Colored Sands Forest Preserve has achieved Important Bird Area (IBA) status for the State of Illinois. Colored Sands Forest Preserve is the first Important Bird Area designated in Winnebago County and one of 43 IBA’s in northern Illinois. Designated in January 2020, Colored Sands exemplifies the high quality habitat and bird diversity that Important Bird Areas protect. Important Bird Areas program is an international effort to identify, conserve, and monitor a network of sites that provide essential habitat for bird populations.

“The value of these 300 acres to nesting and migrating birds is immense,” says Stephanie Bielke, Conservation Science Manager at Audubon Great Lakes. “Colored Sands achieved IBA status due to the documented significant congregations of migratory land birds, including 32 warbler species and high counts of at least 33 migratory species.”

The rigorous IBA certification process was led by Sinnissippi Audubon in partnership with Forest Preserves of Winnebago County and Sand Bluff Bird Observatory (SBBO). Sinnissippi Audubon President, Jennifer Kuroda, says, “the IBA designation is a real ‘feather in our cap’ and a great examle of community partnership. Between the ecological quality of the preserve and the valuable scientific research conducted at the banding station, it is really a unique conservation model.”

​“This designation is an important part of Forest Preserves of Winnebago County’s commitment to conserving and promoting our natural areas,” says Mike Eickman, Forest Preserves of Winnebago County commissioner and SBBO master bird bander. “This designation is good for the birds and the citizens of Winnebago County.”

303.9-acre Colored Sands Forest Preserve on the Sugar River is known for its birds – and the bird banding at Sand Bluff Bird Observatory, its unique geology, and wonderful wildflowers. It offers outstanding panoramic views of the pristine Sugar River.
​Coordinated by BirdLife International, the Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program is a global initiative which aims at identifying and conserving the most important places for bird populations. The foundation of the Important Bird Areas Program is its emphasis on science-based identification, assessment, and conservation of birds and the habitats they need to survive. It relies on local stewardship and at the core focuses on engaging individuals, private landowners, local communities, businesses, partner organizations, and government agencies in site conservation. As the United States partner of BirdLife International, the National Audubon Society administers the Important Bird Areas Program in the U.S., in coordination with local entities. Since launching this proactive effort in 1995, more than 2,800 Important Bird Areas have been identified that encompass close to 400 million acres.