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Global and Continental Important Bird Areas

Emperor Goose, Courtesy Donna Dewhurst/USFWS

Global and Continental Important Bird Areas are determined through a prioritization process, which involves the review of identified State-level Important Bird Areas by the U.S. IBA Technical Committee, using Global and Continental IBA Criteria. These Important Bird Areas are some of the highest priority sites for conservation actions.

Keep reading to find out more about the process and significance of identifying and prioritizing Important Bird Areas below.

To see list and information on Global and Continental Important Bird Areas prioritized to date, click here. To see information on all sites, browse the IBA Search tool.

Important Bird Area Identification and Prioritization
Identifying and prioritizing Important Bird Areas is a central component to the conservation planning and implementation process. Important Bird Areas identification and prioritization help to define the targets and actions that need to be taken at a site. Initial bird monitoring, threat assessment and habitat evaluation data are the fundamental inputs that help conservation practitioners evaluate the current condition of the site.

Sites are first identified as Important Bird Areas through a process at the state-level. This involves data compilation by state-based Important Bird Areas Coordinators. Information about a site is then reviewed by a state committee of ornithological and conservation experts, to determine whether sites meet established Important Bird Areas selection criteria. These criteria are relevant and specific to state bird populations and conservation priorities. Once these sites are reviewed by the state committees, they officially gain the status of identified Important Bird Areas.

Identified IBAs are then prioritized for conservation action by evaluating the data associated with each site against criteria that are relevant at a continental and global scale. This process is undertaken by a by a panel of ornithological and conservation experts that have an understanding of birds at a national, continental, and global scale. These criteria, relevant to continental and global bird populations and bird conservation priorities, are essential to understanding how Important Bird Areas compare to each other and they provide a broader context for focusing limited conservation resources. Through the prioritization process, identified Important Bird Areas are ranked as Global, Continental, or State-level IBAs.

Prioritization: A Tool to Focus Limited Resources for Conservation Actions
Important Bird Areas are identified at the state-level, and in turn serve as targets to focus actions to protect particular bird populations. However, with limited capacity, it may not be realistic to undertake conservation action at all identified Important Bird Areas. For example in Pennsylvania over 85 Important Bird Areas have been identified through the state-level identification process. This network of Important Bird Areas is a powerful tool for drawing attention to state-wide bird conservation priorities. This IBA network can be adopted or integrated into other state-wide or local organizations' conservation work.

Some conservation strategies, such as policy on a state-wide scale, can be applied to multiple Important Bird Areas simultaneously. For other strategies, such as habitat improvement, the process of IBA Prioritization using Global and Continental criteria is an essential step in determining where to focus actions. Prioritizing according to large-scale biological criteria, using species population size and distribution as a basis, is vital in protecting species we are responsible for at a national and global level. This biological prioritization can be further enhanced by incorporating other factors, such as threats and opportunities into the process of deciding where to work. Besides informing our decisions as to where we work, prioritization of a site can serve as additional leverage for funding opportunities, as it adds value to these sites, deeming them as crucial places to protect not only for states or regions, but globally. Overall, IBA prioritization is a valuable tool which can help us more effectively plan and implement our actions to achieve conservation outcomes.

Updated June 2012