal species have almost been wiped out, like the ivory-billed woodpecker and black bear because of extensive agricultural and timbering practices. There are now approximately 30 birdwatching sites comprising the Mississippi River Birding Trail that runs through 13 parishes.
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Pine forests along the Red River Birding Trail are home to a variety of birds and 82 birdwatching sites in northwestern Louisiana. The geography changes dramatically as the river crosses the state boundaries and some of the region’s most unique plants can be found there.
There are 115 sites along the Gulf Coast region known as America’s Wetland Birding Trail that take birders through every imaginable waterway including lakes, rivers, swamps, bayous, marshes, mudflats, and beaches. Waterfowl are abundant, each in their specific area, and if you venture away from the water, you’ll see an abundance of migrating songbirds in the wooded areas. The trail is organized in 12 specific loops where migratory and native birds can be seen in their habitat.
The Atchafalaya area is a unique region of the state that features multiple ecosystems from wetlands, hills, and prairies to marshes, swamps, forests, and meadows. The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area contains nearly 400 kinds of birds and has several rookeries for breeding birds. Some of the best areas for birding can be found here, and there are numerous hiking areas along bayous.
There are over seven miles of coastline trails that become home to more than 300 migratory birds from the eastern U.S. in April each year. It would seem as if the trees were alive and moving with the number of birds that perch on the limbs. Shorebirds and seabirds can be seen along the beaches and there are many species that make their home there year-round.