A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Louisiana: Yellow Rails & Crawfish Tails 2023

October 26-30, 2023 with Dan Lane & Alex Sundvall guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
We were so lucky to get some wonderful views of Yellow Rails on this tour! Here's one that guide Alex Sundvall took.

Louisiana is well known for its myriad of habitats and rich migration. And on this whirlwind of a trip we got to explore quite a few of them! From oak cheniers and sandy beaches, coastal saltmarsh and bayous, to endless fields of rice and tracts of pinewoods. Each one of these unique ecosystems gave us some incredible birding experiences.

Thankfully the weather was beautiful and we didn't get any rain to stymie our birding plans. Unfortunately, that weather is a trend and Louisiana is in the middle of one of its worst droughts in 100 years. We saw the evidence of this drought nearly everywhere we went. Many of the marshes were dry and oaks in the cheniers were dying. This made some of the birding a little more difficult, we didn't see any ducks until the last day and migrants were pretty few and far between compared to other years. The drought did concentrate the birds, so it was comparatively an incredible year for Yellow Rails and all of our ducks were seen on a single marsh, which also just so happened to have a wayward American Flamingo! All in all a wonderful weekend of birding and a great introduction to birding the great state of Louisiana!

Here's a brief day to day breakdown of our time on tour:

On our first day we were lucky enough with the weather to be able to go to the rice fields for our chance to see Yellow Rail. We started the morning birding Niblett Road in hopes of finding some migrants. Highlights here were good looks at a cooperative Sedge Wren, late Prairie Warbler and Northern Waterthrushes, and a curious Barred Owl. Then after lunch it was time to go ride the combines! We joined up with the festival and had a marvelous afternoon in the hot and dusty rice fields. We were rewarded with spectacular views of multiple Yellow Rails and even got to see a King Rail get banded! We spent the late afternoon searching in vain for a Ruff and closed the day with some Cajun comfort food.

Day two was spent exploring the coast for migrants. Our first stop was inundated by mosquitoes and we quickly left. From there we went on to explore some beaches and got great views of Snowy and Piping Plovers! From there we went to Peveto Woods which doubled as a great birding stop and our picnic lunch. That afternoon we took a short ferry ride to some coastal saltmarshes where we successfully searched for Clapper Rail and Nelson's and Seaside Sparrows. Afterwards, we enjoyed another night of Cajun food with a side of a large mayfly hatch.

Our third and final day of birding started early with a long drive up to the pinewoods of the Kisatchie National Forest. Here we would explore the pine savannas searching for Bachman's Sparrow, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, and Brown-headed Nuthatch. Thankfully every one of them were kind and confiding and we saw all without too much trouble. We even got extensive views of a perched Bachman's Sparrow! During lunch we caught wind of an American Flamingo that had been spotted down by the coast, and since our morning had been so successful we decided to chase! After a quick jaunt back down to the coast we got to see that gangly wader patrolling far across a marsh covered with other birds. Being one of the only marshes with water around, there were huge concentrations of ducks, shorebirds, gulls, terns, and waders with over 100 Limpkin! Flamingo aside this was an incredible spectacle to witness, and the Flamingo made it all that much sweeter. We finished up the day and the tour glowing from our successes with another wonderful Cajun meal and bid farewell to the wonderful state of Louisiana!

From Dan and I, we hope you had a marvelous time on this tour. We appreciated everyone's patience and understanding about the van situation and hope you found the SUVs comfortable enough. Thank you for choosing Field Guides and we hope to see you again on a future trip!


One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)


We had multiple flyovers of these speckle-bellied geese

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

One female seen up in a tree along a bayou on the first day

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

Good number of these beautiful ducks in the Flamingo marsh

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

We only saw these large billed ducks in the marsh with the Flamingo

GADWALL (Mareca strepera)

We saw a few of these intricately plumaged ducks at the Flamingo Marsh

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)

These familiar ducks were flyovers on the first day and in the marsh with the Flamingo

MOTTLED DUCK (GULF COAST) (Anas fulvigula maculosa)

We saw these richly colored ducks in the marsh with the Flamingo


Only a couple of these dapper ducks mixed among the huge flocks in the marsh with the Flamingo

GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis)

These tiny dabblers were the bulk of the ducks at the Flamingo Marsh

LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)

There was a small group of these divers at the Flamingo Marsh

Phoenicopteridae (Flamingos)

AMERICAN FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus ruber)

One of the highlights of the trip! We chased this two legged giraffe after our day in the pinewoods and even though it was far away it was well worth it!

