Wildlife & Habitat

Pileated Woodpecker on the side of a tree

Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge conserves 4,416 acres of freshwater marsh and pond habitat, intersected with levees and man-made canals, and bisected by the Intercoastal Waterway. A unique habitat found at Mandalay  is called flotant marsh - a floating marsh. Read more below...


  • Flotant Marsh

    Flotant marsh

    The Cajuns call this special marsh habitat la prairie tremblant, or trembling prairie. This unique habitat consists of a buoyant entangled mat of herbaceous plants, spaghnum moss, and roots entwined in peaty clayey organic matter that floats above the soil. A plant called maidencane plays a key role in this ecosystem — its spreading roots help create the thick mat that other plants can take root in. If you were to step onto flotant marsh, it might support you and feel like a waterbed, or you might fall through.

  • Migratory Waterfowl

    Mottled Duck at water's edge with marsh grass in the background

    Southeast Louisiana's marshes are key feeding and resting places for waterfowl traveling the Mississippi Flyway. Mandalay's freshwater marshes attract thousands of migratory waterfowl, including mallards, blue-and green-winged teal, gadwalls, widgeon, and mottled ducks. Wood ducks are common, both as migrants and breeding.

  • Mammals


    The Refuge's high points along the marshes are small ridges of land and levees. Forest-dwelling mammals living along the ridges include white-tailed deer, gray squirrels, eastern cottontail, swamp rabbit, gray and red fox, coyote, and opossum.

  • Bald Eagle

    Bald Eagle

    Watch for eagles foraging along waterways and over marshes between October – May. You may see their large nests in tall cypress trees in the swamp near Houma and Morgan City. Most eagles move north in the late spring and summer months. Telemetry studies found Mandalay's local eagles traveling to the Great Lakes, Northwest territories and even British Columbia!

    By the 1960’s eagles were rare in the lower 48 states due to the effects of shooting, poisoning, and pesticide related reproductive failure. With the banning of DDT, and protections from the Endangered Species Act — our avian national symbol made a spectacular comeback. The bald eagle was taken off the endangered species list in 2007.

  • American Alligator

    Alligator photo courtesy Marie Cellino

    North America's largest reptile is found in slow moving rivers, marshes, and bayous in the south. This animal is an Endangered Species Act success story. Listed as endangered in 1967 due to over-harvest and impacts to habitat, the alligator made a recovery thanks to conservation efforts and was taken off the endangered species list in 1987. Listen to an alligator bellow at the learn more link below.

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