The Gulf of Mexico boasts an amazing diversity of birds. In southeastern Louisiana, Breton National Wildlife Refuge alone sustains tens of thousands of birds, including thousands of nesting pairs of brown pelicans, royal terns, and sandwich terns. Located on the Chandeleur Islands, Breton is just one of 65 Important Bird Areas in the Gulf—and the first hit by oil washing ashore from the Gulf oil spill.
Audubon and BirdLife International have designated the marshes, mangroves, beaches, and other habitats that are vital to birds as IBAs to help ensure that they’ll be managed and conserved for the avian species that live, nest, feed, and rest there. With the disaster, these spots may be more critical than ever.
“The IBAs will help us direct the resources we have to the places that are most important,” says John Cecil, director of Audubon’s IBA program. “We can look at the data and see where rare species are consistently occurring, and where, for instance, waterbirds occur in great abundance.” That knowledge will go a long way toward protecting birds and directing recovery efforts after the spill is stopped.
From Audubon's July-August issue.