The flat low-elevation southern end of the island contains the Pekelmeer, once a series of natural shallow lagoons, that have been modified over hundreds of years for salt production. For the last 50-60 years, the area has been more greatly modified for large-scale industrial salt production so that water levels are tightly controlled within a series of condenser lagoons for maximum salt production through evapotranspiration. Most of the area (perhaps over 90% is now under active management for salt production) but within the managed area is a 55 hectare area designated as Flamingo Breeding Reserve where the bulk of the Greater Flamingos nest on the island. Low bushes grow along the shores of some of the lagoons but the area is largely open with only low vegetation.
The IBA is most well known for its breeding colony of Greater Flamingos. Prior to 1968 when industrial salt production started at the Pekelmeer, the number of breeding pairs was estimated at 2,500. In the last decade, total numbers on Bonaire have fluctuated between about 1,500 and 7,000 though perhaps most normally near 5,000 individuals. Numbers of nests has varied widely from only a few in some very dry years to as many as 1,300 in 1996 with most nests in the area designated as a flamingo sanctuary within the commercial saltworks at the Pekelmeer. The Pekelmmer-Saltworks IBA regularly meets or exceeds the BirdLife 1% Caribbean thresholds for Greater Flamingo. The IBA is also an important nesting area for terns and plovers. The largest concentration of Snowy Plover on the island noted in July 2001 surveys was in and around the Pekelmeer where 21 adults were counted, nearly 1% of the regional population estimate (and since much of the interior of the Pekelmeer was not accessible for the survey, it is highly likely that there were more birds that went undetected). The IBA was estimated to hold 582 Least Terns during the 2002 breeding season (>10% of regional population) and a breeding colony of 340 Sandwich “Cayenne” Terns in 1999 (>1% of global population). Breeding season surveys in 1999 and 2002 estimated 170-174 adult Royal Terns breeding within the Pekelmeer-Saltworks IBA constituting over 10% of the regional population. Breeding season surveys in 2002 estimated 60 adult Common Terns breeding within the IBA, a number representing over 1% of the regional population. The IBA is regularly used by a diversity of migrant and wintering shorebirds which, though they may sometimes number in the hundreds or even thousands, do not reach 1% thresholds based on single day counts. Small numbers of Red Knots, presumably of the rapidly declining eastern NA subspecies, have been found at the IBA in recent years though much reduced from the maximums of 160 and 80 birds counted in 1977 and 1978. Piping Plover Charadrius melodus has been observed once on the southern tip of the island. The area is also regularly used for foraging herons and egrets including Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret (has also nested here), Snowy Egret, Great Egret, and Great Blue Heron.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Pelkermeer Saltworks, Bonaire. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 11/12/2019.