Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
The Canopy Tower
My wife and I stayed six nights (five full days) at this famous establishment. The accommodations were comfortable, the food good and the guides excellent. The trip highlight, and an all-time great birding moment, was a Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo at an army ant swarm on the nearby Pipeline Road. Other gems included Tiny Hawk, Crested Owl, Great Potoo, Great Jacamar and the Tower’s signature species - Blue Cotinga. Our total list was 205.
Panama, the southernmost country in Central America, is situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America. Curving approximately 700 kilometres east to west, it covers 75,000 km² and has a population of 3.3 million. The country’s bird list is 972.
The Canopy Tower is a privately-owned eco-lodge in Soberania National Park, a 221 km² area of tropical forest, scrub and wetlands protecting the Panama Canal’s watershed. The Tower is a 45-minute drive from Panama City and is set atop a local highpoint, Semaphore Hill, in a renovated former U.S. military radar installation.
The circular building’s ground floor houses natural history displays, a gift shop and the reception desk. Guest and guide rooms are on the next two levels. The third floor is the dining and lounge area and above that, through a large hatch, is the observation deck. The overall impression is not one of conventional luxury but rather of an upscale industrial loft; open stair cases, exposed structural steel and huge windows, softened by beautiful teak doors and railings. There is no elevator so there are stairs (neither steep nor narrow) to climb.
We booked the Blue Cotinga Suite, one of the larger rooms and the only one with a balcony. The suite, like the others we investigated, was modestly furnished but clean, well lit and comfortable with a private washroom and hot shower. The water was drinkable from the tap, but not of limitless supply. Conservation measures, such as short showers, were urged. The rooms have no sound insulation, so it is best to speak in whispers. Ear plugs would be a good idea for light sleepers. Electricity was on 24 hours, with Canadian/U.S. outlets. The Tower is not air conditioned; ceiling fans kept us very comfortable.
Breakfast was served at 7:30 but was occasionally bumped to 6:00 to accommodate early trips. Scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit and cereal were standard morning fare. Lunch was at 12:30 and featured pasta salads, pizza, salmon casserole and a rice and chicken pilaf. Dinner was at 7:00, preceded by an open wine bar at 6:00. One evening we had a delicious chicken curry. Other feasts included sea bass, roast beef and a mixed-grill barbeque on the open-air lower deck. Side dishes at both lunch and dinner included plantains prepared in various ways, savoury rice and beans and excellent salads.
The Tower has a great website containing a wealth of detailed information, including bird and mammal checklists as well as a log of recent sightings: http://canopytower.com/
Getting There - We made our reservations directly with the Tower, who responded to emails immediately and worked out our room booking without a hitch. Less smoothly, our Montreal-Miami-Panama City flight on American Airlines flight was abruptly cancelled just hours before departure. American re-booked us on Delta and after an eight hour wait we flew Montreal-Atlanta-Panama. While en route we emailed the new itinerary to the Tower who responded quickly and rescheduled our airport transfer. After quickly clearing customs we were picked up by our driver outside the airport’s main doors and arrived at the Tower at eleven p.m.
Health and Safety - The canal area has no particular disease issues but an appointment with a travel medicine clinic is always recommended before a visit to the tropics. Mosquitoes were few and far between but chiggers, the larval stage of a mite, can be a problem in the area. Found in grass and shrub land, they attach themselves to passing mammals to feed on skin cell fluid and then quickly drop back into the underbrush, leaving small but terribly itchy blisters. Our chigger-avoidance strategy was to tuck shirts into pants and pant cuffs into socks. We pretreated our clothing with a permethian spray and dusted our socks with the sulfur powder cached at the Tower’s entrance. Our precautions paid off, with just 3-4 bites each.
Weather - Panama’s dry season runs mid-December to late April. We had a mix of sun and cloud during our stay, with just a few drops of rain. Although we never got wet, raincoats and rain pants are good to have; the vehicles used to transport Tower guests to nearby birding locations are open-topped. The temperature was surprisingly moderate. During the day it was never stifling hot or humid and in the evening atop the observation deck it was almost cool in the breeze.
Literature - A “Guide to the Birds of Panama” by Ridgely and Gwynne is the standard reference. Garrigues and Dean’s new “Birds of Costa Rica” is a good companion volume. “A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama” by Angehr, Engleman and Engleman is a great book, providing independent travelers with clear and detailed instructions on most of the sites visited out of the Tower. A “Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico” by Fiona Reid is the resource for identifying the area’s numerous animals. A well-stocked library beside the lounge area has all these books.
We loaded our iPod with relevant tracks from a couple of Costa Rica bird song CDs and from the website Xeno Canto. The site has minimal instructions but by clicking on “map search” and zeroing in on the Canal Zone we were able to download lots of useful material from the little red balloons, including songs recorded right at the Tower (for Mac users, when you locate a relevant track do a “control click” on the file, hit “download linked file as” and save it to your desktop). If you are using an iPod, tracks should be renamed on the desktop or in a program such as “Garage Band”. Tracks renamed in iTunes tend to disappear.
Guides and Guests - The Tower employs at least four birding guides. The lead man is Carlos Bethancourt. He was absent during our visit so José Perez, Alexis Sanchez or José Soto ably assisted us on local expeditions. They knew the calls, songs and habits of the local birds, could whistle up many species and also had iPods loaded with the necessary tracks. Their ability to find birds, get guests on to them in an instant and line them up immediately in the scope was remarkable. They also had an excellent background in the area’s broader natural history.
