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How are Important Bird Areas identified?

Nature Canada / What we do / Bird Conservation / NatureCaretakers / How are Important Bird Areas identified?

The Canadian Important Bird Areas (IBA) program has identified sites that provide essential habitat for bird populations through an internationally established, systematic, and science-based approach. IBAs are designated under the following criteria.

Threatened species

Sites that hold significant numbers of endangered, threatened, or vulnerable bird species. Such habitats are often under imminent threat, and conserving these IBAs is essential to reversing population declines and preventing extinctions.

Birds with restricted breeding ranges

Sites that hold endemic species or those with restricted ranges. Birds with small breeding ranges are vulnerable because loss of small amounts of habitat can negatively affect large populations of a species’ population. Unlike tropical countries, this category has only limited application in Canada because most of our bird species have large breeding ranges.

Biome* restricted assemblages

Sites that hold an assemblage of species restricted to a biome (such as the Boreal or Great Plains biome) or a unique natural community type. Sites that support biome-restricted assemblages are often of general conservation interest, and protecting these IBAs conserves habitat for birds and a host of other unique flora and fauna.

Bird concentrations

Sites where birds concentrate in significant numbers when breeding, wintering or migrating. The majority of Canadian IBAs are identified under this category. Protection of key breeding sites and staging areas within Canada is critical to the health of vast numbers of birds that range throughout the Americas.

To date the Canadian program has identified nearly 600 IBAs. There is no quota for IBAs in Canada. Our goal is to identify and conserve every site in Canada that meets IBA criteria.

Conservation activities

Once an IBA has been identified, a series of conservation activities can take place.

These efforts,varying from site to site, will include: restoration of degraded habitats; site monitoring; community awareness-building; alternative income projects; collaborative management and sustainable use practices; national campaigns against major threats; land purchases; enhanced management and enforcement in IBAs within protected areas; and the establishment of new protected areas encompassing IBAs.

* Biome: A large, naturally occurring community of flora and fauna adapted to the particular conditions in which they occur, e.g. tundra.

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