Yellow Rails and Rice Festival

2009 November 4
by David J. Ringer

VICKSBURG, MISS. — Did you know that rails hang out in rice fields? Louisiana birders Steve Cardiff and Donna Dittmann do, and they were inspired to organize Louisiana’s first annual Yellow Rails and Rice festival this year. The festival runs for two weekends, and if you’re free Nov. 6-7, I heartily recommend heading to southwest Louisiana for the second weekend of the festival.


As combines roar through the fields, rails scamper out of the way, or fly short distances before hitting the ground and disappearing into the stubble. Last Sunday, we observed four species: Sora, Virginia Rail, King Rail, and Yellow Rail. You might also notice the Cattle Egrets playing chicken with the combine and distant skeins of white-fronted geese in the sky.

This weekend’s activities are near Thornwell, La., on Friday and Saturday (Nov. 6-7). Email yellowrailsandrice at gmail dot com for times, directions, and information.


White-faced Ibis is another species that feeds in agricultural fields in Louisiana. I was impressed to see a few hundred birds scattered across the fields, but I am told that in the winter, the flocks can number 10,000.

Here’s my friend Jane Patterson’s video from the rice harvesting adventure. You can see the rails popping up and, at one point, flying straight toward the camera. Great stuff. (You might even spot me once or twice.)

Yellow Rails and Rice Festival 2009 from Jane Patterson on Vimeo.

Related posts:

  1. Rails, gators, and deer flies
  2. Birding Louisiana’s southwest coast
  3. Immigrants come in yellow, blue, and pink
  4. Touring the Mississippi River delta
  5. More Gulf Coast photos
4 Responses
  1. November 4, 2009

    I want to go! Did you get any good pics?

  2. November 4, 2009

    How cool! I’m with Chivis: I wanna go! I’m hosting a nature walk Saturday morning, but I’ll contact them for details as I’d love to drive down for Sunday’s adventure if possible.

    • November 4, 2009

      LOL! That’s assuming I could actually read… Friday and Saturday aren’t exactly equal to Sunday.

      Now I think I’m going to sit down with my preschool grammar book and see if I can work out the complicated differences between words ending with ‘day’…

  3. November 11, 2009

    Wow, how many Yellow Rails did you see?

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