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  • Photograph of Black-crowned Antpitta

    The rare Black-crowned Antpitta/soma near Burbayar Lodge in Panama by Dubi Shapiro.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in

    Photograph of Wing-banded Antbird

    A superb image of the rare and strange Wing-banded or Buff-banded Antbird at Rancho Plastico in the Darien by David Beadle.

    Best Birds and other wildlife in Panama


    Endemics 9
    Brown-backed (Azuero/Grey-headed) Dove, Azuero (Painted) Parakeet, White-throated Mountain-gem, Glow-throated Hummingbird, Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker (range in Birds of Central America extends to Colombia), Coiba (Rusty-backed) Spinetail (on the island of Coiba where it can be seen along the Hot Spring Trail, accessible by boat from Playa Arrimadero near Santa Catalina), Yellow-green (Panamanian) Tyrannulet, Orange-throated (Yellow-throated) Bush-tanager (Caribbean slope montane forests from Volcán Chiriquí to Veraguas in the west) and Yellow-green Finch.

    (Escudo Hummingbird on Escudo Island is considered a race of Rufous-tailed Hummingbird by most taxonomists)


    Panama and Costa Rica 74
    (13 hummingbirds, two trogons, two cotingas and two silky-flycatchers)
    Black Guan, Black-breasted Wood-quail, Buff-fronted Quail-dove, Purplish-backed Quail-dove, Chiriqui Quail-dove, Dusky Nightjar, Costa Rican Swift, Veraguas Mango, White-crested Coquette, Garden Emerald, Black-bellied Hummingbird, White-tailed Emerald, Charming Hummingbird, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, Talamanca (Magnificent) Hummingbird, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, White-bellied Mountain-gem, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Volcano Hummingbird, Scintillant Hummingbird, Costa Rican Pygmy-owl, Lattice-tailed Trogon, Baird’s Trogon, Fiery-billed Aracari, Prong-billed Barbet, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Red-fronted Parrotlet, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Black-hooded Antshrike, Dull-mantled Antbird, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Southern Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Chiriqui (Buff-throated) Foliage-gleaner, Ruddy Treerunner, Orange-collared Manakin, Turquoise Cotinga, Yellow-billed Cotinga, Olive-streaked Flycatcher, Black-capped Flycatcher, Dark Pewee, Ochraceous Pewee, Yellow-green (Scrub) Greenlet, Yellow-winged Vireo, Silvery-throated Jay, Ochraceous Wren (range also probably reaches Colombia), Timberline Wren, Riverside Wren, Isthmian (Plain) Wren, Black-faced Solitaire, Black-billed Nightingale-thrush, Sooty Thrush, Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Spot-crowned Euphonia, Sooty-capped Bush-tanager, Costa Rican Brush-finch, Yellow-thighed Finch, Large-footed Finch, Volcano Junco, Wrenthrush, Flame-throated Warbler, Chiriqui Yellowthroat, Black-cheeked Warbler, Black-eared (Three-striped) Warbler, Collared Whitestart, Black-thighed Grosbeak, Sulphur-rumped Tanager, Cherrie’s (Scarlet-rumped) Tanager, Peg-billed Finch, Slaty Flowerpiercer and Spangle-cheeked Tanager.

    Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua 6
    Purple-throated Mountain-gem, Vermiculated Screech-owl, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Canebrake Wren, Yellow-crowned Euphonia and Nicaraguan Seed-finch.

    Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia 5
    Blue-throated (Emerald) Toucanet, Tawny-capped Euphonia, Sooty-faced Finch, Black-and-yellow Tanager and Blue-and-gold Tanager.

    Panama and Colombia 27
    Choco Tinamou, Tacarcuna Wood-quail, Russet-crowned Quail-dove, Pirre (Rufous-cheeked) Hummingbird, Violet-capped Hummingbird, Sapphire-throated Hummingbird (also recorded in Costa Rica), Dusky-backed Jacamar, Grey-cheeked Nunlet, Spot-crowned Barbet, Black Antshrike, Spiny-faced Antshrike, Tacarcuna (Pale-throated) Tapaculo, Beautiful Treerunner, Golden-collared Manakin, Southern Bentbill, Black-billed Flycatcher, White-headed Wren, Sooty-headed Wren, Varied Solitaire, Tacarcuna Bush-tanager (Chlorospingus), Pirre Bush-tanager, Black-headed Brush-finch, Black Oropendola, Pirre Warbler, Tacarcuna (Three-striped) Warbler, Viridian Dacnis and Green-naped Tanager.

    Panama, Colombia and Ecuador 28
    Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Greenish Puffleg, Humboldt’s Hummingbird (Sapphire), Purple-throated Woodstar, Choco Screech-owl, Black-breasted Puffbird, Barred Puffbird, Stripe-billed (Collared) Aracari, Splendid (Crimson-bellied) Woodpecker, Sapayoa, Pacific Antwren, Short-tailed (Chestnut-backed) Antbird, Choco Tapaculo, Double-banded Greytail, Choco (Green) Manakin, Blue Cotinga, Black-tipped Cotinga, Choco Grey Elaenia, Choco Sirystes, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Stripe-throated Wren, Dagua Thrush, Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, Fulvous-vented Euphonia, Pacific (Subtropical) Cacique, Lemon-spectacled Tanager, Scarlet-browed Tanager and Grey-and-gold Tanager.

