BREEDING BIRDS INTRODUCTION:
LOUISIANA’S NESTING BIRDS
America’s WETLAND Birding Trail travels through many habitats where visitors can observe nearly all of Louisiana’s 161 breeding species. Mild temperatures of southern Louisiana provide a relatively long breeding season. For example, the Southern Bald Eagle nests during the winter. And the well-known Great Horned Owl starts nesting as early as December. However, breeding activity of most resident birds isn’t well underway until mid-March. Neotropical migrants set up their territories as soon as they arrive from March to May. The long breeding season allows some species to raise more than one family. In Louisiana, Prothonotary Warblers will typically raise two or three broods per season. The peak of breeding activity varies by species and most species are through raising families by late July.
Many breeding species are restricted to unique habitats along the Trail. Only in mature Longleaf Pine can you see the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Although expanding its breeding area, Mottled Duck has a fairly restricted range along the Gulf Coast. Some birds, less common elsewhere, are easy to find in Louisiana. Our state bird the Brown Pelican, extirpated from Louisiana as a breeding bird, has rebounded and now commonly breeds on several barrier islands.
Bottomland hardwoods support a number of interesting breeding species, including the Neotropical migrant raptors Swallow-tailed and Mississippi kites, and Broad-winged Hawk. These join resident Red-shouldered Hawks to nest in or just below the treetops of the forest. Woods are alive with the songs of nesting Neotropical migrants and resident breeding birds. Songs of Northern Parula or Yellow-throated Warbler originate from Spanish moss-draped trees where resident Barred Owls roost and are often easy to locate during the day. Impressive egret and heron rookeries and concentrations of colorful roadside songbirds such as Painted and Indigo buntings and Dickcissels await those traversing the WETLAND Birding Trail.
Note: You can see the distribution of breeding birds on the Louisiana Breeding Bird Altas website at http://www.manybirds.com/atlas/atlas.htm.