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Location Panama, Panamá
Central coordinates 79o 11.00' West  8o 59.00' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 48,919 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2006

Sociedad Audubon de Panamá

Site description The Upper Bay of Panama includes very extensive tidal mudflats (11,000 ha) up to 3 km wide, from Costa del Este just east of Panama City to the Ensenada de Corral at the mouth of the La Maestra River 70 km to the east. Near Panama City the site borders heavily urbanized and suburban areas, while the eastern part is relatively remote and difficult of access except by boat. Rivers draining into the bay include the Bayano (by far the largest), Juan Díaz, Cabra, Pacora, Chico, Pasiga, and La Maestra. On the landward side the site is contiguous with Tocumen Marsh and La Jagua, which are national-level IBAs, and merges with the Chimán Wetlands IBA to the east.

Key Biodiversity The Upper Bay of Panama is one of the most important areas for migratory shorebirds in the Americas. The highest single day count was more than 362,952 in October 1998 (Watts 1998). If turnover is taken into account, an estimated 1,300,000 small shorebirds pass through on autumn migration. Western Sandpiper is by far the most abundant species, with an estimated single day count of more than 280,000 (Watts 1998). With turnover, 31.5% of the global population of this species is estimated to pass through the site each year. The next commonest species is Semipalmated Sandpiper, with a maximum count of 47,000 (Watts 1998), representing 4.7% of the global population if turnover is taken into account. It is also very important for Semipalmated Plover, with a highest single day count of more than 30,000 (Watts 1998), representing 20.1% of the global population estimate of this species, even without turnover. Single day counts also exceed 1% of the global or North American populations for Black-bellied Plover (1.6% of North American), Willet (4.3% of global), Whimbrel (10.3% of North American), and Short-billed Dowitcher (1.9% of global). The largest concentrations are found in the western part of the site, near Panama City. There is a large heron nesting colony, including Cocoi Heron and Great Egret, in the mangroves at Ensenada de Corral at the eastern edge of the area. The site is an important foraging area for Peregrine Falcon.

Non-bird biodiversity: Neotropical River Otter, Crab-eating Raccoon, and American Crocodile probably occur.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola winter  1988-1997  3,270 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus winter  1988-1997  30,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus winter  1988-1997  6,273 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus winter  1988-1997  5,844 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Willet Tringa semipalmata winter  1988-1997  10,841 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla winter  1997  165,000 individuals  poor  A4i  Near Threatened 
Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri winter  1997  1,091,000 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1988-1997  1,000,000-2,499,999 individuals  poor  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2013 high near favourable low

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - small-holder farming happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Climate change and severe weather habitat shifting and alteration happening now whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of surface water (domestic use) happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - type unknown/unrecorded happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Marine Intertidal   0 0 moderate (70-90%) good (> 90%) near favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  No management planning has taken place  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Bahía de Panamá Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 48,919 is identical to site 48,919  

Local conservation groups The local conservation groups below are working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
Amigos del Ambiente 2005
Junta Local de Oquendo 2005


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   minor
Coastline Intertidal mud, sand & salt flats  major
Forest Mangrove  37%
Marine Intertidal   major
Marine Coastal/Supratidal   major

Land use

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

Protection status The area was declared a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 2003, and part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network in 2005. However, it has not yet been formally recognized as a nationally protected area.

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. Morrison, R. I. G., R. W. Butler, E. S. Delgado, and R. K. Ross. 1998. Atlas of Nearctic shorebirds and other waterbirds on the coast of Panama. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa. Watts, Brian D. 1998. An Investigation of Waterbirds within the Panama Canal Area and the Upper Bay of Panama. Center for Conservation Biology, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Upper Bay of Panamá. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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