Locals protecting birds

Colton Davies

A first-of-its-kind bird count in the Okanagan took place on Thursday in the White Lake Basin, near Penticton, meant to bring awareness to endangered species.

The area is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, and about 15 IBA caretaker volunteers surveyed the area with binoculars and notebooks, jotting down all the bird species they encountered.

The White Lake IBA is one of five in the South Okanagan.

There are more than 10,000 designated IBAs in more than 200 countries worldwide, which includes nearly 600 in Canada and close to 90 in B.C.

"The idea is to designate areas that are particularly important to the survival of a threatened and endangered species," Eva Durance said, one IBA caretaker who took part in the count.

"There's no legislation behind it, it's what we call soft conservation... It really is an education designation to make people aware of how important these areas are for the survival of these birds."

Durance said volunteers counted more than 100 different endangered bird species in the White Lake IBA, noting they trekked through about 50 per cent of the area. The results will be compiled on international bird database.

She said the South Okanagan has the highest number of endangered birds in Canada.

"Loss of habitat is the main reason. The valley's narrow, the grasslands are very small... Most of it has been converted to human use.

"The more people know about this, the more they're concerned about what's happening to our wildlife. Birds are kind of an indicator species... If you protect them, you're probably protecting others as well."

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