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Location Panama, Colón,Panamá
Central coordinates 79o 51.00' West  9o 9.00' North
IBA criteria A4iv
Area 5,400 ha
Altitude 30 - 171m
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Sociedad Audubon de Panamá

Site description Barro Colorado (1,500 ha), the largest island in Lake Gatún, was isolated when the Chagres River was dammed to form the central part of the Panama Canal in 1914. The Nature Monument includes the island and five adjacent mainland peninsulas, Bohio, Buenavista and Frijoles to the east, Gigante to the south, and Peña Blanca to the west, as well as several smaller islands. The Bohio and Buenavista peninsulas are contiguous with Soberania National Park. The area contains semideciduous lowland forest, with old growth forest at least 500 years old on the southern and western parts of Barro Colorado and younger forest 70-120 years old on the rest of the island and on the peninsulas. There is a large scientific research station on the island and a smaller substation on the Gigante peninsula, as well as an extensive trail system. The mainland area to the south and west of the monument is inhabited by farmers and devoted to cattle and subsistence agriculture.

Key Biodiversity More than 20,000 soaring raptors have been counted on migration in 2004, including Turkey vulture (19,068), Broad-winged Hawk (14,860), and Swainson's Hawk (2,756). More probably occur, since the observation point did not cover the entire reserve. The globally near-threatened Great Curassow has been recorded but is very rare. Because the island is protected from hunting, it has the densest population of the nationally threatened Crested Guan in the Canal Area. Sulphur-rumped Tanager, an endemic of the Central American Caribbean Lowlands and Darien Lowlands EBAs, also occurs. Since its isolation between 50-90 of the bird species originally found on the island have become extinct there (Willis 1974, Robinson 1999). Some of these local extinctions were due to loss of species typical of second growth as younger forest matured, but at least 70 appear to have been due to isolation alone (Robinson 1999). Barro Colorado is one of the best-documented examples of loss of species in isolated forest fragments over time.

Non-bird biodiversity: The area has been identified as a Key Biodiversity Area (Angehr 2007) due to the occurrence of several threatened plants, as well as American Crocodile, Baird's Tapir, Central American Woolly Opossum, and West Indian Manatee.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
A4iv Species group - soaring birds/cranes passage  2004  20,000-49,999 individuals  good  A4iv   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Barro Colorado Natural Monument 8,191 is identical to site 5,400  
Metropolitano Natural Monument 251 protected area contained by site 265  
Soberania National Park 19,544 protected area is adjacent to site 0  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Tropical semi-deciduous  major
Artificial - terrestrial Other urban & industrial areas  minor

Land ownership The area is national land, managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 100%

Protection status Barro Colorado is one of the oldest protected areas in the tropics, having been set aside as a scientific reserve by the U.S.-administered Canal Zone government in 1923. With the ratification of the Carter-Torrijos Treaties in 1979, it became a Nature Monument under the Western Hemisphere Convention of 1940, under the custodianship of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). The Nature Monument is patrolled by STRI game wardens and Panamanian ecological police.

Access/Land-Owner requests Access is controlled by STRI. Research may be carried out with STRI permission. Barro Colorado itself may be visited on STRI-operated tours, and the nature monument is also visited by commercial tour operators.

References Angehr (2003)

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Barro Colorado Nature Monument. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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