The birds of Lafreniere Park in Metairie, LA, create quite a spectacle, especially when its dinner time. And thanks to the efforts of a local woman, those birds are getting quite a meal.
dinner for the birds of lafreniere park
The birds appear to know what’s about to happen. It’s late in the day as the white ibis stand in the shade near a parking lot. The whistling ducks and a few geese are nearby. The are waiting for Betty Harper. Harper pulls into her regular parking spot driving a red convertible, blasting oldies music on her stereo. The birds move in as Harper steps out of her car, carrying a large bag of dry cat food. “You can empty 44 pounds in no time,” she tells me. She explains that she had tried other flavors, but the birds prefer, “Special Kitty Outdoor Chicken Flavor”. She once tried a seafood flavor, but “nobody like it,” she says.
Harper tosses the food as fast as she can. The ibis and geese dominate the scene. Seagulls fly in. It’s a frenzy of feathers and snapping beaks as the birds gobble up their evening meal. Withing ten minutes, a 30 pound bag of food is empty.
Lafreniere park bird sanctuary on tv
the birds needed to be fed
This evening ritual started in March of 2023 when Harper began taking evening walks through the Lafreniere Park. She says she noticed the birds needed to be fed. Harper comes here nearly every day near sunset to feed hundreds of birds who crowd around her at the park’s bird sanctuary. She points out how ravenous the birds are when she starts tossing food. “I actually ran out of food one day,” Harper recalle, “and a duck was nipping at my ankles when I was trying to get into the car. I had to go home and get more food and come back,” she said.
a fun family affair
Other families with children roam the park grounds and the elevated board walk over the duck-filled lagoon, tossing bits of food to the birds. The bird sanctuary is also home to a family of raccoons, a black swan and squirrels.
It’s not just for the birds
bird sanctuary 50 years in the making
Lafreniere Park was developed in the 1970s on the site of Jefferson Downs, a horse race track that was destroyed by a fire. Local government turned into a suburban park with sports fields, jogging trails, picnic pavilions and a lush bird sanctuary. “I wanted a bird sanctuary because you have no place in this area where birds are protected,” explains Coleen Landry. She was a member of the original planning committee that worked to create the park. Strolling through the park 50 years later, she is pleased with what she sees. “It’s all about the trees and water,” she says. The birding area is an official bird sanctuary, meaning the birds and their nests cannot be harmed.
getting to lafreniere park in metairie
The main entrance to Lafreniere Park is located off Veterans Blvd. at Downs Blvd. in Metairie, LA. A south entrance on West Napoleon is closest to the bird sanctuary.