More than 12,000 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas have been identified on land and at sea

Parque Nacional San Rafael, the first IBA to be declared in Paraguay, has been identified on the basis of more than 70 ‘trigger’ species, including 25 that are globally threatened or near-threatened. © BirdLife

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) have been identified in nearly 200 countries and territories, using a set of standardised, objective criteria, designed to select sites of global significance. In some regions, IBAs have also been selected at the regional and sub-regional levels.

Location of IBAs of global significance
The process of identification actively continues in some parts of the world. BirdLife International (2013)

A set of objective, standardised criteria has been developed for selecting Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) of global significance, based on the presence of species of world-wide conservation concern (Fishpool et al. 1998). A site may qualify as an IBA if it meets one or more of the following criteria:

1. Species of global conservation concern. The site is known or thought to hold, on a regular basis, significant numbers of a globally threatened bird species, or other bird species of global conservation concern.

2. Assemblage of restricted-range species. The site is known or thought to hold a significant component of the restricted-range bird species whose breeding distributions define an Endemic Bird Area (EBA).

3. Assemblage of biome-restricted species. The site is known or thought to hold a significant component of the group of bird species whose breeding distributions are largely or wholly confined to one biome.

4. Congregations. The site is known or thought to hold, on a regular basis, more than threshold numbers of a congregatory waterbird, seabird or terrestrial bird species, or to exceed thresholds set for migratory species at bottleneck sites.

These criteria are being applied globally and the process of site identification and, as shown on the map, is largely complete in Europe (Grimmett and Jones 1989, Heath and Evans 2000), the Middle East (Evans 1994), Africa (Fishpool and Evans 2001), Asia (BirdLife International 2004), Caribbean (BirdLife International 2008), the Americas (BirdLife International and Conservation International 2005, Devenish et al. 2009), Australia (Dutson et al. 2009) and Central Asia and Oceania (BirdLife International 2013). Identification work continues in parts of North America, Antarctica and in the marine realm, for which a first inventory has been published on-line (BirdLife International 2012).

Cumulative numbers of national IBA publications 1987–2007
BirdLife International (2008)

The IBA criteria have, over the last 30 years, proved to be extremely effective at identifying sites of international conservation importance. To date, 9,544 IBAs of global significance have been identified in 218 countries and territories using these criteria (analysis of data held in BirdLife's World Bird Database). Similar criteria for identifying IBAs at regional and sub-regional levels have also been developed and applied in some parts of the world, with an additional 2,495 sites located so far, making more than 12,000 IBAs in total (BirdLife International 2013). For clarity, only globally significant sites are shown on the map.

Related Case Studies in other sections



BirdLife International (2004) Important Bird Areas in Asia. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.
BirdLife International (2012) Global inventory of marine Important Bird Areas. Version 1. Available from
BirdLife International (2013) BirdLife International World Bird Database, accessed 18 April 2013.
BirdLife International and Conservation International (2005) Áreas Importantes para la Conservación de las Aves en los Andes Tropicales: sitios prioritarios para la conservación de la biodiversidad. Quito: BirdLife International.
Devenish, C., Fernández, D. F. D., Clay, R. P., Davidson, I. J. and Zabala, I. Y. (2009) Important Bird Areas Americas: priority sites for biodiversity conservation. Quito: BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series 16).
Dutson, G., Garnett, S. and Gole, C. (2009) Australia’s Important Bird Areas. Key sites for conservation. Birds Australia (RAOU) Conservation Statement No. 15.
Evans, M. I. ed. (1994) Important Bird Areas in the Middle East. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.Fishpool, L. D. C. and Evans, M. I. eds (2001) Important Bird Areas in Africa and associated islands: priority sites for conservation. Newbury and Cambridge, UK: Pisces Publications and BirdLife International.
Fishpool, L. D. C., Heath, M. F., Waliczky, Z., Wege, D. C. and Crosby, M. J. (1998) Important Bird Areas criteria for selecting sites of global conservation significance. In: N. J., Adams and R. H., Slotow, eds Proc. 22 Int. Ornith. Cong., Durban. Ostrich 69: 428.
Grimmett, R. F. A. and Jones, T. A. (1989) Important Bird Areas in Europe. Cambridge, UK: International Council for Bird Preservation.
Heath, M. F. and Evans, M. I. eds (2000) Important Bird Areas in Europe: priority sites for conservation. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.

Compiled: 2004    Last updated: 2013   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2013) More than 12,000 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas have been identified on land and at sea. Downloaded from on 01/12/2023