    Panama, Colombia and Venezuela 3
    Saffron-headed Parrot, Russet-winged Schiffornis and Yellow-browed Shrike-vireo.

    Other Specialities
    Great Green Macaw, Resplendent Quetzal, Snowcap, Violet Sabrewing and Wing-banded Antbird. Also a chance of Marbled, Black-eared and Spotted Wood Quails, Tawny-faced Quail, White-throated Crake and Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo.

    Grey-headed Chachalaca, Crested Guan, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Boat-billed and Cocoi Herons, Magnificent Frigatebird, King Vulture, Red-throated Caracara, Black, Black-and-white and Ornate Hawk-Eagles, Double-toothed, Plumbeous and Swallow-tailed Kites, Crane, Grey-lined, Semiplumbeous and White Hawks, Northern and Wattled Jacanas, Blue Ground Dove, Great Potoo, Golden-headed Quetzal, Rufous-breasted, Green, Long-billed, Pale-bellied and Stripe-throated Hermits, Rufous-crested Coquette, Purple-crowned Fairy, trogons, Blue-diademed, Broad-billed, Rufous, Tody and Whooping Motmots, Great and Rufous-tailed Jacamars, puffbirds, Red-headed and Spot-crowned Barbets, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Collared Aracari, Keel-billed and Yellow-throated Toucans, Black-cheeked, Crimson-bellied and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Brown-billed and Red-billed Scythebills, Bare-crowned, Ocellated and Spotted Antbirds, Streak-chested Antpitta, Black-capped Pygmy Tyrant (the smallest passerine bird in the world along with Short-tailed Pygmy Tyrant), Southern Bentbill, Golden-crowned and White-throated Spadebills, Rufous Piha, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Golden-headed, Lance-tailed and Red-capped Manakins, Sharpbill, Northern Royal Flycatcher, Green and Yellow-browed Shrike Vireos, Black-chested Jay, wrens, nightingale thrushes, euphonias, wintering warblers including Golden-winged, Blue and Scarlet-thighed Dacnises, honeycreepers including Shining, and tanagers. Also a chance of Red-billed Tropicbird, Sunbittern, Sungrebe, Crested and Spectacled Owls, and Great Potoo.

    Hoffmann's Two-toed and Brown-throated Three-toed Sloths, Geoffroy’s (Red-naped) Tamarin, Mantled Howler, Grey-bellied (Lemurine) Night, Central American (Brown-headed) Spider and White-faced Capuchin Monkeys, (Lesser) Capybara (near Gamboa Rainforest Resort, most likely very early morning), White-nosed Coati, Central American Agouti, Cacomistle, Bushy-tailed Olingo, Central American Woolly, Common and Grey Four-eyed Opossums, and Orange Nectar Bat. Also a chance of Baird’s Tapir, Northern Tamandua, Humpback Whale (mostly May-Nov, Coiba NP), Bottlenose and Pantropical Spotted Dolphins, Kinkajou and Greater Bulldog (Fishing) Bat. The endemic Pygmy Three-toed Sloth occurs only on Isla Escudo de Veraguas, east of Bocas del Toro off the north coast, 1.5 hours by boat out of Chiriqui Grande or also by boat from Ngobe village. Boat trips are best tackled between August and October when the sea is usually calmer. Between December and March it can be particularly rough.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    Excellent scuba-diving and snorkeling, at places such as Bocas del Toro/Isla Bastimentos Marine National Park and Coiba National Park where there are Manta Ray and turtle cleaning stations. On the mainland lizards include Striped Basilisk and there are many frogs, such as Red-eyed and Rosenberg’s Gladiator Tree Frogs, Green-and-black Poison Dart Frog, Fleischmann’s and Reticulated Glass Frogs, Talamanca Rocket Frog and Panama Humming Frog.

    Photograph of Spotted Antbird

    Another superb image by David Beadle, this time of a Spotted Antbird along the Pipeline Road.

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in Panama

    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in Panama

    The wettest season usually lasts from mid-April to December hence the best time to visit is between January and March, although any time between October and March is good for birds, with April being the best time for Darien.

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for Panama

    Birds of Central America by A C Vallely and D Dyer. PUP, 2018.

    The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide by G R Angehr and R Dean. CUP, 2010.

    Guide to the Birds of Panama by R A Ridgely and J A Gwynne. PUP, 1992 (Second Edition).

    A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama by G R Angehr, and D and L Engleman. Comstock, 2008.

    Birds of Costa Rica by R Garrigues and R Dean. Comstock, 2014 (Second Edition).

    An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by V Esquivel Soto. Incafo, 2008 (Second Edition).

    A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico by F A Reid. OUP, 2009 (Second Edition).

    A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of Mexico and Central America by J Glassberg. Sunstreak Books, 2007.

    National Audubon Society Field Guide to Tropical Marine Fishes by C L Smith. Alfred A Knopf, 1997.

    Apps etc.

    Panama Birds Field Guide.

    Where to watch birds in Central America & the Caribbean by N Wheatley and D Brewer. Helm, 2001.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Central America? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author and David Brewer. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for Panama

    Many trip reports, some for Panama, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Panama. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Panama' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in Panama

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation for birders in Panama

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to Panama

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who are running organized tours to Panama in the next couple of years include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.