Panama, a country smaller in size than South Carolina, has an astonishing diversity of birdlife with 976 recorded species of birds and is one of the top birding destinations in the world. With twelve national endemics and 107 regional endemics, as well as many mainly South American species that range no further north, more birds frequent the Isthmus of Panama than the United States and Canada combined. Most of the best birding areas are accessible from Panama City by car on good roads or a short flight, making it possible to attain a very long bird list within a short period of time.
This ten day adventure explores the Central and Western regions of the country, from the Panama Canal to the border of Costa Rica. Along the way, we will visit several of life zones of the tropical forests, including dry forest, lowland rainforest, wet forest, and cloud forest, each with its unique inhabitants.
*In keeping with our social mission, we strive when possible to employ only the services of local people. This includes hotels, restaurants, transportation, and support personnel.
Guide: Venicio “Beny” Wilson
Single room supplement: US$600.00
Length: 10 days
Maximum number of participants: 8
Lodging: Comfortable and clean hotels and inns
Food: Quality, fresh, local ingredients prepared in Panamanian and International styles
Weather: Warm and humid in the Central Region. Cool and humid in the Western highlands, particularly at night
Dificulty: Easy to Moderate. Most days will include a fair amount of walking within undulating terrain
Upon your arrival to Panama you will be met in Tocumen International Airport by your expert Birding Guide and escorted to your accommodations in Panama City where you will be staying for the next three nights.
Despite a population of over one million people, Panama City is a great place to bird watch. On their journeys north and south, Millions of migratory birds stop to rest and regain strength in the mud flats of the bay of Panama. Today we will watch the tides to determine which areas to visit and in which order. At low tide we will visit the Old Panama Mudflats for a chance to see Collared Plovers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Marbled Godwit, Whimbrel and others. You will continue birding at the Costa del Este mangroves looking for Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher, Mangrove Black-Hawk, Mangrove Warbler, Sapphire-throated and Scaly-breasted Hummingbirds, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Black-necked Stilt, Least Sandpiper, Cocoi Heron, Yellowlegs and Night-Herons among others. Within the city limits is an area called Metropolitan Nature Park, the only tropical forest located within limits of a city in Latin America where we will be on the lookout for more Panama City birds such as: Saffron Finch, Lance-tailed Manakin, Yellow-green Tyrannulet, Rosy Thrush-tanager, Crested Caracara, Yellow-crowned Amazon, American Kestrel (South American population), American Woodstork, Southern Lapwing, Yellow Tyrannulet, and Red-crowned Ant-tanager. Towering over the city is a peak known as Ancon Hill. From the top of this mount that overlooks the city and the Canal, one can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire Bay of Panama. It is from this peak, among others in the area, that the Audobon Society of Panama conducts its annual migratory bird count. Another area will visit is Chivo Chivo road, home to the elusive Western Night Monkeys and the lively Geoffrey’s Tamarins. We will explore this trail in search of these animals among others we may find along the way.
Early this morning you will be picked up at your hotel in Panama City for full morning of birding on the famous Pipeline Road. During World War II an oil pipeline was built to transfer fuel from one ocean to the other in case the Panama Canal was ever attacked. The Canal was never assaulted and today the preserved road built alongside the pipeline is one of the active birding sites in Central America.
Located at the Soberania National Park, only a 40- minute drive from Panama City, the diversity of pipeline road can be attributed to the habitat heterogeneity in the park; secondary, old growth forest, swamps and streams. If army ants are found, several professional ant-followers can be seen; Spotted Antbird, Bicolored Antbird, Ocellated Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird and the prized Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, if you are very lucky! Manakins include the Golden-collared Manakin, Blue-crowned Manakin and Red-capped Manakin. Pipeline is well known for its trogons; five of them can be seen in a very lucky day: Slaty-tailed Trogon, Violaceous Trogon and Black-throated Trogon are the most common. The long never ending whistle of the Great Jacamar reveals the presence of this iridescent bird. At midday we will head to the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center. Here we will enjoy a picnic lunch at the visitors’ center buzzing with 14 different species of hummingbird before heading up to the top of the canopy access tower. In addition we’ll investigate the waterfowl at Lake Caimito within the reserve.
This morning you will take the early flight to the province of Chiriqui. After the short flight (1 hour) you will be met in David airport by your transportation and whisked away for your birding adventures in the Chiriqui Highlands! Today, depending on where the action is, you will visit the areas of Bajo Frio, Macho de Monte, and Volcan Lakes. These areas near Volcán are very good for finding species not found on the higher slopes of Cerro Punta. Some species include, Masked Duck and Northern Jacanas, Golden-winged Warbler, Olivaceous Piculet, Spotted Wood-Quail, Pale-breasted Spinetail and Collared Trogon can also be found.
Days 5 & 6
Parque International La Amistad (PILA) lies along the Talamanca mountain range was declare a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990 due to the great importance it has for the preservation of biodiversity in Panama and the American continent. The park’s plant and animal life is some of the most diverse in Panama. Among the nearly 600 types of birds identified in the area are such spectacular species as the Resplendent Quetzal, the Three-wattled Bellbird, and the rarely seen Bare-necked Umbrella Bird. Exploring the area of Cerro Punta is a great place to find the Resplendent Quetzal. Many other highland specialties can also be found, including Black Guan, Prong-billed and Red-headed Barbets, Buffy Tuftedcheek, White-fronted Tyrannulet, Tufted Flycatcher, Barred Becard, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Black-faced Solitaire, Flame-throated Warbler, Collared Redstart, Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Yellow-thighed Finch, and Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch.
Finca Hartmann is a family enterprise where each member of the family performs a different function in the growth, production and tourism of the farm. The land that the finca covers is used predominantly for shade-grown coffee, under towering remnant rainforest trees, and intact pre-montane highland forest that serves as a buffer zone to Parque Internacional La Amistad. At elevations from 4000-6000ft there are a number of accessible dirt roads that pass through many habitat types that are excellent for birding, hiking and exploring. Finca Hartman bird list: Fiery-billed Aracari, White-crested Coquete, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Turquoise Cotinga, Bay headed, Emerald, Speckled and Cherrie´s Tanagers, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and migratory warblers.
Fortuna cloud forest is perhaps one of the best preserved cloud forests in all of Central America. With clouds covering the forest over 40% of the day, the humidity, low temperatures and high precipitation creates a forest like no other in the tropics. The heavy humidity released by the Caribbean Sea nearby, and the high mountains of Cordillera Talamanca creates the perfect habitat for some of the most sought after avifauna in Panama. The birds to be found in this area are Black Guan, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Lattice-tailed Trogon, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Black-and-Yellow Silky-flycatcher, Spangled-cheeked Tanager, Blue-and-gold Tanager, Ashy-throated Bush-tanager, Azure-hooded Jay, Read-headed and Prong-billed Barbet, Black-bellied Hummingbird, White-tailed Emerald, White-bellied Mountain-gem, Green-fronted Lancebill and Snowcap Hummingbird.
Today we will return to Panama City. Upon our arrival we will check into the hotel for our last night and have a leisurely afternoon. Early evening we will gather for a visit to the Miraflores Locks Visitors Center at the Panama Canal where we will enjoy a farewell dinner overlooking the transiting vessels as they make their way through the famous Miraflores Locks.
Today you will say “hasta luego” to this enchanting country and return home, where you’ll be eager to share your incredible Panama birding experiences, perhaps a few “lifers”!