Lumber River

An Alligator at the Lumber River

An Alligator at the Lumber River

In 2004, Wake Audubon entered into an agreement with Audubon North Carolina to adopt one of the state’s recognized Important Bird Areas, or IBAs, at Lumber River. This effort has attracted some of Wake Audubon’s best birders – but everyone of all skill levels is welcome to participate. Our commitment to studying this site will continue for years to come, and we are excited to see what the data show as our volunteers hike, paddle and bushwhack deeper into the swampy lands surrounding the site. Keep reading for more information on this exciting project, and contact Erik Thomas or John Gerwin if you’d like to volunteer or know more.

What is an IBA?

An IBA, or Important Bird Area, is a tract of land that provides essential habitat for at least one species of bird. IBAs can be recognized as many kinds of land: sites for breeding, wintering grounds, or essential stopovers for migrating birds. Generally, IBAs have some unique landscape features that set them apart from surrounding landscapes, and they may be public lands or private property, protected or unprotected from development.

To be designated an IBA, a tract of land must meet several criteria. The site must support species that are of conservation concern, have restricted ranges, are vulnerable because of concentration in only one kind of habitat, or occur at high density (such as waterfowl at breeding or wintering grounds).

Protecting IBAs has become a global concern, and the worldwide conservation community is participating in a variety of programs to identify and protect IBAs. The National Audubon Society is one of several organizations active in IBA programs. Some 1,700 sites in 750 countries (90 in North Carolina) have been identified as Important Bird Areas, making this push for conservation truly a global effort.

These organizations are working in multifaceted directions to conserve IBAs, all coordinated by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative in North America. For IBAs located on public lands, conservation may be accomplished by open-space acquisition and/or by improvement of management practices already in place to protect birds and their habitats. Preserving private lands can be more challenging, and creative partnerships such as easements and landowner education result in win-win situations for both birds and landowners. (excerpted from Wingbeats, February 2006 article by Linda Rudd)

Learn more about IBAs by visiting Audubon North Carolina.

IBA Lumber River Inventory and Monitoring

Wake Audubon has initiated a plan to inventory and monitor our adopted Important Bird Area (IBA) along the Lumber River. Not only is monitoring done within the boundaries of the Lumber River State Park, but in places named Big Swamp, Gallberry Swamp, Ashpole Swamp, Indian Swamp, Warwich Mill Bay, and Coward Swamp. These can all be visited by Wake Audubon members to monitor bird populations. In fact, the IBA extends many miles away from the Lumber River and the State Park. Like the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), there are stops on roads contained within the IBA boundary that are sampled for birds using the point count method. However, Audubon North Carolina has created protocols somewhat different from those used for the BBS.

Join us for a citizen science weekend to monitor remote areas of the IBA when these are scheduled. These counts are conducted under the guidance of a chapter member leader. There are two main types of monitoring locations: driving routes and canoe routes. Accomplished canoeists can plan a camping trip at one of several canoe camping sites in Lumber River State Park and monitor locations along the way. There are campsites at the park as well, but Lumberton is not too far away and has hotels with reasonable rates.

The habitats of the Lumber River IBA are diverse. A mix of bottomland natural communities that have different plant species due to small changes in the level of the water table, soil, stages of succession (growth stage of vegetation after major disturbance), and forestry practices form a beautiful habitat mosaic. These diverse habitats support a diverse bird community including many species of wading birds, waterfowl, hawks, owls, warblers, sparrows, and many other birds. We need members to help document them!


Our Lumber River IBA counts have already demonstrated that large numbers of bottomland forest species, such as Prothonotary and Yellow-throated Warblers, Northern Parulas, Acadian Flycatchers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Great Blue and Green Herons, occur throughout the Lumber River IBA during the breeding season. Smaller numbers of other notable species, such as Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers, Yellow-throated Vireos, Barred Owls, and even a few Swainson’s Warblers and an occasional flock of Wood Storks, are also found there. Less is known at this point about wintering and migratory species, but the area appears to be important for such species as the Red-headed Woodpecker, Swamp Sparrow, and Rusty Blackbird.


Wake Audubon has developed a set of maps for the entire IBA. The overview map shows the map numbers for all eleven of the smaller scale maps. There are also specific GPS coordinates and descriptions of each monitoring location. Volunteer members can download these maps, coordinates, and descriptions to find the monitoring locations. Please keep in mind that some of the locations are adjacent to private land and we should respect all trespassing laws.

We are also lucky enough to be the “guinea pig chapter” for Audubon North Carolina, which is developing a new online tool. Chapter member leaders enter the data online into Audubon North Carolina’s database. This will be a chance for Wake Audubon members to make a real difference in prioritizing specific tracts for conservation within the Lumber River IBA.

Remember to take your birding calling card when you visit because Lumber River State Park is stop number five in the Bay Lakes Group on the North Carolina Birding Trail.

Lumber River State Park: We encourage you to explore and enjoy Lumber River State Park at any time of the year. For more information about the park, see the North Carolina State Parks website.

Lumber River Site Maps

Please note that some of the files are 2MB or more and may take time to download.