10 MOST Common Birds Found in New Orleans, LA (2024)

What kinds of birds can you find in New Orleans, Louisiana?

common birds in new orleans

Despite being a large city, I think you would be surprised at the number of species that you can find in downtown New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Many types of birds can adapt to the presence of humans, even building nests and raising their babies in close proximity.

In addition, there are other parks and other green spaces that offer hiding spaces for shyer birds.

Below, you will learn the TEN most common birds that are found around New Orleans!


#1. White Ibis

white ibis

Identifying Characteristics:

  • White bodies and red legs. The red bill is long and curved.
  • A bare patch of red skin behind the bill and around the eye.
  • When flying, look for black wing tips.

Although they can be found more inland, the best spot to see these water birds in New Orleans is near the coast. White Ibises typically forage together in large groups in shallow wetlands looking for crustaceans and insects.

White Ibis Range Map

white ibis range map

These social water birds don’t like to be alone. In addition to feeding, they also nest together in large colonies, fly in flocks, and even take group baths!

Their call is not very musical. Listen for a nasally honk given while looking for food or flying.

Lastly, I find it interesting that White Ibis chicks are born with completely straight bills. Over their first two weeks of being alive, they slowly curve.


#2. Mallard

  • Anas platyrhynchos

Common United States ducks

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males have a bright green head, thin white collar, dark reddish-brown chest, yellow bill, and a black butt with a white-tipped tail.
  • Females are mottled brown with orange and brown bills.
  • Both sexes have purple-blue secondary feathers on their wing, which is most visible when they are standing or flying.

My guess is that almost everyone is familiar with the Mallard. These ducks are definitely one of the most recognizable birds in New Orleans!

Mallard Range Map

mallard duck range map

Mallards are extremely comfortable around people, which is why these adaptable ducks are so widespread. They are found in virtually any wetland habitat, no matter where it’s located. We even find Mallards in our swimming pool every summer and have to chase them away, so they don’t make a mess on our deck! 🙂

Mallards readily accept artificial structures built for them by humans. If you have a nice pond or a marsh, feel free to put up a homemade nesting area to enjoy some adorable ducklings walking around your property!  Just make sure you put up predator guards so predators can’t get to the eggs.

When you think of a duck quacking, it is almost inevitably a female Mallard. If there is a better duck sound, we haven’t heard it! Interestingly, males do not quack like females but instead make a raspy call.


#3. Great Egret

great egret

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Large, white bird with long, black legs.
  • S-curved neck and a daggerlike yellow bill. Look for a greenish area between their eyes and the base of the bill.
  • While they fly, their neck is tucked in, and their long legs trail behind.

Appearance-wise, Great Egrets are the most stunning bird found in New Orleans. These birds especially put on a show during breeding season when they grow long feathery plumes, called aigrettes, which are held up during courtship displays.

Great Egret Range Map

great egret range map

In fact, these aigrettes are so beautiful, Great Egrets were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th century because these feathers made such nice decorations on ladies’ hats. The National Audubon Society was actually formed in response to help protect these birds from being slaughtered. To this day, the Great Egret serves as the symbol for the organization.

YouTube video

Slightly smaller than a Great Blue Heron, this species eats almost anything that may be in the water. The list includes reptiles, birds, amphibians, small mammals, and countless invertebrates.

Great Egrets don’t get any awards for their beautiful songs. Listen for a loud sound that is best described as a croak (“kraak).” When surprised, you may hear a fast “cuk-cuk-cuk” alarm call. LISTEN BELOW!


#4. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

yellow crowned night heron

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Gray body and yellow legs. Large red eyes.
  • Black face with white cheeks and a thick black bill.
  • As the name suggests, a yellowish-white crown with long white plumes.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Range Map

yellow crowned night heron range map

 

This heron species looks for areas with shallow water to live, such as wooded swamps, marshes, mangroves, and other coastal areas. Yellow-crowned Night-Herons can be found near both fresh and saltwater, and crustaceans (crabs and crayfish) make up most of their diet.

They are much more comfortable living near humans than Black-crowned Night-Herons, and will even nest in wooded neighborhoods or on rooftops. Also, whereas Black-crowned Night-Herons mostly forage at night, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons eat and hunt at any time of day.

Upon being disturbed, you will hear a harsh “quawk,” which will probably be repeated a few times.


#5. Canada Goose

  • Branta canadensis

Common Geese and Swans in United States

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Large goose with a long black neck and a distinctive white cheek patch.
  • Brown body with a pale white chest and underparts.
  • Black feet and legs.

Canada Geese are extremely common birds in New Orleans.

I’m sure you probably recognize these birds, as they are very comfortable living around people and development. Look for them wherever there are grasses or grains to eat, such as lawns, parks, farm fields, and golf courses. I know I have been guilty of stepping in their “droppings” at least a few times in my own backyard as they come to eat corn from my feeding station. 🙂

Canada Goose Range Map

canada goose range map

In fact, these geese are now so abundant, many people consider them pests for the amount of waste they produce! If you have a manicured lawn that is maintained all the way to the water’s edge, you have an open invitation for these birds to visit.

The Canada Goose is also easy to identify while flying overhead. If you see a flock of large birds in a V-formation, then it’s most likely them. Flying this way helps conserve energy, and different birds take turns leading the way.

Canada Geese are often heard in New Orleans.

Listen for a wide variety of loud honks and cackles. Listen above! I have even been hissed at by them for accidentally approaching a nest too closely.

Interestingly, these geese can live a long time! Their lifespan ranges from 10 to 24 years, but one individual banded in 1969 was found again in 2001, 32 years later!

If you’re interested, you may be able to see a Canada Goose at my bird feeding station right now! I have a LIVE high-definition camera watching my feeders 24/7. 🙂 Look for them on the ground eating corn.


