Member states should classify the most suitable territories in number and size as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for the conservation of these species, taking into account their protection requirements in the geographical sea and land area. Member states should also take similar measures for regularly occurring migratory species (not listed in Annex I), taking into account their protection requirements in the geographical sea and land area, as regards their breeding, moulting and wintering areas and staging posts along their migration routes. Member states should pay particular attention to the protection of wetlands and to wetlands of international importance. The Directive requires the member states to notify the European Commission within 24 months after adoption of the Directive of: (1) the SPAs which they have designated under Article 4; (2) the areas which they have designated or intend to designate as wetlands of international importance; (3) the areas other than wetlands already designated according to national legislation.
The Important Bird Area (IBA) initiative aims to promote the conservation of sites that are of major importance for the conservation of Europe's avifauna. The aim has been to identify sites of importance for four groups of birds: (1) regularly occurring migratory species which concentrate at and are dependent on particular sites either when breeding, on migration, or during the winter; (2) globally threatened species (that is, species at risk of total extinction); (3) species and subspecies threatened throughout all or large parts of their range in Europe but not globally; and (4) species that have relatively small total world ranges but with important populations in Europe.
An inventory of IBAs was published in 1989. The inventory of sites has five functions: (1) to guide national conservation strategies and protected-area programmes; (2) to inform decision-makers of the existence of these vital habitats and thereby to enable them to oppose land-use proposals which would be incompatible with their conservation; (3) to provide an indication of the sites that are currently threatened and/or inadequately protected in order to assist the lobbying activities of national and international conservation bodies; (4) to serve the conservation activities of international governmental organizations; and (5) to promote the implementation of global agreements. The inventory describes 2444 IBAs, country by country, and with information for each site on the site name, its coordinates, the surface area, the international protection status, the national protection status, a site description and its ornithological importance. A large proportion of the sites listed in the inventory are not just important because of their bird species, but have their own intrinsic value as ecosystems with a great variety of other animal and plant species.