Whooping Crane

Important Bird Areas

Whooping Crane Photo: Elaine Brackin/Audubon Photography Awards

What is an IBA?

Important Bird Areas are sites that provide essential habitat to one or more species of birds during some portion of the year (nesting areas, crucial migration stop-over sites, or wintering grounds). IBAs may be a few or even thousands of acres, but usually are discrete sites that stand out from the surrounding landscape. IBAs may include public or private lands, or both, and may or may not already be protected.

Goals of the IBA Program

  • Identify the most essential areas for birds
  • Monitor those sites for changes to birds and habitat
  • Conserve these areas for long-term protection of biodiversity

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are exactly what their name implies: places or habitats that are essential for bird populations. The goal of the IBA program is to conserve birds by identifying, monitoring, and protecting critical bird habitats. Because habitat loss is the most serious threat facing bird species across North America and around the world, Audubon’s IBA program is a site-based initiative to address habitat loss through community-supported conservation.

Science-based Conservation

IBAs are designated and ranked against a rigorous set of scientific criteria, set and interpreted by local and then national committees of leading bird experts convened by Audubon. IBAs may be a few acres or thousands of acres, but they are discrete sites that stand out from the surrounding landscape. For a place to qualify as an IBA, it must either support a large concentration of birds, provide habitat for a threatened or rare species, or provide habitat for a bird with a very limited or restricted range. Once nominated and selected as an IBA, a site is then ranked as significant at either the state, continental, or global level.

Global Currency for Conservation

The IBA’s of North and South Dakota will become part of a growing global network of designated IBAs, spanning 156 countries around the world and 26 countries in the Western Hemisphere alone. This international effort is led worldwide by BirdLife International and in the United States by the National Audubon Society. Because every IBA across the planet has been designated and ranked against the same criteria, we often refer to IBAs as a Global Currency for Conservation. Globally, thousands of IBAs and millions of acres of avian habitat have received recognition and better protection as a result of the IBA program.

What's been completed

  • First round of inventory of Global and State IBAs across North and South Dakota completed.
  • Work with state and national technical committees to review nominations and document sites;
  • Establish the Dakotas IBA database and associated maps (including GIS files); and
  • Select highest priority IBAs, assessing threats, species status, and conservation opportunities.

What’s Next:

Over the next two years, pending the necessary funds, Audubon seeks to:

  • Initiate site assessments and monitoring plans for high priority IBAs, working with communities, volunteers, Audubon partners and local chapters;
  • Monitor threats to IBAs, and cooperate with agency officials, landowners, land managers, planners, neighbors, and other stakeholders to prevent and/or mitigate those threats;
  • Expand outreach and education efforts, including online tools (e.g., web-based mapping applications), onsite nature interpretation and signage, and citizen science initiatives at IBAs; and
  • Promote adoption of IBAs and other forms of community buy-in and on-the-ground action.
Important Bird Areas of the Great Plains

Click here to explore America's IBAs.

How you can help, right now