I came across a website known as the Chicago Wilderness Habitat Project. According to the site there are 48 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) that have been designated thus far for the state of Illinois. The list has some impressive sites but is really lacking when it comes to IBAs in Winnebago County (zero sites). I have been reading through the nomination criteria and continue to read about the details in how to nominate and what not. Kind of reminds me of government papers at work.
Part of the problem is Winnebago is overshadowed on both sides – the west having the awesome Mississippi River a couple hours away and to the east, Chicago with its loads of birders and limited, but well-known birdspots. However, Winnebago rests in a unique area where four rivers converge and numerous protected areas exist. A migrating bird flies past miles of farm fields before making it to our well forested and heavily riparian county.
I will be posting in the near future about some of my favorite birdspots that I will try and get nominated for IBAs. Maybe they aren’t actually qualified, but I have a feeling some are. The most well known is Rock Cut State Park, a place I have birded often and am usually rewarded with nice finds – Cerulean, Yellow-throated, Blue-winged, Golden-winged, and Prothonotary Warblers to name a few.
Other sites such as Sugar River Forest Preserve, Pecatonica Wetlands and the Kishwaukee River Corridor (a series of forest preserves) are all loaded with birds. I guess it’s up to me to prove if they are worthy of being labeled an IBA.
Why does all this matter? According to Audubon:
Audubon, as the Partner for BirdLife International, is working to identify a network of sites that provide critical habitat for birds. This effort known as the Important Bird Areas Program (IBA) recognizes that habitat loss and fragmentation are the most serious threats facing populations of birds across America and around the world. By working through partnerships, principally the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, to identify those places that are critical to birds during some part of their life cycle (breeding, wintering, feeding, migrating) we hope to minimize the effects that habitat loss, and degradation have on bird populations. Unless we can slow the rapid destruction and degradation of habitat, populations of many birds may decline to dangerously low levels. The IBA program is a global effort to identify areas that are most important for maintaining bird populations, and focus conservation efforts at protecting these sites. In the U.S. the IBA program has become a key component of many bird conservation efforts, for example: Partners in Flight, North American Waterbird Conservation Plan, and the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan.