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The Louisiana Big Sit! Summary 2019

An “early fall” (for Louisiana) cold front passed through the region the night before the Big Sit! weekend, bringing north winds, and birds to south Louisiana. As excitement grew to finally get a taste of fall, birders came together to count birds.

Audubon Louisiana avian biologist, Katie Percy, with a Big Sit! volunteer counter. Photo: Katie Percy

The Big Sit! is a zero-mileage, non-competitive, family friendly tailgate party to celebrate the birds of your community. It was initially developed by the New Haven Bird Club of Connecticut, and since 2003 has been hosted and advertised by Bird Watcher’s Digest each year, which draws international participation.

Baton Rouge Audubon Society’s Dan and Laurie Mooney have been conducting a Big Sit! since its conception, first when they lived in Knoxville, TN, and now for many years at the Plaquemine Lock State Historic Site. At Audubon Louisiana, we loved the idea so much that we decided to try to generate a crowd of Big Sit! events across the state. Between our staff and volunteers at Baton Rouge Audubon Society, Orleans Audubon Society and Gulf Coast Bird Club, we pulled together six Big Sit! locations in Louisiana this year.

The observation tower at Grand Isle State Park, where bird counting began at 5:30 a.m. Photo: Erik Johnson

Louisiana’s public spaces offer a tremendous variety of habitats (and birds) to explore. To highlight this, each of the Big Sit! events took place at unique public space – city parks (New Orleans City Park and Baton Rouge City Park Lake), a parish park (Prien Lake Park in Lake Charles), state parks (Grand Isle State Park and Plaquemine Lock State Historic Site), and a public beach (Holly Beach).

Visitors at Holly Beach (left) and Baton Rouge City Park Lake (right) helped count birds. Photo: Katie Barnes and Katie Percy

How many species do you think you could find at a single spot within 24 hours? Remember, you can’t move from a 17-ft diameter circle. How do you think you could do in your own backyard? Is 30 possible? More? How do you think the collective of six Big Sit! sites did? Can you guess what six species were seen at all of the six sites?

The Big Sit! tally across all six sites was 139 species, with each site tallying between 39 and 70 species. A total of 110 people contributed to this effort throughout the day, taking some time to enjoy Louisiana’s bird life.

Black-bellied Plover seen at Holly Beach (left) and a Lark Sparrow seen at Plaquemine Lock State Historic Site (right). Photo: Katie Barnes and Dan Mooney

The species recorded at each of the sites were Killdeer, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, White Ibis, Northern Mockingbird, and Northern Cardinal. Even more remarkably, 51 species were recorded at only a single site – birds like Common Nighthawk, American Avocet, American Oystercatcher, Black Skimmer, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Crested Caracara, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Lark Sparrow, Golden-winged Warbler, Pine Warbler, and Painted Bunting were among those treats.

Here is the full accounting of what was seen (and heard) throughout the Big Sit! weekend.

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