The Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas (BBA) collected data on where birds were breeding throughout the state in the 1980s and again in the 2000s. These surveys confirmed what birdwatchers have known for a long time – that the Kittatinny Ridge was a valuable place for numerous species that depend on larger, undisturbed forest areas for nesting success. The way these two surveys were conducted, however, left the more remote areas of the Ridge undocumented, since the Atlas birders traveled only on roads to cover the greatest area. Birds that nest away from roads tend to be under-counted using this methodology, and a concerted effort is needed to walk trails or “bushwhack” through inaccessible areas to completely cover an area like the Ridge during the prime breeding season (late May through early July).
In 2013, Dr. Andrew Wilson of Gettysburg College led a small team into the field to hike trails throughout the Ridge to fill in gaps about the knowledge of the more remote forest-nesting species. The results can be found in the paper: A Survey Of Cerulean Warblers and Other Priority Birds Along the Kittatinny Ridge IBA, Pennsylvania. One bird of particular interest is the Cerulean Warbler, which is a species on the federal “watch list” due to its steep population declines in recent decades. Dozens of Cerulean Warbler males were found all along the Ridge exhibiting breeding behavior, which qualified the Ridge to be nominated for “Global IBA” status, according to Global IBA nomination criteria #2 – see box below for details.
In addition to the Cerulean Warbler, the Ridge also has been documented as providing important migratory habitat for the federally-endangered American Bald Eagle, with more than 500 documented passing by the Waggoner’s Gap Hawkwatch in the fall of 2014, meeting Global IBA designation criteria #1. Finally, the Ridge is also a significant corridor for migration by many species of raptors, meeting the Global IBA nomination criteria #4.
In early 2015, Audubon Pennsylvania was notified that the national Global IBA review committee had met to review our nomination, and it was formally approved to add the Kittatinny Ridge to the world-wide list of Global Important Bird Areas.