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Site Identification and Prioritization

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Caleb Putnam
Michigan IBA Coordinator
1700 Waterbury Dr SE Kentwood, MI 49508


Site Identification and Prioritization

IBA Criteria

Important Bird Areas, or IBAs, are sites that provide essential habitat for one or more species of bird. To qualify as an IBA, sites must satisfy at least one of the following general criteria.The site must support:

  • Species of conservation concern (e.g. threatened and endangered species)
  • Restricted-ranges species (species vulnerable because they are not widely distributed)
  • Species that are vulnerable because their populations are concentrated in one general habitat type or biome
  • Species, or groups of similar species (such as waterfowl or shorebirds), that are vulnerable because they occur at high densities due to their congregatory behavior

IBAs in Michigan are identfied through a process of scientific review by the Michigan IBA Technical Committee, consisting of ornithologists, birders, and experts throughout the state. IBAs are further prioritized as Global and Continental IBAs by the U.S. IBA Committee, in coordination with the national IBA office.

In Michigan, we have been identifying the highest priority Important Bird Areas in the state, using the Global and Continental IBA Criteria.


State-level IBA Criteria for Michigan are described below.

The Michigan Important Bird Areas Program, through the guidance and input of state and national staff and the Michigan Important Bird Areas Technical Committee, developed state level criteria and thresholds applicable to the avifauna and habitats found within Michigan. These state level criteria are formulated to best suit the population levels and habitat conditions in Michigan and are defined as follows;

State Species of Conservation Concern
Top 3-5 sites or 1% of state population
2,000 Waterfowl (excluding Mallard and Canada Goose)
100 Wading birds
2,500 Gulls (nesting pairs only)
D4iv 25 Terns (nesting pairs only)
D4v 500 migratory shorebirds daily
D4vi 1,000 migratory raptors per season
D4vii exceptional landbird migration

1. Michigan Species of Conservation Concern (D1) - includes species recognized by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR 2011) as endangered or threatened, those recognized by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) as special concern, and species on the Audubon WatchList (National Audubon Society 2011). Specific thresholds are defined for each species (See IBA Methodology document).

2. Michigan Congregations (D4) - sites supporting outstanding congregations (see Table 1 for details).

Additional Criteria The Michigan technical committee considered three additional criteria:

1) Assemblages of regionally-restricted species. This criterion, which has been implemented in New York, recognizes sites which support a large number of species which don't qualify as conservation concern species under D1, but for which Michigan bears responsibility for their global conservation, because a significant proportion of the species global population occurs within the state. This analysis was halted due to the decision that it was unlikely to result in a significant number of new IBA sites, and because the quality of datasets necessary to justify the requisite spatial analysis was lacking for Michigan

.2) Landbird Stopover Concentrations. This criterion, a subcriterion of the state congregation criterion, has proven difficult to apply objectively. As a result, no other state IBA program has been able to implement it. However, the preponderance of Great Lakes coast magnifies the importance of this criterion to our state, as shorelines are known to greatly concentrate landbird migrants. Unfortunately, the lack of quantitative data consistently documenting not only presence, but also absence, of landbird concentrations, makes the application of this criterion highly arbitrary and subjective. That said, significant advances have been made by D. Ewert et al., and the committee anticipates attempting a "first run" of stopover sites once more data are forthcoming from several ongoing studies.

3) Long-term research sites. Historically several states have recognized as IBAs sites where long-term bird monitoring studies are ongoing. Data from such sites may be valuable toward estimating population and demographic trends of many species. The committee argued that such sites would detract from the robustness of the IBA network since they didn't meet one of the main IBA criteria, and that such research sites should be protected by other means. Across the Important Bird Areas Program this criteria has been discontinued.


Updated April 2014
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