LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – Birds are everywhere in Arkansas, and they range from the popular ruby-throated hummingbirds to the magnificent trumpeter swans.
But some are in danger. Others struggle with changing habitats. This is the basis for designating 29 locales in Arkansas as Important Bird Areas by Audubon Arkansas, as part of a national project.
Dan Schieman, PhD., is the bird conservation director for Audubon Arkansas. He issued a report on the Important Bird Areas (IBA) work that is ongoing in Arkansas. The project is funded by a State Wildlife Grant that was administered through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
He said, "The foundation of the IBA program is its emphasis on science-based identification, monitoring, and conservation of birds and the habitats they need to survive. Audubon chapters and volunteers constitute a true team of IBA citizen scientists and conservation stewards, studying species population trends, assessing breeding success, evaluating threats to bird populations, restoring and enhancing bird habitats, and keeping ever-watchful eyes on the places birds depend on."
He added, "These places can be national wildlife refuges, national parks and other public, protected lands, but they can also be private farms, ranches, or reserves, local parks and other important private lands."
The 29 Arkansas Important Bird Areas are:
Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery at Centerton, Flint Creek Power Plant near Gentry, Cherokee Prairie south of Ozark, Fort Chaffee, Pine-Bluestem Area near Waldron, Blackland Prairie west of Hope, Millwood Lake, Little River Bottoms southwest of Hope, Ozark National Forest, Mount Magazine, Lake Dardanelle, Holla Bend NWR, Bird Island On Lake Ouachita, Bell Slough WMA near Mayflower, Camp Robinson SUA east of Mayflower.
Magness Lake near Heber Springs, Bald Knob NWR, Big Lake near Manila, St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA near Trumann and Jonesboro, Bayou DeView Raptor Area southwest of Jonesboro, Wapanocca NWR near Marion, Pine City Natural Area near Clarendon, Stuttgart Municipal Airport, Cache-Lower White Rivers, Warren Prairie Natural Area, Shugart/Felsenthal between El Dorado and Crossett, Choctaw Island WMA near Arkansas City, Lake Chicot and Overflow NWR near Crossett.
Schieman said to qualify as an IBA, sites must satisfy at least one of the following criteria. The site must support: (1) threatened and endangered species); (2) species vulnerable because they are not widely distributed; (3) species that are vulnerable because their populations are concentrated in one general habitat type; (4) species or groups of similar species that are vulnerable because they occur at high densities due to their congregatory behavior.
Some of the individual bird species of concern in Arkansas are red-cockaded woodpecker, trumpeter swan, northern bobwhite, king rail, American woodcock, Swainson's warbler and rusty blackbird.
How can concerned persons and groups help with IBAs?
Schieman told of Bird Island. "When Audubon Arkansas brought a large purple martin roost on Lake Ouachita to the attention of nearby Mountain Pine High School students in 2008, the Environmental and Spatial Technology Lab students took on the challenge of estimating the roost size, nominating the site as an IBA, and creating an award-winning documentary. In collaboration with the school, Audubon Society chapters, AGFC, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Lake Ouachita State Park, Audubon has brought this natural phenomenon to the public's attention and made it a popular tourist attraction, while at the same time taking steps to protect the martins from disturbance."
For more information on the Arkansas IBA program, contact Schieman at 501-244-2229 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.