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Location Panama, Bocas del Toro
Central coordinates 82o 8.00' West  9o 18.00' North
IBA criteria A1
Area 22,500 ha
Altitude 0 - 118m
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Sociedad Audubon de Panamá

Site description This site includes the major islands of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Islas Colón, Bastimentos, Cristóbal, Popa, Solarte, and Cayo Agua. Colón (6,300 ha) is the largest and most populated island of archipelago, and the location of the provincial capital, Bocas del Toro town (population 2,500). Bastimentos (5,100 ha), to the east of Colón, has the towns of Old Bank and Salt Creek on its western and eastern sides respectively. Solarte (625 ha), also called Nancy Cay or Cayo Nancy, is just to the southwest of Bastimentos. Cristóbal (3,700 ha) and Popa (5,375) are closest to the mainland. Cayo Agua (1,400), at the eastern end of the archipelago, is farthest from the mainland. These latter three islands are relatively less populated than Colón and Bastimentos. Agricultural areas on the island are devoted largely to cattle raising.

Key Biodiversity Three-wattled Bellbirds occur regularly on all the islands of the archipelago (W. Martínez pers. com.) on seasonal migration from breeding areas in the highlands, and have been recorded breeding on Colón (J. Roper pers. comm.). Nicaraguan Seed-Finch has been recorded on Colón, one of two Panama localities. A relict population of Stub-tailed Spadebill is found on the main islands of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, the next-closest population of which is in northwest Costa Rica (Olsen 1993). The distinctive manakin populations on the islands, although resembling Golden-collared Manakin, share some genetic characteristics with the White-collared Manakin (M. Braun, in litt.). Some other forms on the islands may represent endemic subspecies, but further study is needed (S. Olson, in litt.). The archipelago as a whole is of exceptional scientific interest with regard to island biogeography and genetic differentiation in isolated habitats.

Non-bird biodiversity: Western Night Monkeys occur on Colón and Bastimentos, but are otherwise not found in the Bocas del Toro lowlands. Richmond's Squirrel occurs only on Colón Island in Panama and in Honduras. Colón, Bastimentos, Cayo Agua, and Solarte Nancy have an endemic dwarf form of Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth, and Colón, Bastimentos, and Solarte share an endemic undescribed species of Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus). Undescribed species of Agouti (Dasyprocta) and Climbing Rat (Tylomys) also occur. Other endangered mammals include Central American Wooly Opossum and Silky Anteater (Carrión de Samudio 1992, Handley 1993, Valdespino and Santamaría 1997). The poison-dart frog Dendrobates pumilio shows interesting geographic variation in the archipelago, with different color morphs on each island. The salamander Bolitoglossa biseriata also occurs. Because of its closeness to the mainland, Popa probably has the most diverse vertebrate fauna of the archipelago.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala breeding  2006  20 individuals  poor  A1  Near Threatened 
Three-wattled Bellbird Procnias tricarunculatus unknown  2006  50-249 individuals  poor  A1  Vulnerable 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Isla Bastimentos Marine National Park 13,070 protected area overlaps with site 1,640  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   major
Forest Mangrove  major
Coastline   major

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
hunting -
agriculture major
nature conservation and research major
rangeland/pastureland major
tourism/recreation major
urban/industrial/transport minor

Protection status Bastimentos Marine National Park (13,226 ha total, of which 1,640 ha is land) protects the central part of Bastimentos Island. Bluff Beach, a sea turtle nesting beach on Colón, is a municipal reserve.

References Angehr, George R. 2003. Directorio de areas importantes para aves en Panama. Directory of important bird areas in Panama. Panama: Sociedad Audubon de Panama. Carrión de Samudio, Julieta. 1992. Local People, Wildlife use, and a National Park in Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Panama. MS thesis, University of Florida, Gainesville. Cooper, Daniel S. 1999. Notes on the birds of Isla Popa, western Bocas del Toro, Panama. Cotinga 11: 22–26. Handley, Charles O., Jr. 1993. Conservación de la flora y fauna en las islas de Bocas del Toro. In: Heckadon-Moreno, Stanley (ed.), Agenda Ecológica y Social para Bocas del Toro pp 43-48. Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales, Panamá Ciudad, Panamá. Ridgely, Robert S., and John A. Gwynne. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Panama (Second Edition). Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. Valdespino, Iván A. & Dilia Santamaría (eds). 1997. Evaluación Ecológica Rápida del Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos y Áreas de Influencia, Isla Solarte, Swan Cay, Mimitimbi (Isla Colón) y el Humedal San San-Pond Sak, Provincia de Bocas del Toro. Tomo 1: Recursos Terrestres. ANCON, Panamá. Wetmore, Alexander. 1965. The Birds of the Republic of Panama. Part 1. Tinamidae (Tinamous) to Rhynchopidae (Skimmers). Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. Wetmore, Alexander. 1968. The Birds of the Republic of Panama. Part 2. Columbidae (Pigeons) to Picidae (Woodpeckers). Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. Wetmore, Alexander. 1973. The Birds of the Republic of Panama. Part 3. Passeriformes: Dendrocolaptidae (Woodcreepers) to Oxyruncidae (Sharpbill). Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. Wetmore, Alexander, Roger F. Pasquier, and Storrs L. Olson. 1984. The Birds of the Republic of Panama. Part 4. Passeriformes: Hirundinidae (Swallows) to Fringillidae (Finches). Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Bocas del Toro Archipelago. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016

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