The following is an article which appears in the latest MB Breeding Bird Atlas newsletter. In it, Tim Poole, the Manitoba IBA Program Coordinator, suggests how former atlassers can continue to gather important bird data while helping the IBA Program.
Manitoba’s Important Bird Area (IBA) program
What are IBA’s?
Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are places with lots of birds. Simple. In fact the populations of birds within each IBA is, or has been, significant, either at a global, continental or national scale. IBAs are not just Canadian; there are 12,000 of them across the world, representing the largest global network of important sites for biodiversity. To achieve IBA status, each candidate site has been assessed against standard criteria from Birdlife International. For some sites in Manitoba this might mean that they provide habitat for significant but small populations of a globally threatened species like the Piping Plover or that they hold significant assemblages of migrating waterfowl or shorebirds. Take Douglas Marsh for example. There were estimated to be 500 pairs of Yellow Rail present in 1995, an impressive 11.6% of the total global population of this species. Therefore Douglas Marsh meets the criteria based on the population of a single species. At Whitewater Lake spring shorebird counts are as high as 23,068 birds and total waterfowl counts exceed 250,000 birds, making the site globally significant. These figures are impressive and yet worrying at the same time: How many Yellow Rails are currently breeding at Douglas Marsh? Are there still 250,000 waterfowl at Whitewater Lake? Do we know? What is the current state of the habitats? Has land-use changed since 1995? Whitewater Lake and Douglas Marsh have some formal protection but what about the 78% of IBAs with none? The Manitoba IBA Program seeks to provide answers to these questions by engaging volunteers. We need your help!
Many of Manitoba’s IBA’s were identified because of large congregations of shorebirds. Here at Whitewater Lake there are American Golden Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Long-billed Dowitcher, Pectoral Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper. Photo by C. Artuso.
Across Canada there are a number of IBA Caretakers, including 3 in Manitoba. The role of a Caretaker is to monitor birds, assess habitats, document changes and 6 Other Citizen-Science Initiatives build community awareness around one particular site. A Caretaker could be an individual, a group of like-minded friends or a local bird watching club or community group. The minimum commitment is 15 hours per year to cover 3 visits (spring migration, summer breeding, fall migration), although caretakers may wish to go the extra mile. If you wish to become a caretaker but do not have the time or resource to cover the entire site, then why not become a caretaker for a smaller subsection? Sites without a current caretaker includes well known birding spots as Delta Marsh, Whitewater Lake, Oak Lake/Plum Lakes, Langruth and Churchill. Plenty of opportunities then!
If caretaking a particular IBA is not your style, you can still help in various ways. This year we are rolling out our roving recorder program. It is very simple. If you are planning a trip to an IBA, you are already halfway to becoming a Roving Recorder. By the end of May we will be adding maps to our website of many of the more accessible IBAs. Each map will contain a specific monitoring area making data recording simpler. We will make monitoring forms available. All you have to do is record all the birds you encounter in each subarea. All IBA data should be recorded on eBird which will upload automatically into the IBA system. If you do not wish to enter data on eBird we will even do it for you!
By volunteering with the program, you are not only taking part in grassroots conservation but joining a network of people globally committed to conservation of our best sites. Our IBAs are amongst the best and most treasured birding spots in Manitoba and we can keep them that way.
We can send volunteer packages by mail or you can download them here:
These provide information, a volunteer job description and even a brief introduction to using eBird for IBA. Contact Tim Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org or 204-943-9029.