The Annual Yellow Rails and Rice Festival has been scheduled for October 30 through November 3, 2019. This festival provides one of the best opportunities to see the elusive Yellow Rail, a rare marshbird that migrates to the Gulf Coast each winter. To learn more about the festival, including how to register for festival participant packages, please visit www.yellowrailsandrice.com. Registration opens on August 1 and will likely fill up within a few weeks.

Yellow Rail.
Photo: Yellow Rail. Erik I. Johnson/Audubon Louisiana.

Audubon Louisiana will be offering two Black Rail survey trips (on Oct 30 and Nov 1) as part of the festival. To sign up, register through www.yellowrailsandrice.com. These trips are extremely strenuous and not suitable for all. The trips involve walking across uneven ground within “high marsh” (up to ankle deep water) through thick grassy and shrubby vegetation. These surveys often turn up not only Black Rails, but also Yellow Rails, Soras, Virginia Rails, and Clapper Rails. The surveys take place soon after sunset, and last for 3+ hours. All rails are captured and banded as part of a research project designed to better understand the distribution and habitat needs of Black and Yellow Rails in Louisiana, thus providing a unique opportunity for visitors to see these secretive species up close. Registration fees for this festival add-on direct support this research.

Black Rail.
Photo: Black Rail. Erik I. Johnson/Audubon Louisiana.

The Yellow Rails and Rice Festival schedule as a whole is casual and easy to access. Participants can attend all field days to see the rice harvest (weather permitting), which flushes rails (King, Sora, Virginia, and Yellow, but not Black) or come and go at their leisure. Leaders/facilitators are positioned at field sites and help participants spot birds as well as provide information or answer questions. In addition to visiting rice fields, participants can explore nearby birding areas, join trips to local points of interest, or venture farther afield to search for specialty birds in other Louisiana habitats, such as the pineywoods or Cameron Parish coast. Many of the agencies and organizations that study, manage, and protect Louisiana’s birds and habitats assist at the festival, as well as have information booths during the opening reception so that participants can learn more about their activities. Based in Jennings, participants are positioned in the heart of Cajun Country in Louisiana’s SW prairie region, an area known for great birding, local cuisine, and a rich history and culture.  

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