It is widely known that Toledo Bend is a prime fishing and recreational destination, but it is a sanctuary for feathered friends, as well.

For two years running it has been recognized by Bassmaster Magazine as the top bass fishing lake in the United States. Toledo Bend is the only lake to receive this designation two consecutive years since Bassmaster began the program.

What the lake is less known for, but notably important, is its being a major bird sanctuary.

So significant is the lake's part as a sanctuary, the Audubon Society has designated some locations on Toledo bend an Important Bird Area (IBA).

An IBA is an area identified using an internationally agreed set of criteria as being globally important for the conservation of bird populations. Toledo Bend's IBA is made up of over 220,000 acres.

Toledo Bend offers a variety of habitats to a variety of different birds. Common Goldeneye, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, and Black Surf Scoters are just a few of the water birds that can be seen on the lake.

The vast open waters of the lake also attract birds like the American White Pelican and the Belted Kingfisher.

In recent years the Bald Eagle population has started to flourish on the lake. It is not uncommon to see a Bald Eagle setting atop a Pine Tree or even snatching a fish from the water on South Toledo Bend.

Other raptors that commonly take up habitat on the lake include Peregrine Falcons and Ospreys. There are a number of Osprey nest fashioned a top dead trees that can easily be seen from boat lanes while navigating the lake.

Some of the IBA is on land and is part of the Sabine Wildlife Management Area (SWMA). These include North Toledo Bend State Park and South Toledo Bend State Park.

In the SWMA neotropical migrants like the Worm-eating Warbler and the Northern Rough Winged Swallow are present during certain seasons. There are also nest of the Bald Eagles who make the SWMA their home. Observation of some of the nests can be obtained by following marked hiking trails.

Just north of the South Toledo Bend State park is "Bird Island". Though this unique island can be seen from land, "Bird Island" is best viewed up close from the water.

The island is the seasonal nesting and mating place for hundreds of Snowy Egrets, Blue Herons, Canadian Geese and Coots. A sunset cruise to the island during the Spring months is highly recommended as this is an excellent time to observe the birds building nest and engaging in mating rituals. The sounds of all the different birds can easily be heard over an idling engine as you approach the island.

So on your next outing to Toledo Bend make sure to bring binoculars, and a camera in addition to fishing gear.

For more information about bird watching on Toledo Bend visit www.toledo-bend.com.