When walking from the parking lot towards the Visitor Center at Tyler Arboretum, one of the signs you see on the outside of the building is the one pictured above. The first time I saw this sign, I immediately became curious – what does it mean to be an Important Bird Area? What does this designation mean for birds – and for Tyler? My Google searching led me to find the answers I was looking for!
The National Audubon Society oversees the Important Bird Areas Program.
Important Bird Areas, or IBAs, are sites that provide essential habitat for one or more species of bird. IBAs include sites for breeding, wintering, and/or migrating birds. IBAs may be a few acres or thousands of acres, but usually they are discrete sites that stand out from the surrounding landscape. IBAs may include public or private lands, or both, and they may be protected or unprotected. — from What Is An IBA?
There is also a video produced by Audubon that offers background about the program and highlights state, regional, and national conservation activities.
The IBA Program has an impressive, interactive website that allows the user to search by state and/or through an interactive map. I quickly found the information for Pennsylvania’s Important Bird Areas Program.
Formed in 1996, Pennsylvania developed the first statewide Important Bird Area (IBA) program in the country. A group of scientific advisors (known as the Ornithological Technical Committee) has identified over 80 IBA sites encompassing over two million acres of Pennsylvania’s public and private land. These areas include migratory staging areas, winter roost sites and prime breeding areas for songbirds, wading birds, and other species. Pennsylvania is making an important contribution to the conservation of bird habitat in the western hemisphere. Penn’s Woods are critical to many interior forest birds, providing nesting habitat to 17% of the world’s Scarlet Tanagers and 9% of the Wood Thrushes. By focusing attention on the most essential and vulnerable areas, the IBA program helps to promote proactive habitat conservation, benefiting birds and biodiversity. Audubon Pennsylvania works with a multitude of partners across the Commonwealth to advance the conservation of Important Bird Areas. — from PA’s Important Bird Areas Program
I was then able to drill down and found Tyler Arboretum on their map as part of a larger area designated as the Upper Ridley/Crum Site.
The Upper Ridley/Crum Important Bird Area includes Ridley Creek State Park, Tyler Arboretum and a vast expanse of primarily private land north of Route 3. Other publicly-accessible sites include Willistown Township’s Okehocking Preserve (Route 3 and 926), and several preserves owned by the Willistown Conservation Trust.
The site is significant for its use during migration and the nesting season. As a large patch of green in a fully suburbanized region, the IBA acts as a vital stopover site for many species of neotropical migrant songbirds. Several woodland species of concern stay for the summer and nest within the IBA, including Kentucky Warbler, Hooded Warbler and Wood Thrush. Grasslands and agricultural fields in the IBA provide stopover habitat for Bobolinks and nesting habitat for a few Eastern Meadowlarks.
The Audubon Pennsylvania website has even more information specific to Pennsylvania about the IBA program, along with some helpful responses to IBA FAQs and a complete, detailed site profile for Upper Ridley/Crum.
My investigation in to the IBA program has given me an even greater appreciation for the role Tyler plays in biodiversity and conservation of our avian population. Now I need to work on my bird identification skills to see if I can spot some of these critical species!