Important Bird Areas

Maine’s Important Bird Area (IBA) program is part of a global effort to identify areas that are most critical for long-term bird conservation. IBAs must meet a set of criteria developed by a Technical Committee of bird experts. The criteria are focused primarily on large concentrations of birds, species of conservation concern, and species diversity. Maine has so far identified 22 IBAs, primarily along the coast and around wetlands (pdf).

IBA Characteristics

  • Generally supports birds of conservation concern (including threatened
    and endangered species)
  • Large concentrations of birds
  • Birds associated with unique or exceptional habitat
  • High historic research value for bird conservation
  • May be either protected or unprotected
  • May be publicly or privately held
  • IBA Size
    • IBAs may be of any size, but are usually discrete and distinguishable in character, habitat, or ornithological importance from surrounding areas.
    • Where possible, IBAs should be large enough to supply all or most of the needs of birds during the season in which the site is important.
    • Area boundaries may be either natural (e.g., rivers, ridges, islands, watersheds) or human-made (e.g., roads, property boundaries).

Maine IBA Program Goals

  • Identify areas key to the conservation of important bird populations or communities.
  • Work cooperatively with land owners and managers to conserve these
    areas through habitat management and/or land acquisition/protection
    agreements.
  • Promote public and private participation in bird conservation.
  • Provide public education and community outreach at publicly accessible
    IBAs.

Nomination Process and IBA Selection

Nominations are reviewed by the Maine IBA Technical Committee, a group of almost two dozen natural resource professionals and citizens with expertise and knowledge about Maine’s bird populations. The committee will meet in the fall of 2013 to review the next round of IBAs.

The IBA Program seeks to identify the most important and highest priority areas across the state for bird conservation; however, every area that supports an endangered or threatened species does not necessarily qualify as an IBA. Rather, areas that are nominated are compared to each other and those deemed most important relative to the others are selected as IBAs.

Review of Maine IBAs will be necessary over time as bird conservation concerns change and species lists used as the basis for IBA criteria are updated (e.g., endangered and threatened species, special concern species, Partners in Flight priority ratings).

Nomination Criteria

Areas nominated for an IBA met at least one of three primary criteria. Two secondary criteria sometimes strengthened the case for nomination.

Primary Criteria

  • Areas for threatened and endangered species
  • Areas for species of conservation concern
  • Areas with substantial concentrations of birds and/or high species
    diversity

Secondary Criteria

  • Areas important for research/monitoring
  • Areas for species associated with rare, vulnerable, or exemplary
    habitat types

IBA Selection

IBAs are selected based on how well they meet the criteria (although these criteria are not absolute and should be viewed as guidelines only). Other factors, such as relative importance or a unique combination of characteristics, may be considered when making final IBA selections.

IBAs may be dropped as bird populations and the associated IBA criteria change over time, and new IBAs may be added.

While Maine’s diverse habitats serve an important role for over 400 bird species — some threatened, endangered, or of regional conservation concern — the state’s not immune to a growing list of threats that puts these birds at further risk. Habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation due to development, toxins such as mercury and lead, oil spills on the coast and inland waters, and climate change are top among them.

In the face of these threats, a crucial step in conserving Maine’s birds is to identify the areas of the state that are most important for breeding, wintering, and migration. After several years of working toward that goal, Maine Audubon has recently completed the first phase of its Important Bird Areas (IBA) program, identifying 22 areas across Maine that are vital to state–and even global–bird populations.

In September 2001, Maine Audubon, together with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, initiated an Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program that will identify and prioritize the most important areas for bird conservation in Maine. Maine Audubon will then help plan for the conservation and management of these bird-rich areas.

Part of a global initiative by BirdLife International, Important Bird Area Programs began in the late 1980s to identify and conserve high-priority bird habitat.

Thousands of IBAs have been identified in over 100 countries around the globe, which has helped promote much-needed conservation action. In the mid 1990s, the first U.S. IBA Programs were launched in Pennsylvania and New York, and there are now over 30 states engaged in the process.

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