Palmetto Island State Park is on the edge of Mississippi Flyway. You can spend hours watching birds both migrate through and call the park home. Don't forget your binoculars and camera.


We'd like to especially thank Erik Johnson, and the other members of the Louisiana Bird Observatory (LABO) for sharing most of these pictures and information. LABO is part of the Baton Rouge Audubon Society (BRAS), who is a chapter of the National Audubon Society.   

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Prothonotary Warblers

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Prothonotary Warblers is a species of high conservation concern, and Palmetto Island State Park provides some exceptional habitat for this beautiful swamp-loving bird. These warblers are also known as Swamp Candles.  

Photos by John Hartgerink and Erik Johnson

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 They spend the summers in Louisiana to breed and raise their young.  Keep an eye out near the boardwalk and you may see one of these boxes being used by a pair of these bright yellow birds. 

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  Sometime in the fall they begin to travel South from LA (across the Gulf of Mexico) to escape our cold wet winters. They go to Colombia when they leave LA.  This discovery was made in part by tracking birds from this very State Park 

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Swainson's Warbler

Swainson’s Warblers are rarer than the Prothonotary Warbler also found at Palmetto Island. “Rarer” meaning in relation to numbers and distribution. The thought is that these warblers are probably ‘specialist’ in terms of habitat. These birds are not easy to catch. A special song is played, tricking the males into thinking that another male has invaded his territory. The females are rarely caught. They also don’t take to nesting boxes like the Prothonotary Warblers do. They prefer the dense under-stories, more like oaks or other hardwoods and thick with vines like muscadines. While they prefer a dryer habitat than the Prothonotary Warblers (cypress-tupelo swamp), they still like it to be wet. Palmetto Island’s bottom-land hardwood forest habitat is probably ideal, because to date, it is the only place known in Vermilion Parish that supports this little warbler.  Swainson’s Warblers cross the Gulf of Mexico in the spring, spending the summers in Louisiana breeding and raising their young. Sometime in the fall they begin to travel south from LA to escape our cold wet winters. They usually begin a major migration at night. It is suspected that they go to Central America or the Western Caribbean for the winter. 

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Red-bellied Woodpecker

Even if you haven’t seen this little fella, I bet you’ve heard him drumming on the trees at the park. At home in swamps and riverside woods. Despite the name, you probably won’t see red on their belly unless you are handling them up close. They usually nest in cavities excavated in dead wood about 50 feet above ground. They climb up tree trunks (called hitching) by hopping upward and using their tails to support themselves. Learn more about this noisy bird and listen to their different calls by visiting Audubon.org .

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, boldly patterned in black, white, and rose, is easily identified. You probably won't miss the large, conical, pale bill. The drab, striped female, however, is more of a challenge, resembling a large sparrow or finch. A common bird of forests and second growth, the grosbeak's song is like that of the robin, only as sung by an opera singer, being mellower and more sweetly melodic. These grosbeaks choose open woodlands near water, thick brush, large trees near open areas, marsh borders, overgrown pastures, dense growth of small trees, woodland edges, gardens, parks. Red breasted grosbeaks love to eat potato bugs, gypsy moths, sunflower seeds, corn, thistle, safflower, cherries, white ash tree buds, elm tree seeds, hickory tree blossoms, and suet. Creating an environment rich in their favorite foods will help attract red breasted grosbeaks to your yard. You might catch a peek at this migrater at Palmetto Island mid April to mid May.