Panama, though barely the size of South Carolina, is perfectly positioned as a narrow land bridge linking Central and South America. The country is blessed with incredible beauty and biodiversity, largely due to its extreme altitudinal gradients, which range from its extensive coastlines to its highest volcanic peak (Volcan Baru at 11,000 feet), and to the convergence of North and South American avifaunas.
An astounding 996 birds have been recorded here and, together with its rich herpetofauna (reptiles/amphibians), insects (including bewildering numbers of butterflies, moths, beetles, dragonflies and others) and mammals (sloths, monkeys, tapir, jaguar, and many others), are more than enough to satisfy any serious nature enthusiast.
The world famous Pipeline Road, located in Soberania National Park along the banks of the Panama Canal, is home to over 500 species of birds, and is a great place to find some of the most sought after species in Tropical America including Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Pheasant Cuckoo, Blue Cotinga, Ocellated Antbird and Streak-chested Antpitta. The Talamanca range of the Continental Divide extends into western Panama—Resplendent Quetzal, Three-wattled Bellbird, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Snowcap, Tody Motmot and Orange-bellied Trogon call these lush cloud forests home, among many other foothills and highland species. To the east, the end of the Panamerican Highway in Darien marks the start of the “Darien Gap,” home to many Choco regional endemics including the Black Oropendola, Gray-cheeked Nunlet and Dusky-backed Jacamar. The Gap is also a stronghold for the majestic Harpy Eagle, Panama’s National Bird, which nests in the towering Cuipo trees of Darien National Park.
In addition to the hundreds of resident bird species, the Isthmus of Panama is a hotspot for many migratory bird species, which pass through during their annual flights to and from their breeding grounds. Warblers, flycatchers and many other songbirds migrate through Panama, as well as over 3 million migrating raptors every year, one of the largest migratory raptor sites in the world. Panama is surely a birder’s paradise!
Panama has an intriguing history of Spanish explorers, conquistadors and pirates and among its 3.6 million inhabitants, Panama’s five indigenous groups thrive across the country, many maintaining their traditional ways. Travel here is rather easy, as it uses the American dollar. Contributor: Carlos Bethancourt/Canopy Family.
January, February, and March are the high season as there are many neotropical migrants and very little rain. All months offer good birding but keep in mind that May-August tend to be the rainy season.