The American Bird Conservancy Guide to the 500 Most Important Bird Areas in the United States has recognized the floodplains and wetlands of The Nature Conservancy's Roanoke River Preserve as one of the country's premier bird habitats. The book, published in November 2003, identifies, for the first time, the most significant sites for birds and bird conservation in the country.
The Conservancy's Roanoke River Preserve appears alongside an array of federal, state, local, and privately-owned lands, including parks, refuges, management areas, forests, lakes, and seashores.
The Nature Conservancy has been working to protect the Roanoke River for 25 years. The area's diverse habitats, from blackwater rivers to wildflower-covered slopes, support a storied abundance of wildlife. The river's 14 waterfowl species, such as the black duck and hooded merganser, are joined in the spring by more than 40 migratory songbird species fresh up from their South American wintering grounds. Indeed, the Roanoke is a veritable songbird factory, with breeding populations of cerulean warbler, scarlet tanager and yellow-throated vireo, among others. There are seven active heron rookeries along the river as well. In all, the Roanoke River supports an astounding 214 bird species.
"Birds are very sensitive to environmental degradation and landscape fragmentation. And they are very mobile," says Sam Pearsall, the Conservancy's Roanoke River project director. "If they don't like a place, they can just fly away. The fact that there is such an abundance of bird life on the Roanoke is an indicator of the excellent environmental health of the floodplain."
Based on more than six years of research by American Bird Conservancy science staff, the American Bird Conservancy Guide was developed with input from hundreds of biologists and wildlife managers across the country. Unlike a field guide that focuses on bird species, it concentrates on places essential to rare, declining, or migrating birds. Entries include visitor information, a detailed description of specific habitats, species, conservation issues found, and the reason the site was chosen to be an Important Bird Area. Published by Random House, the guide contains detailed site accounts, maps and birding information for globally Important Bird Areas (IBAs).
The Roanoke River is one of eight landscapes featured in the North Carolina Chapter's Forever Wild, an unprecedented campaign to raise $25 million to protect North Carolina's wild places.