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What is the Important Bird Areas Program?

Program is:
Proactive, not reactive; Voluntary, not regulatory; Participatory, not just for professionals; Science-based and credible.


Audubon, as the Partner for BirdLife International, is working to identify a network of sites that provide critical habitat for birds. This effort known as the Important Bird Areas Program (IBA) recognizes that habitat loss and fragmentation are the most serious threats facing populations of birds across America and around the world. By working through partnerships, principally the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, to identify those places that are critical to birds during some part of their life cycle (breeding, wintering, feeding, migrating) we hope to minimize the effects that habitat loss, and degradation have on bird populations. Unless we can slow the rapid destruction and degradation of habitat, populations of many birds may decline to dangerously low levels. The IBA program is a global effort to identify areas that are most important for maintaining bird populations, and focus conservation efforts at protecting these sites. In the U.S. the IBA program has become a key component of many bird conservation efforts, for example: Partners in Flight, North American Waterbird Conservation Plan, and the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan.

What is an Important Bird Area?

Important Bird Areas, or IBAs, are sites that provide essential habitat for one or more species of bird. IBAs include sites for breeding, wintering, and/or migrating birds. IBAs may be a few acres or thousands of acres, but usually they are discrete sites that stand out from the surrounding landscape. IBAs may include public or private lands, or both, and they may be protected or unprotected.

To qualify as an IBA, sites must satisfy at least one of the following 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

Identification of a site as an IBA indicates it’s unique importance for birds. Nonetheless, some IBAs are of greater significance than others. A site may be important at the global, continental, or state level. The IBA identification process provides a data-driven means for cataloging the most important sites for birds throughout the country and the world.  

Oklahoma IBA Program

 History of OK IBA Program:

  • March 4th, 2006 – OK IBA Program Proposed.  The Audubon chapters in Oklahoma meet to reactivate the state-wide Oklahoma Audubon Council. As its first major project, the Council decides to pursue the formation of an Oklahoma IBA program.
  • July 22nd, 2006 – OK IBA Steering Committee Formed.  Oklahoma Audubon Council meeting was attended by Lynn Tennefoss, from Audubon Society Members Services office and John Cecil, coordinator of the Audubon Important Bird Areas program.  John Cecil discussed the IBA program and agreed to assist in the organization of the Oklahoma IBA program.
  • October 21st, 2006 – OK IBA Coordinator Selected.  At the Fall OOS meeting, it was announced that Eric Beck had been selected by the Oklahoma Audubon Council as the coordinator for the Oklahoma IBA program.  This is currently a volunteer position as we do not yet have funds to pay a salary.
  • November 2006 ~ February 2007 – Technical committee members recruited.
  • February 24th, 2007 – First joint meeting of the OK IBA Technical and Steering committees.  Potential IBA sites were discussed and the plan for the year was laid out.

OK IBA Technical Committee Members

Dan Reinking - GMSARC, OU Biological Survey

Michael Patten - GMSARC, OU Biological Survey

Mia Revels - Prof. NE State (Swainson's Warbler research)

Chris Wilson - TNC Nickel Preserve Director

Doug Wood - Prof at SEOSU, lots of research around the Tish NWR

Michael Husak - Prof at Cameron Univ.

Donald Winslow - Prof at St. Gregory's in Central OK

Mark Howery - ODWC

Berlin Heck - Past Director at Little River NWR/ Expert in SE region

Tim O'connell - Prof at OSU,  OOS President

Laurie Gillum – Biologist, Teacher

Steve Hodge – Wichita Mountains NWR

Julianne Hoagland - ODWC

 Major goals for 2007 are:

  • Identify a minimum of four Global IBA’s.
  • Obtain funding for the program.
  • Increase knowledge and awareness of the OK IBA program.
  • Increase participation in the OK IBA program.

Martin Brown
Chair - OK IBA Steering Committee
Oklahoma Audubon Council





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