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Panama: Field Guides Birding Tours

Field Guides has been taking birders to Panama for more than 20 years, and some of our guides have been leading trips to Panama for over 30 years. John Rowlett led his first Panama tour back in 1979 and John Coons in 1989. With the oversight of “The Johns,” as our Panamanian friends call them, we offer these tours in our schedule for your consideration.

View across the rainforest canopy from the Canopy Tower, photographed by guide Dave Stejskal

Looking across the rainforest canopy from the Canopy Tower (Photo by guide Dave Stejskal)

Our Panama program covers the highlights of the country: the Canopy Tower tours offer some of the best lowland birding in all of Central America, while the Canopy Lodge, the sister lodge to the Canopy Tower, gets us into the foothills of central Panama with a slew of new birds and lovely accommodations.  And Wild Darien offers more rustic lodges and camping set in fabulous forested locales with a good number of very local specialties or endemics. Several of our tours can be linked with another plus an extension to a quite different habitat. Feel free to download a detailed itinerary for additional information—itineraries are available in PDF format by clicking the ITINERARIES link in the right sidebar of each tour’s web page.

Here’s a brief overview of each of our three tours: Panama’s Canopy Tower, Panama’s Canopy Lodge, and Panama’s Wild Darien.

Panama’s Canopy Tower

The Canopy Tower

The Canopy Tower: Birdwatch from the roof! (Photo by guide John Rowlett)

Panama’s Canopy Tower is a perfect venue for both novice and experienced Neotropical birders. One of the highlights of this tour is the intimate view you will be able to get of a becoming assortment of canopy-dwellers—from electric Blue Cotingas and Green Shrike-Vireos to splendid Black-headed Tody-Flycatchers, Brown-capped Tyrannulets, Fasciated Antshrikes, and perhaps a Philadelphia Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, or a kettle of Mississippi Kites. Since our tours fall over a three-month period, each tour will record a slightly different set of birds, but each of them averages somewhere around 250 species.

Soberania National Park (which encompasses Pipeline Road and the Canopy Tower) is certainly the prized patch of habitat; it’s been said that you could go out on Pipeline Road every day for a month and see something new each time. But there are so many other great spots as well, all in such close proximity to one another that you’re spared much travel time; you don’t have far to go to find all those toucans, trogons, puffbirds, and motmots.

Streak-chested Antpitta, one of the many wonderful tropical birds to be discovered from the Canopy Tower

Streak-chested Antpitta, one of the many wonderful tropical birds to be discovered from the Canopy Tower (Photo by guide Dave Stejskal)

And our tours are limited to just eight participants. This way we are ensured of riding in the same vehicle when we travel to and from birding sites and of having a better participant-to-ornithologist/guide ratio in the field and at meals. This is especially valuable on our night drive when everyone is able to be in the same open-air vehicle with the guide who is using the spotlight. As with all Canopy groups, ours are accompanied by a local Tower guide who has the most up-to-date knowledge of the area and who is excellent at finding birds and quickly putting them in the spotting scope for everyone to see. Yet in a small group, our Field Guides can more effectively impart a wealth of knowledge that is otherwise difficult to get from those who have not had the breadth and depth of Neotropical experience that characterize all our guides. We offer tours in January and February. If you can manage the two flights of stairs at the Tower (no elevator), the rest of the terrain we encounter will be a breeze!  For more information, see our tour page or map: Panama’s Canopy Tower [tour map]

Black-throated Trogon (Photo by guide John Rowlett)

Black-throated Trogon (Photo by guide John Rowlett)

Panama’s Canopy Lodge

For a short birding holiday or as an extension to our Panama’s Canopy Tower tour, you can’t do better than this tour set in the foothills of Central Panama. The habitats are varied, the birds diverse and numerous, the accommodations very nice, and the food tasty and creative. The stream that runs alongside the lodge draws numerous species within a few feet of the dining area, including Sunbittern, Green Kingfisher, waterthrushes, and Neotropical River Otter. Hummingbird feeders and banana feeders positioned in places where one can relax in hammocks or chairs while enjoying the birds and obtaining excellent photographs make for another feature of the grounds.

The Canopy Lodge: step out onto the balcony to bird right from your room

The Canopy Lodge: step out onto the balcony to bird right from your room (Photo courtesy of Raul Arias)

On all but two days at the Lodge we will have lunch in the open dining room, dividing the birding into morning and afternoon outings. That makes it possible to take off for an afternoon when one wishes. The other two days are spent in a remarkably beautiful area known as Altos de Maria where Snowcap, Tawny-throated Leaftosser, Brown-billed Scythebill, and the spectacular Black-crowned Antpitta—among many others—occur. See our tour page or map: Panama’s Canopy Lodge [tour map]

There are few better indicators of undisturbed wilderness than the presence of wild macaws, such as these Blue-and-yellows. (photo by guide Dave Stejskal)

There are few better indicators of undisturbed wilderness than the presence of wild macaws, such as these Blue-and-yellows in Darien, where we regularly see four species of macaws. (Photo by guide Dave Stejskal)

Panama’s Wild Darien: Cana & Cerro Pirre

If you’re strongly lured to the wilderness and willing to hike and camp, then this is the tour for you. The isolation of Darien in easternmost Panama has fostered the development of several endemics (Beautiful Treerunner, Pirre Warbler, Pirre Bush-Tanager, Green-naped Tanager) and a number of “Darien specialties” that are restricted to the forested slopes of eastern Darien and adjacent northwestern Colombia (e.g., Rufous-cheeked or Pirre Hummingbird, Varied Solitaire, and Sooty-headed Wren). Large cracids and big macaws are still common here in the wilds of Darien. And birds continue to be added to the list, the likes of Choco Toucan and Yellow-collared Chlorophonia.

This tour offers the rare opportunity to enjoy the best of Panama birding in one of the most exciting wilderness regions left on Earth. See our tour page or map: Panama’s Wild Darien [tour map]

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