San San Pond Sak Wetlands

Country/territory: Panama

IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (2003)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 16,414 ha

Sociedad Audubon de Panamá

Site description (baseline)
This area includes the extensive coastal wetlands extending from the Costa Rican border to Almirante Bay. On the inland side, the area is bordered by large banana plantations (c. 7,000 ha) especially around Changuinola and Guabito, and by areas devoted to cattle and subsistence agriculture. The surrounding area is inhabited primarily by afroantilleans, latinos and Ngöbe. Some Ngöbe live within the reserve. Access within the area is difficult except along water courses.

Key biodiversity
The globally-threatened Three-wattled Bellbird Procnias carunculata(common) and Bare-necked Umbrellabird Cephalopterus glabricollis (very rare) have been recorded, evidently on post-breeding migration from the highlands. However, Bellbirds have been recorded breeding on nearby Isla Colón and could also breed here. Five of 11 Panama species of EBA 019 (45%) occur, as do 15 of 42 (36%) of biome N05. Several endemic species of the Central American Caribbean Slope EBA also occur. It is one of only two sites in Panama for Nicaraguan Seed-Finch Oryzoborus nuttingi. No nesting colonies of colonial waterbirds are known. The status of rails and other aquatic birds in the area is poorly known. Large flocks of Turkey Vultures and Broad-winged and Swainson's Hawks occur in the area on passage migration, and the site almost certainly exceeds thresholds as a bottleneck site for these species. Although the region in general has been well studied ornithologically, the status of birds in the wetlands themselves is insufficiently known.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals known or probable for the area include Water Opossum, Central American Wooly Opossum, White-winged Vampire Bat, Thumbless Bat, Honduran White Bat, Crab-eating Racoon, Olingo, Neotropical River Otter, Ocelot, Margay, Jaguarundi, Puma, Jaguar and Baird's Tapir (Handley 1966, 1980, Valdespino and Santamaría 1997, Martínez pers. com.). The site has the densest population of West Indian Manatee in Panama (Mou and Chan 1990). Changuinola Beach, at the mouth of the Changuinola River, is a regionally important nesting area for Leatherback and Hawksbill Turtles (Meylan et al. 1993). Other reptiles and amphibians include the frogs Dendrobates pumilio, Eleutherodactylus gollmeri* and E. noblei, the caecilian Gymnopis multiplicata, the lizards Diploglossus bilobatus* and Anolis insignis,* the snakes Urotheca pachyura* and Micrurus alleni, the turtle Kinosternon angustipons, and American Crocodile (Valdespino and Santamaría 1997 and literature).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: San San Pond Sak Wetlands. Downloaded from on 04/06/2023.