Upper Bay of Panamá

Country/territory: Panama

IBA Criteria met: A4i, A4iii (2006)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 48,919 ha

Protection status:

Sociedad Audubon de Panamá
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2013 high near favourable low
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

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.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Upper Bay of Panamá. Downloaded from on 26/10/2020.