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Heart of Louisiana: Bird Banding

The Woodlands Trail is a heavily forested nature trail that’s only minutes from downtown New Orleans.
Published: Apr. 24, 2022 at 4:09 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s a heavily forested nature trail that’s only minutes from downtown New Orleans. And it’s a place where researchers have been studying birds for nearly a decade.

The sun is barely peeking through the trees when this wooded nature preserve near New Orleans fills with the sounds of birds, lots of birds. And that’s what draws these bird enthusiasts and volunteers to the Woodlands Trail on this chilly spring morning,

“It’s valuable information to track the health of birds and migration across the state, as well as, the United States and beyond, because all that, the banding data, is uploaded to an international database,” said Katie Brasted with Woodlands Conservancy.

The Woodlands Trail is a heavily forested nature trail that’s only minutes from downtown New...
The Woodlands Trail is a heavily forested nature trail that’s only minutes from downtown New Orleans. And it’s a place where researchers have been studying birds for nearly a decade.(Dave McNamara)

Several bird netting sites are set up along the six-mile nature trail. The nets are nearly invisible and it doesn’t take long before a small swamp sparrow gets snagged.

“We’ve been doing some herbicide treatment here to remove the non-native invasive vegetation and reforest with native plant,” said Brasted. “So we’re able to track to see over time if there’s a change in the bird, abundance, and diversity based on making it a healthier habitat.”

Thibodaux high school science teacher Jed Pitre leads the volunteers. Each bird is banded inspected, measured, and weighed.

And after a few minutes, the bird flies away.

“We catch a bird, put a band on it, and release it. And somebody recaptures it somewhere else that can help us recreate their migration pattern,” said Pitre.

The Woodlands Trail is a heavily forested nature trail that’s only minutes from downtown New...
The Woodlands Trail is a heavily forested nature trail that’s only minutes from downtown New Orleans. And it’s a place where researchers have been studying birds for nearly a decade.(Dave McNamara)

The cardinals put up the biggest fuss. And this one has been here before its tiny leg already has a metal band on it.

The birds get a health checkup before they are released. Over the last nine years, they have banded 1,400 birds here at the woodlands trail. So far about 300 of those birds have been recaptured.

“So that tells us that they have site fidelity. They’re using the same habitat. We think every winter and that’s something that could be important in the conservation of the species,” said Pitre.

The Woodlands Trail provides a natural habitat that’s only eight miles from downtown New Orleans.

The Woodlands Trail is a heavily forested nature trail that’s only minutes from downtown New...
The Woodlands Trail is a heavily forested nature trail that’s only minutes from downtown New Orleans. And it’s a place where researchers have been studying birds for nearly a decade.(Dave McNamara)

“In addition to being an area for wildlife. It also absorbs stormwater, acts as a wind barrier. So it serves a lot of functions for the community, keeps our temperatures lower,” said Brasted.

And the data collected from these birds can provide clues about the future of this urban forest.

To learn more about the Woodlands Trail, click here.

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