Festivals celebrating Louisiana’s annual peak migration for birds have been canceled, but that hasn’t stopped the birds.
For the past month or so, migratory birds from Central and South America have been making their way to our coast. Some will stay here until fall, while others will continue to move north to breed and nest.
Jane Patterson, president of the Baton Rouge Audubon Society, said the best time to get a glimpse of some of these migrating birds is in early morning or late evening.
Keep your eyes peeled for Baltimore orioles, orange and black beauties with quite the sweet tooth. You might find them visiting hummingbird feeders, and will swoop in to snack on jelly and cut fruit.
Indigo buntings are small vibrant blue birds that often migrate at night and may delight you by showing up at your feeder in early morning.
Painted buntings are some of the most colorful birds you might spy. Adult males are unmistakable with brilliant blue, green, yellow and red feathers. Females are bright yellow-green overall. A few might stay here to breed and nest.
You'll know the rose-breasted grosbeak by its call, which has been described as a high-pitched squeak, like tennis shoes on a gym floor.
The male Blackburnian warbler has a dark gray back and a flaming-orange throat. Its head is strongly patterned in yellow and black.
And, while you would have a better chance of glimpsing one of these travelers in our coastal areas like Grand Isle and Cameron Parish, that doesn't mean there's no bird-watching to be done.
Patterson said now is a great time to get to know the birds that are the usual residents of your backyard.
“You’ll observe interesting behaviors, like the way a male cardinal will delicately feed seeds to his bride as a token of courtship. ‘See what a caring father I will be?’ he seems to be saying,” Patterson said.
To make your yard more attractive to any bird requires more than hanging bird feeders.
“The No. 1 way to bring the largest variety of birds to your yard is water,” Patterson said.
Insects and plants are plentiful for bird food this time of year, but birds need water to bathe and preen so they can redistribute the oil in the feathers, she said. Clean, fresh water in a birdbath is good if you don’t have a stream nearby.
“Songbirds only want a half-inch or so of water to splash in; they’re not going deep diving,” she explained. “Moving water is even better.”
Patterson suspends a water jug with a tiny hole over a terra-cotta saucer. One gallon of water can last all day if the hole is small enough. A mister is also a good solution and uses very little water.
Audubon Louisiana recommends downloading the free Audubon Bird Guide app to help with bird species identification. To help scientists with data collection, whether a beginning bird-watcher or expert, you can download ebird.org and record findings where you live, even if you view them through your window. Patterson encourages everyone to watch their yard for birds.
“You’re never going to see that swallow-tailed kite or broad-wing hawk flying over if you’re inside watching Netflix,” she said.
A great resource is BirdLouisiana.org, which is sponsored by the Baton Rouge Audubon Society, Orleans Audubon Society and the Louisiana Ornithological Society. It offers information on birding in Louisiana, including clubs and organizations, where to go birding in Louisiana, programs, classes, workshops, and answers to questions about birds.
The Baton Rouge Audubon Society, Braudubon.org, also is a good resource.
This is an occasional series from the Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater Baton Rouge, which seeks to advance awareness, understanding and stewardship of the natural environment. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.