La Petite Côte

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
The site consists of the coastal strip (c. 70 km long) south of Dakar, running from Bargny (20 km south-east of Dakar), south to the village of Mbodiène, which lies just north of Joal-Fadiouth (site SN012). It consists of mainly sandy, narrow beaches, offshore sandbars, dunes and saltmarsh, crossed by several small rivers and estuaries. There are a number of shallow lagoons and temporary wetlands in depressions behind the dunes, of varying size and salinity (depending on seasonal rainfall), some with associated mudflats and saltmarsh. The lagoons include Yène-Tode (c.150 ha), Popenguine (c.10 ha), Somone estuary (c.30 ha) and Sarène. Vegetation is generally sparse; there are some thickets of Tamarix sp. on higher ground behind the dunes and, towards the southern end of the site, mangroves (Rhizophora sp. and Avicennia sp.) on the mudflats. Along c.15 km at the northern end of the site there are sandy hills and cliffs with occasional rocky outcrops behind the dunes, reaching a maximum height of 74 m. One of the rocky outcrops (Cap de Naze) lies just behind Popenguine Avifaunal Reserve, the only officially designated site within the IBA. Popenguine consists of a freshwater lagoon and marsh, contained by a man-made barrage.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. The site is important for breeding and wintering waterbirds, and for wintering and passage raptors. A total of 12,935 birds of 66 species was recorded by the African Waterbird Census in January 1997; somewhat lower numbers were recorded in 1998, which may have been at least partly a result of the drying-out of two key lagoons, Bargny and Yène-Tode. Phoenicopterus minor was recorded from the site in “small groups” in the 1980s. Falco naumanni is regularly seen on passage, with a maximum single count of 39 individuals at Mbour in February 1993. Larus audouinii is observed all along the Petite Côte, with maximum counts of 160 and 144 individuals, both at Yène-Tode lagoon, and 104 at Toubab-Dialao. Eleven species of the Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome (A04) have been recorded from the site (see Table 2).

The site is the most important breeding ground for Pelecanus rufescens in Senegal, with a colony 2 km east of Mbour estimated at 4,000 individuals, which disperse along the Petite Côte after breeding. Phoenicopterus ruber is a winter visitor in the salt water of the Delta du Saloum and the coastal lagoons of the Petite Côte, in combined numbers (1,300) which exceed the IBA threshold, but most records are from the delta itself (site SN013). Large numbers of Calidris ferruginea (over 3,000) occur, with smaller numbers of C. minuta and Arenaria interpres. Circus pygargus is a frequent winter visitor, occasionally very abundant, especially when locusts are numerous, e.g. a roost of 1,000 between Mbour and Joal. Pandion haliaetus is reported from all parts of the site. There are mixed breeding colonies of herons and egrets in several villages, e.g. Casmerodius albus, with Mesophoyx intermedia, Bubulcus ibis and Phalacrocorax africanus at Fatick and Casmerodius albus with Ardea melanocephala at Mbodiène (Baillon pers. comm.). There is considerable interchange and movement of birds between La Petite Côte and the two coastal IBAs to the south (sites SN012 and SN013), all of which are of very high importance for wintering, passage and resident waterbirds and seabirds.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The site includes the Popenguine-Guéréo Avifaunal Reserve (1,009 ha), but is otherwise unprotected. Most of the IBA is quite heavily populated and cultivated behind the dunes (and even on some of the offshore sandbars), particularly for market gardening and also for grazing livestock. There are many fishing villages along the coast and intensive fishing activity close to shore, using motorized canoes. There are also high levels of tourist activity in some areas and all these factors could lead to localized disturbance and loss of habitat. Catching of terns by children was reported to occur all along the Petite Côte in 1990. No such activity was seen during survey work in 1997, but it was presumed still to occur on fishing beaches that were not visited during the surveys. Following serious deforestation and drought in the area around Popenguine-Guéréo Avifaunal Reserve (including destruction of the classified forest on the hills of the Cap de Naze) a reforestation and sustainable development programme has been established, run by 1,500 women from eight peripheral villages (known as the ‘Regroupement des Femmes de Popenguine pour la Protection de la Nature’). The group operates within an area around the designated reserve, known as the ‘Community Natural Heritage Area of Kër Cupaam’, with support from the Fondation Nicolas Hulot pour la Nature et l’Homme and the European Commission. The conservator of the Popenguine-Guéréo reserve is seconded from the Department of National Parks to the community programme, giving the local population responsibility for management of this protected area. The American Peace Corps has supported an environmental education programme at Popenguine.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: La Petite Côte. Downloaded from on 26/10/2021.