Important Bird Areas (IBA)

What are IBAs?

The Important Bird Areas (IBA) Programme of BirdLife International is a worldwide initiative aimed at identifying and protecting a network of critical sites for the conservation of the world’s wild birds. As of 2009, nearly 11,000 sites in some 200 countries and territories have been identified as Important Bird Areas.

IBAs are key sites for conservation – small enough to be conserved in their entirety and often already part of a protected-area network. They either hold significant numbers of one or more globally threatened species, are one of a set of sites that together hold a suite of restricted-range species or biome-restricted species or have an exceptionally large numbers of migratory or congregatory species.

How are IBAs chosen?

A site is recognized as an IBA only if it meets certain criteria, based on the occurrence of key bird species that are vulnerable to global extinction or whose populations are otherwise irreplaceable. An IBA must be amenable to conservation action and management.

The IBA criteria are internationally agreed, standardized, quantitative and scientifically defensible. Ideally, each IBA should be large enough to support self-sustaining populations of as many as possible of the key bird species for which it was identified or, in the case of migrants, fulfill their requirements for the duration of their presence. By definition, an IBA is an internationally agreed priority for conservation action.

Selection criteria for IBAs

„A“ – global criteria

„B“ – continental criteria

„C“ – regional criteria

„D“ – state criteria

In our description of IBAs of Slovakia we have used the „C“ criteria, that means its importance according to the European Union. Several „C“ criteria applicable in the EU are similar to those applied at the global („A“) and continental („B“) level. The „C“ criteria have been prepared for selecting those sites in the European Union which qualify, under the EC Birds Directive, as Special Protection Areas (SPAs)

Description of the IBA “C” criteria

C1 Species of global conservation concern

The site regularly holds significant numbers of globally threatened species or other species of global conservation concern. Under this criterion sites are identified for those species most threatened with extinction at global level.

C2 Concentrations of a species threatened at the European Union level

The site is known to regularly hold at least 1 % of the flyway or EU population of a species considered to be threatened in the EU.

C3 Congregations of migratory species not threatened at the European Union level

The site is known to regularly hold at least 1% of a flyway population of a migratory species that is not considered to be threatened in the EU.

C4 Congregatory species – large congregations

The site is known to regularly hold at least 20,000 individuals of migratory waterbirds of one or more species.

C5 Congregatory species – bottleneck sites

The site is a “bottleneck” site where at least 5,000 storks (Ciconiidae), or at least 3,000 migratory raptors (Accipitriformes and Falconiformes) or cranes (Gruidae), regularly pass on spring or autumn migration. In the moment, there are no data showing that any site is fulfilling this criterion in Slovakia.

C6 Species threatened at the European Union level

The site is one of the five most important in the European region in question for a species or subspecies considered threatened in the European Union.

In Slovakia, because of the unfavourable conservation status of Peregrine Falcon, Red-footed Falcon and Capercaillie and because the data indicated that adding more sites will improve the conservation of the species, more than 5 sites were identified for these species. Six sites have been identified for Red-footed and Peregrine Falcons, respectively, and 7 for Capercaillie. On the other hand, for some species whose populations are restricted only to one site (e.g. Spoonbill, Moustached Warbler, etc.), or the populations of a single species are very high in 3-4 best sites and much lower in other sites, there was no point to select the maximum of 5 sites.

The C6 criterion has generally been applied to breeding populations, but may also be applied for nonbreeding occurrences. The rationale of the criterion, overall, is to achieve a wide geographical coverage of sites throughout the species’ range in the European Union. Sites meeting C6 should hold significant numbers at the EU level of the species or subspecies concerned. This additional condition is necessary to exclude irregular occurrences and sites holding a low number of birds (1% of the national breeding population is the minimum level). Sites holding clearly non-viable populations of any species (one pair, for example) should not be selected. To achieve this condition it has been agreed that the site should hold at least 5 pairs of qualifying passerine species and at least 2 pairs of qualifying non-passerine species.

C7 Other ornithological criteria

A site which has been designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA), or has been selected as a candidate SPA, based on ornithological criteria (similar to, but not equal to, C1-C6). Application of this criterion is confined to designated SPAs. The criterion is not applicable in the new EU member states.