It's easy to see Prothonotary Warbler and other spring migrants at this unit of Jean Lafitte National Historic Park just south of New Orleans.
By Wendy Rihner | Published: 2/24/2012
What attracted me to the Barataria Preserve 16 years ago were its giant wild Louisiana irises that bloom in the spring. When I walked the Bayou Coquille Trail that day in April 1996, I had never before seen a Prothonotary Warbler, but I saw at least a dozen flashes of yellow and was transfixed. The sight of the nesting “swamp canaries” pushed the wildflowers to the background, and Barataria became my training ground as a birder.
Since then, I have introduced many people to birding in Barataria, and they all say the same thing: Birds are easy to find here. The preserve’s network of trails stretches into cypress-tupelo swamp and bottomland hardwood forest, allowing close looks at many of the more than 300 species. And the canals offer birders who like to paddle a chance to see waders and other wetlands species up close in the marshes.
I am especially fond of birding in Barataria in spring, when a concentration of warblers arrives. My favorite time of year, however, is late fall and winter, when the sunlight is diluted, the air is crisp and less humid, and our winter residents arrive. — Wendy Rihner
Wendy Rihner is an English professor at a community college in New Orleans. She is also the education chair for the Orleans Audubon Society and a former guide at Barataria.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Bottomland hardwood forests, cypress-tupelo swamps, freshwater marshes, and adjacent estuarine lakes.
Flat. Most trails have boardwalks and are wheelchair-accessible. Some primitive dirt trails.
Spring: Purple Gallinule, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Acadian Flycatcher, Northern Parula, Prothonotary, Yellow-throated, Hooded, Black-and-white, Black-throated Green, and Kentucky Warblers, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Painted Buntings. Fall: Pied-billed Grebe, Red-tailed Hawk, Eastern Phoebe, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Canada, and Worm-eating Warblers. Winter: American Kestrel, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-headed Vireo; Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Year-round: ibises, egrets, herons, rails, Red-shouldered Hawk, Eastern Screech-, Great Horned, and Barred Owls, Common Yellowthroat.
When to go
Year-round. Early mornings are best.
Several canoe launches. Visitor center has recent-sightings list, trail maps, exhibits, a bookstore, and restrooms.
National historic park. No entrance or parking fees. Open daily 9-5 except Christmas Day and Mardi Gras.
Dress for heat May through September. Bring bug repellent, sunscreen, and water. No food or drink (other than water) permitted on trails. Preserve is very busy late March through April due to blooming wildflowers.
For more info
Jean Lafitte Nature Study Park
On City Park St. in the town of Jean Lafitte, about seven miles south of Barataria Preserve. Egrets, herons, and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks inhabit this cypress-tupelo swamp.
3000 Downs Blvd., Metairie, just south of Veterans Memorial Blvd. Gull-billed and Forster’s Terns and Black Skimmer in spring, Roseate Spoonbill possible in fall.