Least Tern Photo: Nancyel Wood/Audubon Photography Awards
For migratory birds, Louisiana is the southernmost welcome center along the Mississippi Flyway. The state, particularly its coastal areas, provides a critical link between North American nesting grounds and wintering areas in Latin America for many songbirds and other Neotropical migrants. Many flocking birds, like ducks and geese, spend their winters along the Louisiana coast. And of course, many specialized birds like Clapper Rails, Reddish Egrets and Black Skimmers spend their whole lives in coastal wetlands, beaches and islands.
In response to the alarming decline of many birds and their habitats, Audubon is doing its part to identify and protect critical places on which birds depend - part of an international network of Important Bird Areas (IBAs). IBAs are important to the survival of birds with small populations, like the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, or those that congregate in large numbers in certain places, like the Northern Pintail.
Audubon staff have worked with Baton Rouge Audubon Society, Orleans Audubon Society and the Louisiana Bird Resource Center to identify and map 23 IBAs in Louisiana. Louisiana IBAs are evaluated by a technical committee of experts in the birds and habitats of Louisiana. Data to support identification of Louisiana IBAs come from a variety of sources, including universities, private researchers, state and federal agencies, and citizen scientists. The strength of the Louisiana IBA program rests on the amount and accuracy of the data.
Audubon is focusing its conservation efforts in several of Louisiana's coastal IBAs, including the Chenier Plain IBA, which includes Audubon's Rainey Sanctuary, and the Atchafalaya River Basin, which encompasses all or part of five IBAs. Additionally, our work to reestablish Mississippi River water flows that more closely resemble historic water levels and pathways throughout Louisiana is vital for the long-term health of many IBAs.