Field Guides Birding Tours
This King Rail was the first this person ever banded! What a treat to see this large rail in the hand. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

There was one of these small divers in the Flamingo Marsh

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Common in cities

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

These large invasive doves were around the farms along West Niblett Road on the first day

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

This familiar Dove was seen around Niblett Road on the first day

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

KING RAIL (Rallus elegans)

What a neat experience to see one of these large rails get banded!

CLAPPER RAIL (Rallus crepitans)

We had these large rails in a couple different patches of saltmarsh, but we saw them along Wakefield Road while looking for sparrows

VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola)

One of the more common species of rails getting flushed by the combine

SORA (Porzana carolina)

We saw a number of these getting flushed by the combines and getting banded at the rail festival

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

There were a handful of these in the marsh with the Flamingo

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Large flocks in the marsh with the Flamingo

YELLOW RAIL (Coturnicops noveboracensis)

We got incredible views of these secretive marsh birds! What a wonderful experience seeing these birds in the hand and out in the open.

Aramidae (Limpkin)

LIMPKIN (Aramus guarauna)

Insane how quickly these marshbirds have colonized the southeast! Louisiana got its first state record in 2017 and we saw over 100 in the marsh with the Flamingo

Field Guides Birding Tours
This curious and accomodating Barred Owl was a welcome surprise along Niblett Road. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

There were a few of these lanky waders in the marsh with the Flamingo

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)

We saw these beautiful shorebirds foraging along the coast and large numbers in the Flamingo Marsh

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

We saw multiple groups of these large plovers along the coast

SNOWY PLOVER (Charadrius nivosus)

We had a few of these threatened plovers along the coast at Holly Beach

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

Holly Beach allowed us good comparisons of the three small plovers

PIPING PLOVER (Charadrius melodus)

We had these endangered small plovers at both Holly Beach and at Peveto Woods

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

These familiar plovers were seen along the coast and at the Flamingo Marsh

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

We had a few groups of these beautiful shorebirds foraging along the beaches and rocks along the coast

STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)

We had a good sized flock of these beautiful shorebirds in the Flamingo Marsh

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

We had these trademark beach birds dancing in the waves along the coast

DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)

We saw our first of these dumpy shorebirds while searching for the Ruff that had been reported, later we had more in the Flamingo Marsh

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

The largest group of these tiny peeps were among the taller shorebirds in the marsh with the Flamingo

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

We successfully searched through the flocks of Least Sandpipers for these paler, longer billed cousins

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

Our most common shorebird on this trip, the dominant shorebird in the mudflats of the Flamingo Marsh

WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata)

There were a few of these secretive birds hiding in the grasses where the Ruff had been reported

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

We saw a good number of these large shorebirds in a number of different places over the course of the trip

WILLET (WESTERN) (Tringa semipalmata inornata)

These large plain shorebirds were around multiple locales along the coast

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

We got some great comparisons between the yellowlegs in a few different marshes

Field Guides Birding Tours
Black Skimmers were plentiful along the coast. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)

The common and everyday gull, particularly near the coast with the largest number at the Flamingo Marsh

FRANKLIN'S GULL (Leucophaeus pipixcan)

After carefully checking the flocks of Laughing Gulls we successfully found a few of these prairie breeding gulls

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

While common for most of us, we only had these small gulls in a couple places

HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)

These large northern gulls were present in a couple spots along the coast


A great spot by Dan was a gorgeous adult bird mixed in with a large mixed flock of gulls along the coast!

GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica)

We finally saw these terns at the Flamingo Marsh

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

These large terns were common along the coast

FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)

These small terns were common along the coast

ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)

We had great comparisons between Royal and Caspian Terns at Holly Beach

BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)

There was a huge group of these unique birds along the Shipping channel

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)

Small numbers of these familiar cormorants along the coast

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)

We had a nice flyby of this southern species at the mosquito infested Sabine NWR Wetland Walkway

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

We had large numbers at the Flamingo Marsh

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Common along the coast

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

AMERICAN BITTERN (Botaurus lentiginosus)

What an unexpected surprise seeing one getting flushed by the rice combine!

