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New interactive map of Pacific Flyway marine Important Bird Areas

December 11th, 2013 · by Garrison Frost

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Seabirds are some of the world’s most fascinating wildlife species. In an effort to raise awareness about the plight of these birds and the habitats they depend on, Audubon has released a new interactive map that allows users to explore some of the most important places for these birds. The map extends from the icy Beaufort Sea along Alaska’s north coast to the tropical seas of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

The interactive map specifically identifies newly designated globally significant marine Important Bird Areas. Started by BirdLife International, the Important Bird Area program identifies places essential to nesting, migrating, or wintering birds. Global status means an Important Bird Area affects a significant portion of the world population of a species.

“The information on this new map is essential to both researchers and policy makers – as well as to bird enthusiasts who just want to learn more about these terrific birds,” said Michael Sutton, Audubon’s vice president of the Pacific Flyway.

Just off the Pacific Coast of North America fly some of the world’s most fascinating birds: the elegant Laysan Albatross, the elusive Ashy Storm-Petrel, the adventurous Arctic Tern, the hardy Spectacled Eider, and many others. This stunning diversity of species is drawn to our waters because of the extensive habitat available for feeding, resting, and breeding.

Easy to use and packed with photos and fun facts about seabirds, the map allows people to browse the newest marine IBAs to learn more about where seabirds nest and feed. For those that want a more in-depth view, or that need information about certain species or places, the map has deeper layers with species profiles for the key bird species, the habitat descriptions, as well as detail about the conservation issues being faced. Some threats to seabirds include ocean pollution, human overfishing of critical food fish, and human-caused disturbance to breeding and roosting sites.

The map includes:

  • 216 new and potential marine IBAs
  • More than 33 million seabirds
  • 150 species occur in this study area
  • Amazing diversity of habitats: tropical waters, rocky islands, vast open ocean, the icy seas of the Arctic

Many questions faced Audubon scientists at the beginning of the project. How do you draw a boundary on the ocean? Seabirds nest in dense colonies on cliffs and rocky islands, but how far away from land is important to the birds? What about places in the middle of the ocean with no landmarks but good feeding areas for birds? Using vast amounts of data from the US Geological Survey’s North Pacific Pelagic Seabird Database and the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s North Pacific Seabird Colony Database, plus a strong dose of ingenuity, our staff figured out how to answer those questions and make a map that is not just a useful tool for conservation, but also a fascinating exploration of the little-seen world of these amazing birds.

Categories: Audubon Alaska · Audubon California · Bird conservation · Bird Habitat · National Audubon Society · Pacific Flyway · seabirds

One Comment so far ↓

  • Doug Cave

    Hello from Audubon Rockies! What a great thing you’ve built. Thank you!

    Doug Cave
    Office Manager
    Rocky Mountain Regional Office