An astonishing variety of birds to see in Panama
Both the magnificent and great frigatebirds are seen off the coastlines. Panama is home to four varieties of vultures including the black vulture, distinguished by a white patch on the wings of this otherwise all-black bird. Turkey vultures tend to hang around urban areas. To watch brown pelicans fishing and frigates soaring is a most relaxing way to pass the hours on Panama tours. Cormorants are a frequent visitor to the waters off Panama City. A third of the heron, egret and bittern species inhabit Panama. Visitors on Panama tours will see many wading birds such as Ibises and spoonbills and in the mangroves.
Panama is home to many birds of prey including hawks, kites, eagles and falcons. The critically-endangered harpy eagle is Panama's national bird. With a wingspan of up to seven feet, this magnificent creature should be easy to spot, but its dwindling forest habitat has diminished populations, making sightings rare. Visitors are most likely to see a harpy eagle in their Panama travel to the lowland tropical forests of Darien Province bordering Colombia where the treetops provide nesting and hunting habitat. Harpy eagles grab their prey such as monkeys and sloth right out of the trees. The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey studies the species and maintains a captive breeding program here. In addition to releasing forty young birds into Panama national parks and elsewhere, in 2006 it began releasing adult pairs as well. To learn more, go to www.peregrinefund.org.
Jacanas are fascinating to watch on Panama tours because these waders have huge skeletal feet that allow them to stand on floating vegetation. The elegant jabiru is rarely seen but its black head and bill, red neck and white body make observing this stork a memorable event, especially for photographers on Panama tours. Panama is home to two of the world's three species of tropicbirds, the dramatic red-billed and white-billed varieties. With special permission, one may visit the bird sanctuary on Swan's Cay (Isla de los Pajaros) off Isla Colon in the Bocas del Toro archipelago to see the rare red tropicbird, the species' only nesting site in Panama.
Six of the nine species of boobies and fifty-nine different hummingbirds are found in Panama. Fourteen species of owls and many species of woodpeckers and ovenbirds are also seen here.
For the greatest concentration of species, most birders head to La Amistad International Park on the border with Costa Rica. Santa Cruz de Cana in Darien National Park and the national parks of Soberania and Volcan Baru are great birdwatching locations. Among the country's other top birding locations are the Bocas del Toro archipelago, the Barro Colorado in the Panama Canal's Lake Gatun and Coiba National Park's namesake island in the Gulf of Chiriqui. For water species, birding enthusiasts go to the marshes of Las Macanas (Cienaga de las Macanas) in Herrera Province. The variety of Panama's birds is endless. Southern Explorations includes many of these locations on its Panama tours.