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What is an 'IBA'?


Jan 31, 2019

What is an “IBA”?

While these daunting percentages vary by source, they all suggest that about 30% of North American birds are in significant decline, including:

70% of grassland bird species

25% of forest bird species

13% of wetland species

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These declines are abnormal; they’re not part of the natural cyclical rise and fall of bird populations. Among the many threats to birds, the most serious is loss of habitat due to poor land-use planning and possibly, climate change. Many remaining habitats are degrading due to fragmentation by roads, over-browsing by deer (for example), drainage of wetlands, poor forest management and invasive species impacts.

Have you heard the term “Important Bird Area”? Although it may sound like a simple term, an Important Bird Area, or IBA, is a powerful conservation concept. In its simplest terms, an IBA is an area identified for its significance to bird conservation. IBAs may be huge and of global importance, like the Chesapeake Bay which is surrounded by the Mid-Atlantic States, or they may be locally important areas like Belt Woods in Prince George’s County in Maryland.

The IBA program identifies sites that provide essential habitat for birds so that conservation efforts can be focused on priority locations. A great strength of the IBA program is that it takes a proactive approach to conserving birds instead of just responding to specific threats  -  that’s why the IBA program deserves understanding support from us all.