Situated at the crossroads of Central and South America, Panamá’s unique shape acts as a natural funnel between the continents, concentrating migratory birds on a narrow strip of land during their long biannual journeys. Making use of thermals which form over land, migratory raptors gather in massive ‘kettles,’ numbering in the thousands, sometimes more, during peak migration. Much depends on weather conditions and wind, but when conditions are right the raptor migration can be nothing short of spectacular – over a million raptors have been recorded in a single day in this small Central American country!
The famed Canopy Tower, aside from being one of the most unique birding lodges in the world, is also the site of the Semaphore Hill Hawkwatch, an official count site for the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). Situated amidst impressive rainforest within Soberanía National Park, the tower’s height provides a perfect viewpoint from which to scan the sky and canopy for raptors. Our week-long stay is planned during peak raptor migration, so we’ll take every opportunity to experience the spectacle to the fullest, and we hope to see a good diversity of both migratory and resident species. We’ll sort through thousands of southbound Broad-winged and Swainson’s Hawks for anything else we can find, from Zone-tailed and Short-tailed Hawks to Mississippi, Hook-billed and Double-toothed Kites, and Black & Ornate Hawk-Eagles. White, Crane, and Great Black Hawks are regularly seen as well as King Vulture, and with luck we may find one of the recently reintroduced Harpy Eagles in the area. Our itinerary will remain somewhat fluid and we’ll visit several other nearby official hawk watch sites, including Ancon Hill in Panama City, as weather and wind conditions necessitate.
Though a focus of our tour will certainly be on raptors, we’ll take full advantage of Canopy Tower’s convenient location and explore a number of other excellent hotspots in the bird-rich Canal Zone. We will enjoy a full day’s birding at the famous Pipeline Road, a 10.5 mile road that runs through fantastic forest and wetland habitat which holds a colorful assortment of trogons, motmots, and manakins, as well as the emerald-green Great Jacamar and absurd Pheasant Cuckoo. Frequent ant swarms provide further excitement and often attract Bicolored, Spotted, and Ocellated Antbirds, Song Wren, an array of woodcreepers, and sometimes the elusive Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo. At Panama City’s Metro Park, we’ll explore the dry lowland Pacific forest for the beautiful Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Lance-tailed Manakin and the endemic Yellow-green Tyrannulet. A day trip up to the hills and cloud forests of Cerro Azul will offer possibilities of a completely different suite of birds, from the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker and Yellow-eared Toucanet to Spot-crowned Barbet, Black-eared Wood-Quail, and a variety of eye-popping tanagers and hummingbirds. And when we aren’t looking for raptors at the Canopy Tower, we’ll be scanning the canopy for Blue Cotinga, Red-legged & Green Honeycreepers, Golden-hooded Tanager, Green Shrike-Vireo, and parrots.
Join us and experience North America’s spectacular raptor migration to the fullest in one of the best all-round birding locations in Central America!
Some of the Birds We Hope to See
Raptors - thousands of Broad-winged & Swainson’s Hawks and Turkey Vultures; Hawks (White, Semiplumbeous, Crane, Zone-tailed, Roadside, Short-tailed, Gray-lined, Tiny, Sharp-shinned, Great Black); Hawk-Eagles (Black, Ornate, and Black-and-white); Kites (Double-toothed, Gray-headed, Swallow-tailed, Mississippi); Forest-Falcons (Collared, Slaty-backed, Barred); Falcons (Laughing, Peregrine, Merlin, American Kestrel); Yellow-headed Caracara, Harpy Eagle
Other birds we hope to see: Great & Little Tinamous; Scaled Pigeon; Hummingbirds including White-necked Jacobin, Violet-headed, Violet-bellied, Blue-chested, Rufous-crested Coquette, and White-tipped Sicklebill; Rufescent Tiger-Heron; Capped & Boat-billed Herons; Southern Lapwing; Trogons (Slaty-tailed, Black-tailed, Black-throated, White-tailed, Gartered); Motmots (Rufous, Broad-billed, Whooping); Great Jacamar; Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker (endemic); antbirds (Dusky, Jet, Chestnut-backed, Spotted, Bicolored, Ocellated); Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo; various species of toucans & parrots; Yellow-green Tyrannulet (endemic); tanagers (Gray-headed, Crimson-backed, Flame-rumped, Golden-hooded, Bay-headed, Silver-throated, Emerald, Speckled, Rufous-winged) and so many more