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The Power of IBA Designation, With Pete Pumphrey

Vital habitats for birds worldwide

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are vital habitats for birds around the world. Pete Pumphrey of Eastern Sierra Audubon describes the power of this designation for Owens Lake in Eastern California – and birds like these Least Sandpipers. “When we did our bird count in April . . . about 800 Least Sandpipers came in . . . they were exhausted . . . they obviously had gone as far as they could go. To me, this isn’t just a nice place . . . it’s absolutely vital to these birds and their populations.”

Full Transcript



The Power of an IBA

Featuring Pete Pumphrey, President of Eastern Sierra Audubon

Interview by Todd Peterson

This is BirdNote.

[Sounds of shorebirds and waterfowl – featuring Eared Grebes]

You may have heard us speak on BirdNote about “Important Bird Areas.” We’re describing especially productive habitat. In the United States, IBAs are designated by American Bird Conservancy and by National Audubon. 

Pete Pumphrey, president of Eastern Sierra Audubon, describes the power of such a designation for the management of Owens Lake in Eastern California.

“[It provides legitimacy to the notion that this is an important place because obviously there are criteria and standards that have to be met in order to achieve that designation. It is testimony to the fact that these conditions and circumstances are rare and they’re of high value and significance.]”

[Bring up wind]

“When we did our bird count in April, it was a really blustery day. There were high winds blowing from the north…really made it difficult for bird flight in a northerly direction. We were out there and a flight of about 800 Least Sandpipers came in. They hit on an exposed part of a sandbar, and they were just exhausted. They literally lay prostrate on the ground: their wings were off to their sides, and they were just obviously, obviously had gone as far as they could go. So to me, it just said, ‘This place isn’t just a nice place and it isn’t just a good idea, it’s absolutely vital to these birds and their populations.” 

[Calls of a flock of Least Sandpipers]

Ensuring adequate habitat for birds at Owens Lake is wedded to the issue of providing water for the City of Los Angeles. As competing needs get hashed out, the IBA designation gives birds standing in the negotiation, a place at the table.

[Continue calls of Least Sandpipers]

To find the Important Bird Area nearest you, begin at 


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Flock of Eared Grebes [133198] recorded by G.F. Budney; flock of Least Sandpiper [102293] by C. Duncan; call of individual Least Sandpipers [3107] by C.A. Sutherland.

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2013 Tune In to   September 2013   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#  iba-05-2013-09-03 iba-05     Marantz V Tracks 224 and 230

Sights & Sounds