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Mostly at the Flamingo Marsh

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

Common inland wader with the largest numbers at the Flamingo Marsh

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

Common along the coast, particularly at the Flamingo Marsh

REDDISH EGRET (Egretta rufescens)

We got to watch a pair of white morph birds at Peveto Woods, one had a huge fish that it would not give up!

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

Now called Western Cattle Egret because of a recent split, we saw single digits on our first day of birding along Niblett Road

Field Guides Birding Tours
This was one of two white morph Reddish Egrets we saw on the beach at Peveto Woods. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

Our everyday identifiable Ibis

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

We saw large flocks of unidentifiable Plegadis Ibis, but one group was on the ground and showed off the pink facial skin, red eye, and bold complete white facial skin border indicative of White-faced Ibis. We did not see any identifiable as Glossy.

ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)

One brief flyover on Niblett Road and a very large group at the Flamingo Marsh

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

A few flying over Peveto Woods

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

Only one at the Flamingo Marsh

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

Seen everyday of the tour, a nice mix of ages and sexes

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

A few individuals seen briefly while driving

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Circling far out at the Flamingo Marsh

RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (Buteo lineatus)

One along Niblett Road

RED-TAILED HAWK (BOREALIS) (Buteo jamaicensis borealis)

A couple seen while driving, all were identifiable to this subspecies by the lightly marked bellyband, pale throat, and dark upperparts with moderate to light white spangling

Strigidae (Owls)

GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus)

One seen at Peveto Woods and one seen in transit by Dan's van

BARRED OWL (Strix varia)

One seen along Niblett Road and one seen in transit by Alex's van

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Seen and heard at a number of locations along the coast

Picidae (Woodpeckers)


One seen while we were in the pinewoods

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)

Single digits seen along Niblett Road

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)

A couple along Niblett Road and one up in the pinewoods

RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER (Dryobates borealis) [E]

We lucked out on getting this US Endemic on the first stop in the pinewoods! Great scope views of a small family group.

PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)

We saw a few of these large woodpeckers while in the pinewoods

NORTHERN FLICKER (YELLOW-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus auratus)

Our Flickers were all of the expected eastern Yellow-shafted subspecies

Field Guides Birding Tours
This Scissor-tailed Flycatcher dazzled us from up on a high wire. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)

Our best looks at this odd falcon came from a bird on a telephone pole along the coast

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

Most of these small falcons were seen on our day along the coast

MERLIN (Falco columbarius)

One gave us a nice look on Lionel Deroven Road right alongside the vans

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

A nice spot by Alex, we turned around to see this charismatic falcon right on the side of the road

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)

One seen and heard while in Peveto Woods

EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)

Seen and heard everyday of the tour across the state


One seen well along the highway, and later we came across a nice flock with a tail-less individual!

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)

We mostly heard and briefly saw this emphatic singer

BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius)

Briefly saw one at Peveto Woods

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

We saw our first along Niblett Road and then saw a couple of these "butcherbirds" along the coast

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)

Never seen particularly well, mostly flyovers of these beautiful eastern jays

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

During our McDonald's stop on our way to the pinewoods we had a nice mixed group of calling crows allowing us to identify the two species easily!

FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)

After asking all our crows if they were Fish Crows, we finally got a positive response. "Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh!"

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

CAROLINA CHICKADEE (Poecile carolinensis) [E]

These cute Parids greeted us in the pinewoods in mixed flocks with titmice

TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)

Saw and heard a couple of these angry fellows in the pinewoods

Field Guides Birding Tours
These Bottlenose Dolphins were wake surfing a ship in the channel while we were searching for sparrows. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

A couple quick flyovers of this farty sounding swallow

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

We saw a large group of these pretty swallows circling over the rice fields

BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)

We had one quick flyby of one of these smartly dressed swallows at the rice fields

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

The bulk of our sightings of this lovely swallow were in the big mixed flock over the rice fields

CAVE SWALLOW (Petrochelidon fulva)

