The New Jersey Important Bird and Birding Areas (IBBA) Program fits into a global Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program that was started by BirdLife International in the 1980s. The Important Bird Areas Program has emerged as the leading and most comprehensive international initiative for saving habitat for birds and other wildlife. This program is part of a dynamic worldwide effort to identify and protect outstanding habitats for birds. The current worldwide IBA Program has coverage on all seven continents, important marine areas, and in hundreds of participating countries.
In North America the IBA Program has become pivotal to a continent-wide bird conservation strategy. Working in partnership with BirdLife International and the American Bird Conservancy, the National Audubon Society launched the U.S. IBA initiative in 1995, establishing programs state by state, which provided conservation leaders with the flexibility to tailor the program to the needs of their state. Because this work requires a tremendous amount of regional and local knowledge, participating states have established grassroots IBA programs that both contribute to the BirdLife International goals and set local conservation goals. New Jersey Audubon oversees the IBA program in New Jersey, and recognizing the importance of recreational birding in our state, we have added an additional designation, the "Important Birding Area."
IBA Success Stories
The IBA Program is responsible for safeguarding hundreds of sites and hundreds of thousands of acres around the world. That is in part because the IBA concept is simple: compile an inventory of priority areas that need to be saved in order to sustain healthy and diverse bird populations and then focus attention and action on saving them.
In the United States, IBA programs in forty-eight states have successfully identified more than 2,400 Important Bird Areas, furthered the protection of millions of acres of habitat, improved management practices on thousands more, and raised public awareness about the value of habitat for birds and other wildlife. The IBA Program has led the way in forming productive partnerships between each state's conservation and birding communities and has brought together top ornithologists, wildlife agencies, environmental groups, and others around a common cause.
IBAs Aren't "Just for the Birds"
Birds have been shown to be effective indicators of biodiversity in other animal groups and in plants--especially when used to define a set of sites for conservation. So although the IBA network is defined by its bird fauna, the conservation of these sites ensures the survival of a correspondingly large number of other animals and plants and helps preserve water and air quality.
Natural habitats are islands of rich ecological complexity in a landscape that is increasingly simplified and vulnerable to man-made perturbations. Remaining semi-natural habitats at key sites such as lakes, rivers, forests, reefs, mires, and grasslands can make an inordinate contribution to mediating the natural cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and other substances through the environment by filtering, buffering, purifying, storing, and replenishing the substances that make life possible. A healthy environment is good for birds, people, and all living things.
As the emphasis moves from site identification to site monitoring and protection, the IBA Program thus makes a major contribution to global biodiversity conservation. IBA sites are not the only way of conserving birds and other biodiversity, but they form part of a wider, integrated approach to conservation and sustainable development that focuses on species, habitats, and people.
NJ's IBBA Goals and Process
Building on the initial IBA successes in other states, New Jersey Audubon, working closely with the New Jersey DEP’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) and the National Audubon Society, launched an expanded initiative, the Important Bird and Birding Areas (IBBA) Program. New Jersey’s IBBA Program identifies sites that are essential for sustaining native bird populations (Important Bird Areas) and areas that are exceptional for birdwatching (Important Birding Areas).
The goals of the New Jersey Important Bird and Birding Areas program are:
- Identify a network of key sites (Important Bird Areas) that will help sustain naturally occurring populations of birds in NJ.
- Identify sites exceptional for birdwatching in NJ.
- Ensure the continued viability of these Important Bird and Birding Areas.
- Raise public awareness of the value of habitat for birds and other native wildlife.
- Generate increased support for conservation by educating private industry, landowners, and other stakeholders about the economic and educational value of birdwatching.
Our first two goals have largely been met; New Jersey has 123 designated Important Bird Areas and 28 designated Important Birding Areas, though nominations for new Important Bird Areas will be accepted continuously and reviewed periodically. The rest of the goals will be met through ongoing leadership in education, policy, and land management.
The IBBA Process
Important Birding Areas
Important Birding Areas (IBgAs) are sites that are exceptional for birdwatching activities in New Jersey. There are no numerical criteria for judging IBgAs. Rather, a committee of expert birders, naturalists, and ecotourism experts reviewed all nominations from the public and chose sites that represent the best birding opportunities in the state. IBgA selection was based on many factors and the goal was to choose sites that provide the best overall experience for an average birder.
Important Bird Areas
The New Jersey IBA site designation process began in 2004 and involved interaction between a technical science committee and the public, who nominated the sites and located or collected the data. This process gave the state broad coverage and a high level of scientific corroboration.
Through the public site nomination process, local residents and other volunteers engaged in the process of identifying and collecting data at potential sites. NJ Audubon conducted outreach to municipalities, counties, public and private conservation agencies, and civic associations to solicit nominations for sites.
The Bird Areas Technical Committee reviewed the data and recommended the sites that met the selection criteria. These sites became New Jersey's 123 Important Bird Areas. There are 12 additional “provisional” IBAS, which are sites that are suspected to meet the criteria for IBA designation, but for which sufficient data is not available.
Our site reports are available on-line through our IBA Site
Guide or through the National Audubon Society's searchable IBA database
. Site descriptions are also available in our new publication, Important Bird Areas of New Jersey
. The site guides in any format show which birds use the area and the life stage when they are present, and analyze conservation needs and threats to the area. Our GIS data layer is used by ourselves and our conservation partners in conservation planning.
Conservation in New Jersey IBA's
We continue working with multiple partners and stakeholders to develop novel conservation approaches and to integrate IBA sites into existing conservation initiatives and programs, including landowner incentive grants, acquisition funding, and land use regulations. We focus our conservation work around our IBAs, and you can read about conservation efforts in our designated IBAs thoughout our Stewardship website and in our Stewardship Blog.
New Jersey Audubon is grateful for the financial support and/or professional collaboration of partners who have made our IBA program much stronger:
We thank individual contributors who put their time into nominating sites, collecting data, and supporting the publication of the book Important Bird Areas of New Jersey.
Partner Organizations Providing Financial Support