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What Is An Important Bird Area?

If your heartbeat quickens a bit at the sight of a Baltimore Oriole or a Scarlet Tanager, you are on your way to understanding what an Important Bird Area (IBA) is. IBAs are sites where some of our favorite birds gather. They are places where birds find what they need to live-food, water, and a safe area to rest or raise young-things that provide good habitat. No doubt you can identify some good areas where you can find birds right now.

IBAs provide essential habitat for one or more species of birds and include sites that birds use during their nesting season, during the winter and/or while they are migrating. Usually these sites stand out as special from the surrounding landscape. 

To determine where IBAs are in the state, the Ohio IBA Technical Committee reviews nominations submitted by volunteers. The selected IBAs are identified using standardized, science-based criteria. More than 80 IBAs have been identified so far in Ohio. 

History Of The IBA Program

BirdLife International initiated the first IBA program in Europe and Africa in the mid-1980s. Audubon launched state-based IBA programs in the United States in 1995 and is a partner with BirdLife International. Audubon Ohio started identification of IBAs in Ohio in 2000.


Goals Of The IBA Program In Ohio

The goal of the IBA program is to conserve the identified IBAs and protect bird populations. To accomplish this, Audubon Ohio will:

  1. Identify IBAs through a science-based nomination process;
  2. Publicly dedicate sites and raise public-awareness of bird conservation;
  3. Involve public and private participation in conservation planning on sites;
  4. Provide public education and outreach about sites;
  5. Encourage legislation that promotes IBAs and bird conservation.

IBAs and You

IBAs are a natural focus of volunteer, citizen scientist monitoring projects, which can lead to positive local stewardship and advocacy. Identification of a site as an IBA is both a tool for assisting private landowners and public land managers and a rationale for preserving habitat from threats. Most importantly, the IBA Program is a starting point for site-based conservation planning, involving stakeholders in a process that takes all interests into account.

The actual conservation of specific IBAs takes place in many different ways and depends on the particular circumstances of each site (size, location, ownership, etc.). For example, public areas may be conserved by open-space acquisition and by working with land managers to improve habitat management practices for key species of birds. Private lands may be conserved through public-private partnerships such as easements, and through landowner education.

What's Next?

The IBA Program aims to protect all bird species and all habitats, and to keep common birds common.

As the U.S. Partner of BirdLife International, Audubon is adopting BirdLife's World Bird Database, which for the first time will allow us to gather all United States IBA information into a comprehensive database.

Through BirdSource, an interactive web site designed and maintained by Audubon and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, IBA data will be available on the Internet to land managers, state leaders, and the general public in a format that can be easily queried. This will facilitate the use of the information for conservation planning. With BirdSource and the power of the Internet, citizen scientists will be able to help IBA leaders gather important data on bird populations through an on-line IBA monitoring program.

The recently established North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) is working to coordinate bird conservation efforts among various national bird conservation programs. As NABCI bird conservation plans are developed, IBAs will provide the specific on-the-ground sites at which to implement conservation efforts to ensure the protection of all bird species in all habitats throughout North America. By focusing attention on discrete areas that harbor the most critical bird populations, the IBA Program is an efficient and common sense approach to promote bird conservation.

What can you do?

You can help identify and conserve Important Bird Areas in Ohio.

Support the IBA Program through citizen science and stewardship. This may include conducting bird monitoring, volunteering to help land managers, and/or being a conservation advocate.

Help us grow the IBA Program by making a donation. The IBA Program depends on private donations like yours for continued success.