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Location Panama, Panamá
Central coordinates 79o 40.00' West  9o 1.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4iv
Area 16,850 ha
Altitude 10 - 236m
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Sociedad Audubon de Panamá

Site description This site includes the area of the former U.S.-administered Canal Zone west of the Panama Canal and south of Lake Gatún. Most of this area was formerly included in the U.S. military bases and training areas of Howard Air Force Base, Fort Kobbe, Rodman Naval Station, and the Empire and Balboa West Ranges. The terrain in most of the area is broken, with the highest point on Cerro Balboa (236 m) opposite the town of Gamboa. The area is divided by the Arraijan Highway between Panama City and its suburbs to the west, and the southern part is occupied by the airfield and housing of the former U.S. Howard Air Force Base. In the south it borders the urban areas of Arraijan, La Polvareda, and Veracruz, and in the north the town of Nuevo Emperador and rural areas devoted to cattle and subsistence agriculture.

Key Biodiversity The area is an important bottleneck site for migratory raptors. The maximum count in 2004 recorded 1,259,957 Turkey Vultures, 847,475 Broad-winged Hawks, and 847,475 Swainson’s Hawk. These species probably use the area as an overnight roosting site. The site is probably a bottleneck site for other species for which numerical data is lacking. Several nationally threatened species occur.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals recorded or probably occurring include Water Opossum, Central American Woolly Opossum, Silky Anteater, Geoffroy’s Tamarin, Western Night-Monkey, Panamanian Spiny Pocket-Mouse, Capybara, Olingo, Neotropical River Otter, Ocelot, Margay, Jaguarundi, and West Indian Manatee. The reptiles and amphibians have not been surveyed in detail but many of the species found in Barro Colorado Nature Monument and Soberanía National Park undoubtedly occur. American Crocodile is found in the area.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Olive-sided Flycatcher Contopus cooperi winter  2006  50-249 individuals  poor  A1  Near Threatened 
Golden-winged Warbler Vermivora chrysoptera winter  2006  2,500-9,999 individuals  poor  A1  Near Threatened 
Cerulean Warbler Dendroica cerulea winter  2006  50-249 individuals  poor  A1  Vulnerable 
A4iv Species group - soaring birds/cranes passage  2004-2005  2,500,000-4,999,999 individuals  good  A4iv   


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

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
water management major
urban/industrial/transport major

Protection status The land use plan adopted by Panama’s Interoceanic Regional Authority (ARI) designated part of the area as Protection Forest (5,100 ha, of which 4,800 ha is forested). The Balboa West Range and parts of the Empire Range formerly used for weapons testing are designated as "Deferred Use" (4,600 ha, 3,500 forested) due to the threat of unexploded ordnance. An additional 3,000 ha of forest is designated as Canal Operating Area and under the control of the Panama Canal Authority.

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.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Panama Canal West Bank. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

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