Paul Conover and Kenny Nichols, Regional Editors
Arkansas and Louisiana have a combined area of about 101,000 square miles. The two major physiographic regions are the Coastal Plain (including the coastal marshes of Louisiana and the Mississippi Alluvial Valley) and the Interior Highlands (the Ozarks and Ouachita mountains). Despite habitat loss from hydrological alterations and storms, the coastal marshes and chenier plains (hardwood-forested coastal ridges) of Louisiana are extremely important globally as stopover habitat for trans-Gulf migrants and for nesting marsh birds. The Coastal Plain, home to wintering Yellow Rails, LeConte’s Sparrows, and Henslow’s Sparrows, extends into and north of Arkansas; it features remnant prairies and pine-dominated woodland. The Red and Mississippi rivers meander through a vast floodplain that culminates in the Atchafalaya Basin.
Though humans have eliminated much of the region’s bottomland hardwood forest, the Mississippi Alluvial Valley is still globally significant for dozens of species of wintering waterfowl. In addition, it is a breeding-season stronghold for species such as Acadian Flycatcher and Prothonotary Warbler. The Interior Highlands of Arkansas are bisected by the Arkansas River. Impoundments in its watershed and that of the Red River have provide habitat—that did not exist historically—for open-water birds. Though rugged and arid compared to adjacent lands, the Interior Highlands are quite diverse and host species along the eastern and western limits of their breeding ranges (e.g., Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Black-throated Green Warbler, respectively). Despite being home to relatively few birders, the states have bird lists of 485 (Louisiana) and 421 (Arkansas). The region’s avifauna has changed during the past few decades, primarily due to range expansions by species from the southwest (e.g., Cave Swallow, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Inca and White-winged doves, Neotropic Cormorant, Crested Caracara). Perhaps the last frontier of this region is the pelagic water of the Gulf of Mexico, which is seldom birded.
The ABA gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Arkansas & Louisiana Regional Editors Paul Conover and Kenny Nichols to promoting knowledge and understanding about the birdlife of the continent.