Important Bird Areas (IBA)

From Bird Studies Canada

IBA Criteria

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are identified using information about bird populations. Common and standard criteria are used by all BirdLife partners to identify these sites.

IBAs are home to threatened birds, large groups of birds, and birds restricted by range, or by habitat. When bird species occur at a site in sufficient numbers during one or more seasons (winter; migration; breeding), they become known as trigger species, and the site at which they are found is designated as an IBA.

Using common criteria enables us to compare population trends and status of sites at global, continental, and national levels. It also supports the case for stronger protection. Protecting IBAs is vital to the long-term conservation of the world’s birds, and helps to conserve globally diverse habitats.

Learn more about Prince Edward County South Shore IBA

Are IBAs Protected?

Important Bird Areas are a relatively new concept in Canada and are not legally protected in their own right. In contrast, governments throughout the European Union legally recognize and strictly regulate most IBAs as Special Protected Areas. In some developing nations, IBAs may represent the only protected areas in existence.

In Canada, IBAs complement (and often overlap partially or entirely with) other national, provincial, and local conservation designations such as National and Provincial Parks, Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, National Wildlife Areas, Crown Reserve lands, and Ecological Reserves.

These protected area networks were established long before the IBA program was conceived. Sites within these systems are designated for a wide variety of reasons (e.g., scenic beauty; landform; generic wildlife values; special ecosystems) and confer varying degrees of protection and regulation.

While these designations are important for conserving biodiversity in general, some are less effective than others for protecting bird populations. Of concern is that roughly 50% of Canada’s IBAs do not overlap at all with legally protected sites, and just 36% by land area is protected. The conservation status of many unprotected IBAs would be greatly improved by including these IBAs in expanded protected areas networks. For other IBAs, alternative conservation strategies are more appropriate and could include tools such as conservation easements and agreements, private land stewardship, and land acquisition.

IBAs occupy a special niche because they are defined and designated specifically on the basis of bird populations. They are particularly valuable because they form a network of sites that spans the globe.  (from IBA Canada)