The Important Bird Area (IBA) program began in Europe around 1985. The United States and Canada entered into the program in 1996. Since then, over 2,000 areas have been identified in both countries with 127 of them located in New York State as of 2002. the goal of the IBA program is to identify and conserve a global network of sites that are important to birds for feeding, nesting, and migration.
What makes the Niagara River so important? The Niagara River corridor was designated as an IBA in December of 1996. Canada and the United States participated in the designation, making the 32-mile Niagara River the first binational IBA. The designation of this globally significant IBA was based on the river's importance to the North American bird population. The river provides resting and feeding areas along a major bird migration flyway. Birds that choose to spend the winter in Western New York can seek protection within the river corridor when fierce winter storms hit the Great Lakes.
Why focus on birds? Bird watching is becoming a popular pastime. The attraction to important bird areas will grow as more people look to these areas for recreation, education, and enjoyment. More importantly, the changes in the bird population can serve as a measuring tool in determining the health of the surrounding ecosystem. For this reason, monitoring of the Niagara River corridor has become important in the eyes of scientists and bird enthusiasts. Protection of this valuable habitat lies in the continued cooperation between government agencies, private interest groups, and the public.
Did you know? The Peregrine Falcon preys upon other birds, and the gorge is favorable to its remarkable hunting style. This predator dives on other birds in mid flight, knocking them out of the air at speeds of over 220 miles per hour.
Bonaparte's Gull. Tens of thousands of Bonaparte's Gulls descend upon the lower Niagara River annually during migration. Their journey takes them from Alaska and Northern Canada all the way to the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico. Exclusive to North America, local bird counts show that 60% of this small gull's population uses the Niagara River corridor.
Bald Eagle. Bald Eagles have been seen soaring in the gorge. Navy Island, located a few miles upstream from Niagara Falls is a popular late-winter stopping point during their migration.
Songbirds, Waterfowl, Gulls.
Songbirds value the habitat along the river's edge, but the river is most known for its waterfowl. twenty-five species of waterfowl and nineteen species of gulls utilize the river with yearly numbers reaching in the hundreds of thousands. The churning water of the river rapids provide these birds with an abundance of fish that have been stunned by the powerful current. Furthermore, the forested rock walls provide nesting places for many birds including the endangered Peregrine Falcon.