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February through July

Beginning in late winter to early spring thousands of pairs of wading birds congregate in nesting colonies (rookeries) across coastal Louisiana. Nesting colonies number over several hundred and are located in saline to fresh marsh as well as forested wetlands and scrub/shrub. In these areas birds use trees such a cypress and tupelo gum and shrubs such as button bush and mangrove to support their nests, which are usually above and surrounded by water for protection from predators.

Watching these birds chose their mates, build their nests, feed and fledge their young at close range (often no binoculars are needed) offers one the best visual pleasures that bird watching has to offer. Photographers have a chance to take pictures of virtually stationary birds and are often rewarded with beautiful photographs. Birds in breeding plumage are a visual treat with colors ranging from bright white to deep blues and greens. The Roseate Spoonbill, sometimes referred to as the “Cajun Flamingo” offers deep pink and red feathers. Many of the breeding species are adorned with plumes that appear to float in the wind or brilliant soft part colors of the bill, face or legs.

Different species arrive, nest and leave at different times throughout the nesting season. For instance, the Great Egret is an early nester at Lake Martin/Cypress Island (site 5-5) and arrives at the colonies in late January. Other species follow in early spring. Each rookery is unique in its size, structure, species composition, and nesting schedules. Visitors can enjoy steady change in numbers and types of birds as weeks and months pass. Visitors also can observe large numbers of birds flying out of the nesting areas to find food for their nestlings and returning to feet them during the day or in late evening to settle in for the night. You can view rookeries at many locations along the America’s WELAND Birding Trail, a few with up close viewing available are Lake Martin/Cypress Island (site 5-5), Audubon Park Heronry (site 7-4) and Jungle Gardens/Avery Island (site 5-11). White-faced Ibis is the common “dark-colored ibis” of Louisiana and found as a breeding species throughout the state. Glossy Ibis are found in colonies closet to the coast, especially on Barataria Loop 10 and often nesting along side White-faced Ibis. The majority of Roseate Spoonbill nest in the western portion of the State near the coast, but there are many pairs at Lake Martin/Cypress Island (site 5-5). Often predators of these colonies are also seen, most notably American Alligator.

Rookery species:

Great, Snowy and Cattle egrets; Great Blue, Little Blue, Tricolored, and Green, herons; Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned night-herons; Roseate Spoonbill, White, Glossy, and White-faced ibis; Anhinga and Neotropical Cormorant.