Saving Important Bird Areas

Saving our Important Bird Areas (IBA) is a strategic initiative serving as a conservation blueprint identifying areas that are of critical importance to priority bird species. 

The Important Bird Area (IBA) program was created in Europe in 1981 by Birdlife International. The National Audubon Society, as the US partner of Birdlife International, launched the US IBA program in 1995. State IBA programs are underway in approximately 47 states, with programs in all 50 states expected in the next few years.

As the US partner for BirdLife International, Audubon spearheads an ambitious effort to identify, monitor and protect the most important places for birds. Each priority site requires a specific conservation plan - and that is a critical piece of the work Audubon does. To implement these plans, Audubon works with all key stake-holders - landowners, government agencies at every level, chapters and local communities. We focus on where conservation actions are possible, and where protections can be secured, habitats restored or threats reduced.

This approach works: Important Bird Area status is now formally factored into state agency land-use planning, such as the North Carolina Statewide Comprehensive Conservation Plan, and is recognized by major utility grid planners and federal agencies. This approach to conservation is both powerful and simple. By identifying and protecting the most important places for birds, we save species and preserve our natural heritage.

Audubon North Carolina and partners have identified 96 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in North Carolina comprising 4.9 million acres. These are places that provide essential habitat for one or more species of birds at some time during their annual cycle of breeding, migration or wintering. Nearly all of North Carolina’s IBAs include public lands, and many include land trust conservation lands, and land owned or managed by private citizens. The IBA program is not a regulatory initiative and places no restriction on land use or activities. Audubon staff work with managers of IBAs to support bird and habitat monitoring, habitat management, and education and advocacy efforts focused on birds. Virtually every conservation planning entity in the state recognizes that IBAs are priority sites for long-term protection. The IBA program has become a dynamic "blueprint for conservation" in North Carolina.

  • Learn how the IBA program is impacting birds on a global scale. 
  • Watch this video to see how IBAs are creating protection for birds.
  • Click to read recent success stories of the IBA program. 
  • Learn how the Global IBA program is protecting Wood Thrush.
  • Click here to view an interactive map to see our state's IBAs. 
  • Support Audubon's work to save our Important Bird Areas Program. 
  • Get involved by becoming a Citizen Scientist in your neighborhood. 

In addition, 30 of North Carolina’s IBAs have been approved by BirdLife International as globally significant. This means that the site is important to the protection of the species using that site on a world-wide scale. These globally important bird areas include the Amphibolite Mountains, which provide habitat for Golden-winged Warblers; the Sandhills, which sustain Red-cockaded Woodpeckers; and Lea-Hutaff Island, which is inhabited by Piping Plovers.

To raise awareness and celebrate the IBAs across our state, Audubon North Carolina has organized a blog series highlighting these special ecosystems, and the birds and wildlife being protected and supported here.

Audubon North Carolina's 10 chapters are our “boots on the ground” for monitoring the health of the habitat and the threats to birds. All 10 chapters have “adopted” one or more Important Bird Areas. Read more about this below. 

We are always looking for volunteers to help us monitor Important Bird Areas. Contact us to find out how you can help!

Important Bird Area data is constantly updated and can be found on our blog and on the US IBA website



  • Atlantic Coast Joint Venture
  • Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture
  • US Army Corps of Engineers
  • NC State Parks
  • NC Wildlife Resources Commission
  • Local and regional land trusts
  • Local and municipal governments
  • Audubon chapters
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Western North Carolina Alliance
  • Wild South
  • The Wilderness Society