new orleans, birding

New Orleans. The Big Easy. NOLA. There’s no doubt that it is one of the most famous cities in the south, and I spent 24 hours there over the weekend!

While I did not go NOLA to bird specifically, I always keep my eyes out.

New Orleans

The Garden District

I arrived with my cousin and husband Saturday evening, checking into our room at the Crescent Palms and taking an Uber into the city. We ate dinner and did the whole Bourbon Street thing, and I have to admit I saw little other than House Sparrows and Rock Pigeons. However, I did love the Chimney Swifts that dotted the dimming sky; or, as my cousin called them, “those bat-looking things.” Their chirping filtered down to us from the air above, mixing with the singing, music, and laughing from the streets below.

The next morning we had brunch in the Garden District, touring a few of the streets lined with impressive, historic homes. In the hush of a Sunday morning, even “common” birds seemed special. Northern Mockingbirds watched us from the limbs of giant Live Oaks, and Downy Woodpeckers looked for insects along the rough trunks. Clearly House Sparrows are common here too, as a graffiti outline was painted near the famous Magazine Street!

Bird, graffitti, nature, new orleans

Bird graffiti near Magazine St.

The Mississippi River also boasted great birding opportunities. Laughing Gulls clustered together on docks, and Double-crested Cormorants dove beneath the surface in search of their next meal. The highlight of the day was both unexpected and very green.

Along the river near the French quarter, power lines border the road and the trolley tracks. As we walked along the shore, I heard the familiar, but surprising, sound of parrots! Parrots, in New Orleans?

mockingbird, new orleans

Northern Mockingbird

Whirling around, I caught sight of their bright emerald silhouettes sitting on the lines for just a few moments before they were off again: Monk Parakeets.

Back in November, I saw my first Monk Parakeets on the streets of Austin, and now here they were again! Though they are not native to the United States, I love seeing the goof balls.

A historic city? Check. Great food? Check. Birds? Check!

Written by Erika Zambello
Erika Zambello is a National Geographic Young Explorer who grew up in Maine, inspiring a deep interest in nature at an early age. She fell in love with birding after receiving a Sibley field guide for Christmas during her senior year in college, and has birded across the eastern seaboard and internationally ever since. To inspire others to protect birds and the environment, she has blogged for the Conservation Fund, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Triangle Land Conservancy, and Duke University, and is writing a birding guide to Northern New England for Wilderness Adventures Press. She has founded, and is currently living along the Emerald Coast in Florida's Panhandle. You can check out her exploration site or follow her on Instragram.