Wildlife & Habitat

Alligator in water copyright Al Jorjorian

The Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1986, with a goal of conserving the wildlife and wildlands of the region. The Refuge is important wintering habitat for waterfowl, and is key breeding and migrating habitat for neotropical songbirds. The Refuge’s bottomland hardwoods forests are highly diverse in species, providing good habitat for white-tailed deer, bear, wild turkey, waterfowl, wading birds, and songbirds.

  • Habitat values

    Image of cypress tupelo swamp courtesy JoAnne Dolan

    Some native wildlife species need large blocks of habitat to support their needs and assure healthy populations. As land is converted to agriculture and development, the connectivity between habitats is reduced, making it more difficult to maintain wildlife populations.

    The Atchafalaya Basin is part of the largest contiguous system of bottomland hardwood forest and freshwater swamps in North America. The Refuge’s wetlands and hardwood forests of oak, elm, and hickory are key to supporting many native species that have declined with habitat fragmentation, including the Louisiana black bear; the Swainson's, nothern parula and prothonary warbler; swallow-tailed kite; and wood thrush.

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  • Louisiana black bear

    Louisiana black bear eating forbs courtesy  Pam Mcllhenny

    The Atchafalya Basin supports one of the three core populations of black bears in the state. The Refuge provides an area of large, contiguous bottomland hardwood forest that is good habitat for the species. Louisiana black bears will also travel through marshes, spoil banks along bayous, and even agricultural fields. Follow the link below to see the current distribution of black bears in Louisiana.

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  • Neotropical songbirds

    Image of a Hooded Warbler on a nest

    With over 200 different species of birds documented on the Refuge, Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge is great stop for a birder. Spring and fall bring an array of color, with neotropical bird populations traveling between their breeding and wintering grounds. Listen for the secretive Swainson's warbler singing from a thicket or watch for a Mississippi or swallow-tailed kite soaring overhead.  Being part of a key bird corridor for fall and spring hemispheric migrations, the Refuge is noted as a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy. To learn more about the different species found on the Refuge, download a bird checklist at the link below.

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  • Swallow-tailed kite

    Image of a Swallow-tailed Kite

    If you are lucky you may see the distinctive swallow-tailed kite soaring and hovering gracefully in the sky. Look for the distinctive black wingtips and forked tail and white head, shoulders, and abdomen. This striking and rare raptor nests on the Refuge and is considered one of the most threatened land birds currently without federal protection.

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