#6. Muscovy Duck

  • Cairina moschata

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Both sexes are black and white, but the pattern of color is highly variable. Adults have bare skin on their faces, which looks like a pink mask. Their bills can be yellow, pink, black, or a combination of these colors.
  • Males’ black feathers are iridescent, giving off a greenish sheen in the sunlight.
  • Females lack the green tint and are usually more drab looking.

Identifying the Muscovy Duck can be challenging because this domesticated breed has many color variations. The easiest way to tell if you’ve seen this species is by its size since it’s larger than other ducks in Miami.

Muscovy Ducks are native to South America, where they’ve been domesticated since the pre-Columbian era by Native Americans. They are bred primarily as a food source. They were originally brought to North America as farming stock, but some Muscovy Ducks escaped and established feral colonies in the wild. Interestingly, this breed is the ONLY domesticated duck that isn’t a descendant of the Mallard!

Today, there are feral populations of Muscovy Ducks found all over the world. In combination with wild subspecies, it’s one of the most widespread ducks. Their tolerance for cold weather and human presence makes them the perfect species for population growth, even outside their natural habitat. Look for Muscovy Ducks alongside lakes, rivers, and ponds in populated areas.


#7. Blue Jay

  • Cyanocitta cristata

blue jay

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Backs are covered in beautiful blue feathers with black bars throughout. Underparts are white.
  • Their head is surrounded by a black necklace and has a blue crest on top.
  • Males and females look the same.

Some people dislike Blue Jays, but I love their bold personalities. Their high intelligence makes these birds interesting to observe, not to mention their plumage is stunning.

Blue Jay Range Map

blue jay range map

Typically they visit the feeders noisily, fit as much food as possible in their throat sacks, and leave quickly to cache their bounty. My favorite foods to use are whole peanuts, as Blue Jays are one of the only birds that can crack open the shells to access the inside! You can also use sunflower seeds and corn to attract them.

Blue Jays are one of the noisier backyard birds in New Orleans. The most common vocalization that I hear is their alarm call, which sounds like it’s saying “jeer.”

These birds are also excellent mimics and frequently imitate hawks. They are so good it’s hard to tell the difference between which bird is present. It’s thought that jays do this to deceive other birds into believing a hawk is actually present. Not a bad plan if you want to get a bird feeder all to yourself!


#8. Northern Mockingbird

  • Mimus polyglottos

northern mockingbird

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Medium-sized grey songbird with a LONG, slender tail.
  • Distinctive white wing patches that are visible when in flight.

These birds are NOT easy to miss in New Orleans!

First, Northern Mockingbirds LOVE to sing, and they almost never stop. Sometimes they will even sing through the entire night. If this happens to you, it’s advised to keep your windows closed if you want to get any sleep. 🙂

In addition, Northern Mockingbirds have bold personalities. For example, it’s common for them to harass other birds by flying slowly around them and then approaching with their wings up, showing off their white wing patches.

Northern Mockingbird Range Map

northern mockingbird range map

These grey birds are common in backyards, but they rarely eat from bird feeders. Nonetheless, I have heard from many people complaining that mockingbirds are scaring away the other birds from their feeding station, even though mockingbirds don’t even eat from feeders themselves!


#9. Laughing Gull

  • Leucophaeus atricilla

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 15.3 to 18.1 inches in length and have a 36.2 to 47.2-inch wingspan.
  • Adults are medium gray above and white below with reddish-black legs.
  • Summer adults have a crisp black hood, white arcs around the eyes, and reddish bills, and in winter, the hood becomes a blurry gray mask on a white head.

Laughing Gulls in New Orleans are typically spotted in coastal areas like beaches, salt marshes, and mangroves.

 

Like many other gulls, Laughing Gulls are adept at foraging while walking, wading, swimming, or flying. Their food sources include crustaceans, insects, squid, human refuse, berries, fish, earthworms, snails, and the eggs of horseshoe crabs.

These gulls steal food from Brown Pelicans by landing on their heads and taking fish from their bill pouch. I’m sure the Brown Pelicans aren’t laughing when that happens!

YouTube video

They form massive colonies of up to 25,000 pairs during the breeding season. The colonies include terns, larger gulls, Black Skimmers, and American Oyster Catchers. Laughing Gulls are monogamous, and pairs typically stay together for multiple seasons.


#10. Wood Duck

  • Aix sponsa

wood ducks

How to identify:

  • Males have very intricate plumage. Look for the green crested head, red eyes, and chestnut breast with white flecks.
  • Females have brown bodies with a grayish head, which is also slightly crested. White teardrop eye patch and a blue patch on the wing.

Walt Disney used to say that “the world is a carousel of color,” and few waterfowl have taken this more to heart than the male Wood Duck.  In fact, it looks like an artist used every color to paint a duck that has green, red, orange, lime, yellow, buff, rose, brown, tan, black, white, gray, purple, and blue coloring.

Wood Duck Range Map

wood duck range map

This is one of the few duck species in New Orleans you may see in a tree! Wood Ducks use abandoned tree cavities for nesting, but they also readily take to elevated nesting boxes.

When hatchlings leave the nest for the first time, they often have to make a giant leap of faith (up to 50 feet) to the ground below! You have to watch the video below to believe it. 🙂

YouTube video

Interestingly, Wood Ducks are perfectly evolved for their life spent in trees. Their claws are powerful, which allows them to perch and grasp onto branches!

The most common sound heard from Wood Ducks is when they are disturbed. I’ve often accidentally come upon them only to hear them flying away saying “ooeek-ooeek” loudly!


Which of these birds have you seen before in New Orleans?

Leave a comment below!


To learn more about other birds in New Orleans, check out my other guides!

 

The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!

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