Bocas del Toro Archipelago

Country/territory: Panama

IBA criteria met: A1 (2003)
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Area: 22,500 ha

Sociedad Audubon de Panamá

Site description (baseline)
This site includes the major islands of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Islas Colón, Bastimentos, Cristóbal, Popa, Solarte, and Cayo Agua. Colón (6,300 ha) is the largest and most populated island of archipelago, and the location of the provincial capital, Bocas del Toro town (population 2,500). Bastimentos (5,100 ha), to the east of Colón, has the towns of Old Bank and Salt Creek on its western and eastern sides respectively. Solarte (625 ha), also called Nancy Cay or Cayo Nancy, is just to the southwest of Bastimentos. Cristóbal (3,700 ha) and Popa (5,375) are closest to the mainland. Cayo Agua (1,400), at the eastern end of the archipelago, is farthest from the mainland. These latter three islands are relatively less populated than Colón and Bastimentos. Agricultural areas on the island are devoted largely to cattle raising.

Key biodiversity
Three-wattled Bellbirds occur regularly on all the islands of the archipelago (W. Martínez pers. com.) on seasonal migration from breeding areas in the highlands, and have been recorded breeding on Colón (J. Roper pers. comm.). Nicaraguan Seed-Finch has been recorded on Colón, one of two Panama localities. A relict population of Stub-tailed Spadebill is found on the main islands of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, the next-closest population of which is in northwest Costa Rica (Olsen 1993). The distinctive manakin populations on the islands, although resembling Golden-collared Manakin, share some genetic characteristics with the White-collared Manakin (M. Braun, in litt.). Some other forms on the islands may represent endemic subspecies, but further study is needed (S. Olson, in litt.). The archipelago as a whole is of exceptional scientific interest with regard to island biogeography and genetic differentiation in isolated habitats.

Non-bird biodiversity: Western Night Monkeys occur on Colón and Bastimentos, but are otherwise not found in the Bocas del Toro lowlands. Richmond's Squirrel occurs only on Colón Island in Panama and in Honduras. Colón, Bastimentos, Cayo Agua, and Solarte Nancy have an endemic dwarf form of Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth, and Colón, Bastimentos, and Solarte share an endemic undescribed species of Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus). Undescribed species of Agouti (Dasyprocta) and Climbing Rat (Tylomys) also occur. Other endangered mammals include Central American Wooly Opossum and Silky Anteater (Carrión de Samudio 1992, Handley 1993, Valdespino and Santamaría 1997). The poison-dart frog Dendrobates pumilio shows interesting geographic variation in the archipelago, with different color morphs on each island. The salamander Bolitoglossa biseriata also occurs. Because of its closeness to the mainland, Popa probably has the most diverse vertebrate fauna of the archipelago.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Bocas del Toro Archipelago. Downloaded from on 28/05/2023.