Audubon North Carolina has put out a new edition of Important Bird Areas of North Carolina, a full-color publication with detailed descriptions of North Carolina’s most critical bird habitats.
The book, available online at www.ncaudubonblog.org, features 96 sites comprising nearly 4.9 million acres. Important Bird Areas, or IBAs, provide essential habitat for one or more species of birds at some time during their annual cycle, including breeding, migration, and wintering periods. Well-known North Carolina IBAs include iconic landmarks such as Grandfather Mountain and Cape Lookout National Seashore.
“The IBA program is a wonderful tool for highlighting North Carolina’s ecologically significant habitats and locations,” said Curtis Smalling, Mountain Program manager for Audubon North Carolina. “IBAs provide so much more than just prime bird habitat. These special landscapes also provide clean drinking water, healthy populations of other species, and in many cases, special opportunities for people to connect to nature through recreation, education and engagement.”
Locally, the Highlands-Cashiers plateau is designated as an Important Bird Area, marking the southern limit for a number of high priority species such as Canada Warbler, Veery, and Brown Creeper. Various partners, including the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society, are working to protect and manage this high elevation ecosystem. Challenges such a the invasive Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, fragmentation of the forest and air quality threaten this special site.
To raise awareness about the state’s IBAs, including the Highlands plateau, the Audubon North Carolina will design a social media campaign around an IBA every month. Hundreds of dedicated volunteer birders and Audubon chapter members assisted with gathering data for the new edition, by surveying Important Bird Areas, conducting species specific surveys and research and participating in longstanding censuses like the Christmas Bird Count.
Audubon North Carolina is distributing the publication in book and CD form to North Carolina land conservation agencies so they can utilize the information as they set priorities for public and private land conservation projects.