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Protecting Important Bird Areas

Where the wild things nest? Pennsylvania.

The world’s bird population faces a number of survival threats, the most devastating of which is loss of habitat. Through the efforts of Brandywine Conservancy and other private organizations and public agencies, Pennsylvania is making an important contribution to the conservation of bird habitat in the western hemisphere. 

Where once there were plentiful breeding, feeding and roosting sites, there are now highways and buildings and shopping centers and parking lots. And this is happening on a global scale. In the midst of this destructive encroachment, there are pockets of hope. Through careful stewardship of our preserves and continued conservation successes, we at Brandywine Conservancy are contributing to global bird habitat conservation, right here in Pennsylvania.

Hooded Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow

Our two preserves, the Laurels and Waterloo Mills, are located within regions designated by Audubon Pennsylvania as Important Bird Areas (IBAs). IBA sites are determined by scientific advisors to be the most critical regions in the Commonwealth for conserving bird diversity and abundance. More than 80 IBA sites encompass over two million acres of Pennsylvania’s public and private land. Pennsylvania’s woodlands are especially critical to many interior forest birds, providing nesting habitat to 17 percent of the world’s scarlet tanagers and 9 percent of the world’s wood thrushes.

Birds thrive in our preserves

Our Laurels Preserve is part of a 9,100-acre IBA, which includes the King Ranch and Stroud IBAs. With 87 percent of the IBA designated as protected land, this is the largest contiguous block of protected bird habitat in the greater Philadelphia region. During the nesting season, it is not uncommon to find grassland birds including Bobolink, Eastern meadowlark, grasshopper and savannah sparrow, horned lark, and American kestrel thriving here. Thanks to the intensive land protection efforts of the Conservancy and others, these species are happy, healthy, and most important, breeding in the Laurels, King Ranch and Stroud areas. Sadly, this is not the case in most areas of Philadelphia’s suburban counties, where these birds are becoming exceedingly rare.


Our Waterloo Mills Preserve is located within the Upper Ridley/Crum IBA, which includes Ridley Creek State Park and Tyler Arboretum. Here, in the heart of the Philadelphia suburbs, is a vital stopover site for many species of neotropical migrant songbirds — you know them as birds that fly south to warmer climates in winter— as well as a nesting habitat for a variety of woodland species, including Kentucky warbler, hooded warbler and wood thrush.

We are proud and grateful that the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology (PSO) recognized the importance of our ongoing efforts with its 2015 Conservation Award.

“The Conservancy’s preservation work and cooperation with local municipalities to set aside sensitive natural areas, like excellent grassland habitat that supports a variety of birds that are not widespread in the region, certainly has provided critical habitat for birds and other wildlife. These important habitats would have been lost without the Conservancy’s work and dedication.”

Michael Fialkovich, Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology Vice President.