Wildlife & Habitat


D'Arbonne National Wildlife Refuge consists of 17,500 acres of cypress swamps, bottomland hardwood forest, moist soils, and upland pine/hardwoods.  The diversity of ecosystems provides habitat for many species of wildlife.  The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker inhabits the upland loblolly pine forest on the eastern edge of the refuge.  Bottomland hardwood forest is home to Neotropical migratory songbirds, wintering waterfowl, deer, squirrels, and the occasional Louisiana black bear.  The many baldcypress swamps provide habitat for nesting wood ducks, wading birds, and bats, including the Rafinesque's big-eared bat.

  • Red-cockaded Woodpecker


    Red-cockaded woodpeckers are Federally endangered birds that live in southern pine forests. They require old pine stands with an open understory maintained historically with wildfire. These birds are cooperative breeders meaning that offspring from previous years often stay with their parents to help raise the nestlings. The red-cockaded woodpecker is the only one which excavates cavities exclusively in living pine trees. They choose trees usually over 80 years old which often have the heartwood fungus causing the wood to become soft. The lack of fire in pine ecosystems and the loss of old pine forests have largely contributed to the red-cockaded woodpecker's decline. 

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  • Waterfowl


    Over a dozen species of ducks spend their winters on D'Arbonne National Wildlife Refuge.  Some of the more common species include mallard, green-winged teal, gadwall and northern shoveler.  Wood ducks, hooded mergansers and black-bellied whistling ducks nest in tree cavities on the refuge. 

  • Bald Eagle


    The nation’s symbol, the bald eagle, has made an impressive comeback from near extinction.   The insecticide DDT accumulated in the food chain causing eagles’ eggs to become fragile and break easily.  Today, visitors to the refuge have a good possibility of seeing a bald eagle, particularly during the winter over refuge waters.  Bald eagles have been recorded nesting on the refuge now for 15 years.  Eagles begin nesting in December through February and usually lay 1-3 eggs.   Both parents work to raise the eaglets, which can take two to three months after they hatch.  Eagles mostly eat fish but will also scavenge.

  • Rafinesque's Big-eared Bat


    Many species of bats inhabit the refuge, some spending only the summer or winter here. Others are year-round residents. One of the lesser studied bats, the Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, is associated with bottomland hardwood forests. Roosting in large hollow trees, female Rafinesque’s big-eared bats raise their one pup in a maternity colony with other females. It takes the pups about 3-4 weeks to be able to fly. Rafinesque’s big-eared bats are aptly named as their very large ears allow them to have excellent echolocation abilities as they prey upon insects within the forest. Bats can eat hundreds of flying insects in one night and are natural predators of many crop pests.

  • Bottomland Hardwood Forest

    Bottomland hardwood forest - Promo list - 150 x 118

    Historically bottomland hardwood forests covered the Mississippi River floodplain.  These forested wetlands  flood seasonally, most often in the winter and spring.  These periods of inundated forest provide structure for spawning fish and food for wintering ducks.  Dynamic floods allow nutrient cycling, prevent sedimentation, and disperse plant seeds.  Today only 20% of bottomland hardwood forest is left, and what remains is highly fragmented and of reduced quality.  Hydrological modifications of rivers with the use of dams, levees and channelization have contributed to the degradation of these forested wetlands.  The vast majority of D'Arbonne NWR is bottomland hardwood forest comprised of willow oak, Nuttall oak, overcup oak and water hickory.  The Columbia Lock & Dam causes the flooding to occur deeper and longer into the growing season than what naturally would have occurred.

  • Upland Mixed Pine Hardwood Forest


    Upland mixed pine and hardwood forest historically covered much of northwestern Louisiana. Today, upland hardwoods have been largely replaced by pine plantations. Species such as American beech, black oak, swamp chestnut oak, chinquapins, pawpaw, white oak, and serviceberry are not as common as they once were. These hardwoods were often intermixed with pine but also found in the upland drains on slopes. Other species commonly found in these mixed pine hardwood systems include may apples, strawberry bush, native azaleas, ferns, beech drops and cardinal flower.