Chapter of the Month

Chapter of the month: Wake Audubon- Important Bird Areas of Wake County

Audubon North Carolina has 10 amazing chapters across the state who help put a local focus on bird preservation and conservation issues. In this special blog series, we’ll focus on a chapter each month to learn more about their history, what they are working on, and to increase the statewide understanding of special ecosystems and habitats. Each month will include a series of posts about each chapter including a post from our biologists that will share a unique research project that is happening in the chapter’s geographic footprint. 

This month, we get to know Wake Audubon – Read on to learn more about our chapter based in Raleigh.

Audubon North Carolina’s Important Bird Area (IBA) Program is a global effort to identify and conserve areas that are vital to bird populations and to biodiversity. IBAs can be classified as sites for breeding, wintering grounds or stopovers for migrating birds. By working with local chapters, landowners, public agencies, community groups and other non-profits, Audubon NC aims to activate a broad network of supporters to ensure that all IBAs are properly managed and conserved.

Almost 100 sites across the state have been identified as IBAs; four are managed and supported by the Wake County Audubon chapter.

Lumber River IBA

Wake Audubon entered into an agreement with Audubon North Carolina in 2004 to adopt the Lumber River IBA (LRIBA), which comprises a mix of bottomland natural communities. The cypress tupelo-gum swamps and bottomland hardwood forests of Lumber River are extensive, and due to its denseness, historically very little information on resident bird species has been available.

As a result, with the support of Audubon NC, Wake Audubon initiated a plan to inventory the vast and numerous unidentified bird species within the LRIBA. Monitoring is conducted within the boundaries of the Lumber River State Park, as well as Big Swamp, Gallberry Swamp, Ashpole Swamp, Indian Swamp and Coward Swamp. This ongoing effort has attracted birders of all skill levels to contribute their time and expertise to hike, kayak and bushwhack deep into the swamps in search of birds to record! Overall, volunteers have detected more than 1,200 individual birds from roadside data, and more than 75 species of breeding birds.

The LRIBA supports a diverse bird community. The most frequently encountered birds are Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Prothonotary Warbler, Common Grackle, Northern Parula, Northern Cardinal and Carolina Wren. Volunteers have also spotted Anhinga, Wood Stork, Blue Heron, Green Heron, Great Egret, White Ibis and Mississippi Kite in the area.

Wake Audubon is committed to studying the site for years to come.

The Upper Neuse River Bottomlands IBA

The Upper Neuse River Bottomlands IBA covers over 43,550 acres of fertile land along the Neuse River between Goldsboro and Smithfield. The soil provides ideal growing conditions for the IBA’s bottomland hardwood forest, pine-filled swamplands and agriculture lands. The area is home to a significant assortment of land-birds, with a recent account naming 173 distinct species. It is also one of North Carolina’s chief sites for the Mississippi Kite.

Mississippi Kite

A hallmark of the Upper Neuse River Bottomlands IBA, The Rudolph Howell & Son Environmental Learning Center aims to provide fun and educational experiences that encourage environmental stewardship. The complex implements long-term bird banding programs, the results of which are entered into Audubon’s eBird database. It also conducts bird identification workshops and works to protect, manage and restore habitats for birds, including the Northern Bobwhite, Eastern Meadowlark and Grasshopper Sparrow.

In 2007, the Neuse River was named one of the ten most endangered rivers in the United States, with the most notable environmental threats being waste from nearby hog farms and coal ash. Despite the protection from development and timber harvesting offered through the IBA program, the precarious health of the river continues to directly threaten the well being of area bird populations.

Falls Lake IBA

Spread across swaths of Wake, Granville and Durham counties, Falls Lake is a reservoir impounded by a dam constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lake is surrounded by bottomland hardwood and coniferous forests that support a significant array of species. At least two pairs of Bald Eagles are known to nest on the lake’s shores, and as many as 40 individuals are present throughout the year. Additional bird species that make a home in this IBA include the Eastern Whip-poor-will, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Cliff Swallow, Wood Thrush, Northern Parula, Prairie Warbler and Hooded Warbler.

Bald Eagle

Falls Lake is a hotspot for recreation and tourism, water supply and hunting. Not surprisingly, heavy human traffic and residential and commercial development are a constant threat to the surrounding bird habitats. Development results in fragmentation of habitats, interruption of natural corridors for wildlife movement, pressure from domestic animals, and increased sedimentation and runoff that can destroy the water and food sources of local wildlife. In 2008 Falls Lake was officially declared “impaired” (i.e. polluted) by the State of North Carolina’s Division of Water Quality as a result of polluted storm water runoff and wastewater discharged upstream.

On January 15, 2011 cleanup rules went into effect, and work began to protect and restore Falls Lake, as required by the Clean Water Act.

Jordan Lake IBA

Jordan Lake IBA encompasses bottomland hardwood forest, pine forest, deciduous forest, mixed forest and open water. The lake and surrounding forests support a great diversity of birds, but none is more prominent than the Bald Eagle. Up to four eagle nests have been documented in a single breeding season, and as many as 71 eagles have been recorded on the lake.  Additionally, Jordan Lake is one of only two nesting sites for Double-crested Cormorants known in North Carolina. Wood Duck, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Red-headed Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Cliff Swallow and Wood Thrush are also known to make their home in this IBA.

Jordan Lake is located in one of the fastest growing areas of North Carolina. The lake provides recreation for residents of the state’s largest cities and areas including Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Research Triangle Park.  Jordan Lake IBA preserves thousands of acres of natural lands in the midst of this expanding urban area.

Double-crested Cormorant

Like Falls Lake, the birds in this area are susceptible to the negative effects of residential and commercial development, and tourists/human intrusion on their movements and migrations, homes and food sources. Of particular concern is the disturbance of Bald Eagles during their nesting season.


Do you know of an area in North Carolina that deserves “Important Bird Area” status? Let us know! The IBA Program is always open to tips on identifying sites essential to the health of NC bird communities. Once identified, we would also love your support in monitoring bird counts within IBAs. Bird watchers of ALL levels are encouraged to participate. For more information on how you can help safeguard North Carolina bird populations for generations to come, please visit:

Audubon North Carolina oversees statewide conservation projects year-round in order to ensure the safety and survival of birds and wildlife. To donate to the IBA program and more efforts protecting birds across North Carolina, click here.


How you can help, right now