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Banding Together for Waterfowl

West Coast of Mexico - More Information

Background information on DU's West Coast of Mexico conservation priority area

Importance to other wildlife

The west Mexican wetlands and associated uplands support a diversity of wildlife species, particularly birds. The states of Sinaloa and Nayarit lie in the ecotone between two global climatic regions - the neotropic and the nearctic. Numerous mammals, including species of felids, still exist, such as the jaguar, ocelot and jaguarundi. The state of Sonora accounts for 894 species of wildlife, including 150 species of mammals, 474 species of birds, 131 species of reptiles, 37 species of amphibians and 102 species of fish (Moreno 1992). The states of Sinaloa and Nayarit, account for 482 species of wildlife (SEPESCA 1990), of which 51 are mammals, 347 are birds, 60 species are reptiles and 23 species are amphibians. Among these, 99 species are categorized as endemic and 73 species as in danger of extinction.

The coastal estuaries of Western Mexico are of global importance for wintering shorebirds of the Pacific Flyway. During 1993-94 ground surveys documented over 795,000 shorebirds wintering in the coastal bays of Pabellones and Santa Maria in Sinaloa. These surveys indicated that these areas support nearly one third of the shorebirds wintering in the North American portion of the Pacific Flyway (Engilis et al. 1998). These areas and the rest of the coastal wetlands of Sinaloa and the state of Sonora may well support over half of the shorebirds wintering on the Pacific Coast of North America. Two bays, Bahia Santa Maria and Ensenada Pabellones are sites of great importance to North American shorebirds in general. Both clearly exceed criteria of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network for classification as International Sites, hosting >100,000 individuals. Further surveys may elevate these areas to sites of Hemispheric Importance, by hosting >500,000 shorebirds.

Conservation programs

The future of agriculture in Mexico, particularly in the states of Sonora, Sinaloa and Nayarit is very uncertain but there may be opportunities for implementing programs that benefit wildlife. Many fields are no longer producing crops because of the lack of subsidies and the high cost of production. Many landowners would welcome it if national or international interests would lease their properties so they can avoid debt and secure some measure of profit. Also, in Mexico communal farms known as Ejidos are becoming the property of the occupants as a result of changes in the constitution. We believe there are opportunities to secure some of these lands for wildlife habitat that would be beneficial for migratory waterfowl and other birds.

DU must work in partnership with local and national conservation institutions, to support conservation efforts that protect the most important habitats for waterfowl along the states of Sinaloa, Sonora and Nayarit. An example exists in a current project with Conservation International, at Bahia Santa Maria, in Sinaloa. Since many areas are under either state of federal protection, conservation initiatives must be developed in cooperation with municipal, state and federal governments. DU must seek a more effective role in the development of the shrimp industry by working with the three levels of government in Mexico to provide information and assistance.

There has been very little research to support future conservation planning in this region. Basic wetland ecology information is needed. Specific studies are needed on the ecology of cattail (Typha) on specific sites in Santa Maria and Pabellones Bay. A monitoring program is needed for migratory and neotropical species using the wetlands. Finally, public awareness of wetland and waterfowl conservation needs are imperative to support future conservation and sustainable use of the resources of this region.


  • Protect and manage the most important habitats for waterfowl in the states of Sonora, Sinaloa and Nayarit.
  • Develop a pilot project on 144 ha of land in the state of Sinaloa to test management methods to support wintering waterfowl and other waterbirds.


  • Strengthen partnerships with municipal, state and federal governments and with other non-government organizations.
  • Serve as a source of assistance and information to support decision-making on programs that influence conservation, management and rational use of the habitats of importance for waterfowl.
  • Work with partners to provide formal protection and recognition of importance, to Santa Maria and Pabellones Bays to shorebirds.
  • Work within universities and other research institutions to develop information that is needed to support wetland and waterfowl conservation.
  • Assure the dissemination of the information produced on past GIS mapping in the region to other conservation partners.
  • Develop a public awareness program to motivate social participation and involvement.

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