After some careful study of the passing swallows, Dan picked out a few flying over one of the roadside cheniers

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)

These adorable little migrants were scattered among the different habitats we visited and were seen and heard every day


Only one sighting of these in the Pinewoods

Sittidae (Nuthatches)


We saw and heard these denizens of the pinewoods at a couple different stops in the Kisatchie National Forest, usually close behind the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

These wheezy singers were all over the forests near the coast

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

Chatty and aggressive, these were all over all the forested areas of the state

SEDGE WREN (Cistothorus stellaris)

We got our first look at one along Niblett Road, and later had a couple while looking for sparrows in the coastal saltmarsh

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)

One of the few birds we had while battling mosquitoes along the wetland walkway in the Sabine NWR

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

We heard these boisterous singers a couple of times, and saw one along Niblett Road

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

This invasive species was seen around cities and around agriculture

Field Guides Birding Tours
Seaside Sparrows are typically very shy, however with a bit of luck and persistence this one posed nicely for us! Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

We had these Mimid migrants around the coastal forests

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

We saw the first of these charismatic singers along Niblett Road

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

Some of us got on an individual in Peveto Woods, but then we all got great looks of a calling bird in the pinewoods

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

There were a few of these in the cities

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

BACHMAN'S SPARROW (Peucaea aestivalis) [E]

Thanks to Dan's great ears and some epic spotting by Lynda, we all got incredible and prolonged views of this challenging species!

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

We had a couple along Niblett Road

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis)

These northern migrants were seen along Niblett Road

SEASIDE SPARROW (Ammospiza maritima) [E]

We enjoyed some incredible close views of multiple of these saltmarsh specialists along Wakefield Road

NELSON'S SPARROW (Ammospiza nelsoni)

It took some effort, but we finally got views of one of these incredibly secretive sparrows perched along Wakefield Road

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

The most common sparrow getting flushed by the rice combine

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

Only one of these familiar sparrows in an Oak Chenier

LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)

We had a small group mixed in with the other sparrows along Niblett Road

SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana)

Most common along the coast, we saw these marsh sparrows every day

Field Guides Birding Tours
The Swamp Rabbit is the largest rabbit in the United States. Guide Alex Sundvall took this picture in Peveto Woods.
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

A small group singing and flying around the fields along Niblett Road

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

The most common blackbird for us, we saw them in numbers every day

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)

Thanks to some sharp spotting by Dan we got one of these big headed cowbirds in Holly Beach


We had our first group as flyovers over Niblett Road

COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)

The largest group of these blackbirds were in Peveto Woods

BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major)

The majority of the large tailed grackles we saw were of this species

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

We had some great comparisons of Boat-tailed and Great-tailed Grackles along the coast

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

We mostly heard and briefly saw these late migrants along Niblett Road

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata)

We saw these migrants in a number of wooded habitats every day

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

We had one of these late warblers along Niblett Road

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

These familiar warblers were mostly along Niblett Road with one in Peveto Woods

HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina)

We mostly heard and had brief views in Peveto Woods

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)

We had a nice male show nicely in Peveto Woods

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)

One among the warblers in Peveto Woods

PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)

It's all in the name, this warbler was seen and heard in the pinewoods of the Kisatchie National Forest

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)

All our Yellow-rumped Warblers were of the nominate eastern Myrtle subspecies, mixed in with the Pine Warblers in the pinewoods

PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)

Some quick spotting by Alex got us this late tail-bobbing warbler along Niblett Road

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

One along Niblett Road and one in Peveto Woods

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

We had one brief encounter with this beautiful species in Peveto Woods

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

We had this popular eastern species everyday in the more wooded habitats

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

We had a few groups of these migrants along Niblett Road

DICKCISSEL (Spiza americana)

One brief look in the scopes out in the fields along Niblett Road

Field Guides Birding Tours
One last picture of a Yellow Rail flying to safety after being flushed by a Rice Combine. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.


SWAMP RABBIT (Sylvilagus aquaticus)

EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)

MARSH RICE RAT (Oryzomys palustris)

HISPID COTTON RAT (Sigmodon hispidus)

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (Tursiops truncatus)

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

Totals for the tour: 144 bird taxa and 6 mammal taxa