Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas
The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) program was initiated in the 1980s by BirdLife International, a global partnership of conservation organizations that strives to conserve birds and their habitats, working with people towards the sustainable use of natural resources. In Canada, national IBA partners include Birds Canada and Nature Canada. Nature Alberta is the IBA program coordinator in Alberta.
Most IBAs are discrete sites at which significant numbers of birds regularly breed, congregate, or pass through on migration. Canada’s IBAs also include sites that feature significant numbers of threatened birds or birds restricted by range or by habitat. To learn more about the national IBA program and the criteria for site selection, visit IBA
There are currently over 600 IBAs across Canada, including 48 in Alberta. You can explore these IBAs using IBA Canada’s interactive online directory. The directory includes information about the locations, birds, habitats, threats, and conservation issues associated with the entire network of IBAs. You will also have access to the IBA database, interactive map, desktop tools, downloadable PDF maps, and more.
Alberta’s 48 IBAs are summarized in the table below. Click the site name for detailed information about each site.
Alberta IBA Webinars
IBA Webinar Part 1
IBA Webinar Part 2
IBA Webinar Part 3
IBA caretakers are local volunteers who are matched to one or more IBAs. Caretakers are community champions who ensure that changes within IBAs, or threats to their ecological integrity, are properly documented and, ideally, resolved. A caretaker can be one or more individuals or a local group (e.g., a nature club), often assisted by others with complementary skills. Ideally, a caretaker will be familiar with and situated close to the IBA and possess the means to visit the IBA with some frequency. Nature Alberta is responsible for recruiting caretakers, enlisting community and government support for IBA conservation, and overseeing the review of IBA site summary information.
Caretaker activities vary depending on site characteristics and a caretaker’s own interests. They can include collecting bird data, conducting site assessments, restoring habitat, raising awareness, and advocacy efforts. Nature Alberta requires caretakers to conduct at least one bird count per year (preferably during migration), to submit the results of that count to eBird Canada, and to complete an annual site survey. A manual for caretakers and additional resources are available on the IBA Canada website.
You can get involved with a local IBA by helping an existing caretaker or by becoming a caretaker yourself. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how.
History of the Alberta IBA Program
- 1990s: The IBA program, a worldwide initiative of BirdLife International, was brought to Canada with initial Environment Canada funding provided to the Canadian Nature Federation. Today, the national program is operated through a partnership between Nature Canada and Birds Canada.
- 1999: As the provincial coordinator, Nature Alberta initiated the Alberta IBA program. Early provincial supporters included the Alberta Conservation Association and the Alberta Sport Recreation Parks and Wildlife Foundation.
- 1999: The Alberta IBA Advisory Committee was established. Members included George Newton (Nature Alberta), Dave Prescott (Alberta Conservation Association), Bruce McGillivray (Royal Alberta Museum), Gordon Court (Alberta Fish and Wildlife), and Paul Goossen (Canadian Wildlife Service).
- June 1999: Nature Alberta hosted an all day site-nominating meeting with Canadian Nature Federation and Birds Canada staff and approximately 20 Alberta bird experts. After poring over maps and discussing sites, participants nominated approximately 120 potential IBA sites. Of these, 48 sites were approved as IBAs, most of them having global significance.
- 2000–2002: Guided by the Advisory Committee and local experts, ten conservation plans were written: Big Lake, Beaverhill Lake, Grande Prairie Trumpeter Swans, Lac La Biche, Lesser Slave Lake, Kimiwan Lake, Frank Lake (north), Chappice Lake, the McIntyre Ranch and Sage Creek.
- 2004: Focus shifted from conservation planning to monitoring. With the support of the Alberta Conservation Association and birding expert Richard Thomas advising, a monitoring protocol is developed for Alberta. The protocol was piloted at several IBAs including Lac La Biche and Lakeland.
- 2006: Chuck Priestley was hired to help with monitoring at select IBAs. He also helped to revise the field form, basing it on BirdLife’s Global Framework (using Pressure, State, Response indicators).
- 2007–2008: Chuck Priestley became the Alberta IBA Program Coordinator. His efforts focused on proposal writing, networking with the national partners, article writing, and reporting.
- 2009: With support from TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., Nature Canada began building the Canadian IBA Caretaker Network.
- 2010: Several IBA videos were developed to promote the program and the sites.
- October 2011: An Alberta Caretakers meeting was held with several local IBA caretakers joined by numerous provincial and national representatives to discuss the program.
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