The guests at the Tower during our stay were for the most part retired couples, at least one of whom had an interest in bird watching. Our enthusiasm level was a little higher. After the first day I adjusted my energy level downwards and had a wonderful time. The guides did an excellent job of balancing the needs of all, patiently re-iterating tips for identifying Turkey Vultures as well as discussing the finer points of Tyrannulet plumage and vocalization. At the end of the day the guests would meet in the dining/lounge area and have a drink, eat, tell stories and laugh - a great time.
The Tower offers two off-site tours a day, the first in the morning departing between 6:30 and 8:30 depending on the location, the other leaving at 3:00 in the afternoon. One of the tour sites is reached on foot from the Tower, the others are accessed by a 15-20 minute drive on one of two “rainforestmobiles”; small trucks with padded, open air, back-to-back benches running lengthwise down the bed.
One - The Observation Deck - The open roof of the tower provides a panoramic 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside. Much of the vista is beautiful tropical forest, but patches of agricultural land are also visible, as is a massive bare earth scar along a portion of the canal that is being dredged. Ocean going ships traversing the isthmus are often in sight and the high rises of Panama City can be seen in the distance.
Huge numbers of raptors migrate past the tower in March and September. During our January stay we had a decent selection of resident species. Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture were always in sight and we scoped one King Vulture in the distance. Swallow-tailed Kite, Yellow-headed Caracara, White Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk and Black Hawk-Eagle made close flybys. During our stay other birders had good looks from the deck at Zone-tailed Hawk and Bat Falcon. At dawn and dusk a Collared Forest-Falcon could be heard calling from the forest.
Short-tailed Swift, Band-rumped Swift and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift were usually zipping around the Tower. A beautiful Purple-crowned Fairy visited the flowers in the canopy just off the deck and in the morning and evening we had goods looks at Mealy Parrot and Keel-billed Toucan. The amiable leader of a Field Guides tour staying at the Tower, Jay VanderGaast, got his group on to a male Blue Cotinga perched atop one of the surrounding trees.
Two - Hummingbird Feeders - In the low flowering trees at the base of the tower there are several hummingbird feeders. The feeders were very active, especially in the morning and evening, but diversity was low. The four regularly occurring species were Long-billed Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Violet-bellied Hummingbird and Blue-chested Hummingbird. The Tower does not operate a fruit feeder for tanagers; keeping one stocked proved impossible with the large numbers of kinkajous, coatis and monkeys in the area.
The “footprint” of the Canopy Tower (including the tower itself, parking spaces and a ground level deck) is the size of two or three tennis courts and enclosed within a high chain-link fence. The fence is kept locked, but guests can pop the latch and wander out as they please during the day. Our desire to do a solo night walk was politely discouraged. It was explained that Park rangers patrolled the area and would have questions for people about after dark.
Three - Semaphore Hill Road - The introductory off-site trip is a kilometre and a half hike down the winding, paved access road to the Tower. Guide José Perez led us on a slow stroll to the main highway, pointing out various forest residents. Immediately outside the gate three Geoffroy's Tamarins crossed the road above us, followed by a troop of Mantled Howler Monkeys. On the way down we had Fasciated Antshrike, Western Slaty Antshrike, Paltry Tyrannulet and a variety of other forest birds. We also saw the first of many Brown-throated Three-toed Sloths. At the bottom of the hill we skirted right a few metres along the main road for a look at a staked-out, day-roosting Great Potoo. At 11:30 a.m. we were met by one of the rainforestmobiles and driven back up to the Tower for lunch.
Four - Plantation Road - At the base of the Semaphore Hill Road, just before the main road, is the entrance to the Plantation Road (which is really a trail). The path cuts seven kilometres through tropical forest. The Tower leads guided walks here, but we elected to explore it ourselves. At 6:30 a.m. after an early breakfast we left the Tower and quickly walked to the trailhead. We got as far as the 5K marker, picking up the usual trailside birds - Dot-winged Antwren, Chequer-throated Antwren and Long-billed Hermit. We flushed several Gray-chested Doves and a Great Tinamou. White-whiskered Puffbird and Song Wren, while not rare, were neat birds to pick up on our own. At 11:30 a.m. we began the steep ascent back up Semaphore Hill. Our return did not take long; we hitched a ride with the first Canopy Tower vehicle to come along.
Five - The Ammo Dump Ponds are a small, scrubby, degraded wetland beside the canal. They are reached by proceeding down Semaphore Hill Road, turning right on the main road, crossing the Chagres River and driving past the community of Gamboa. There was virtually no open water present during our visit but the location was still very birdy. Marsh dwellers included Rufescent Tiger Heron, Snail Kite and Wattled Jacana. The trees held Yellow-headed Caracara, a female Blue Cotinga, Panama Flycatcher and Social and Rusty-margined Flycatcher (who allowed close comparative looks). There were also lots of Northern and Southern-Rough-winged Swallows buzzing about as well as Gray-breasted Martins.
Six - The Summit Gardens are an open botanical garden and zoo located on the main road just a short distance left from the base of Semaphore Hill. We checked out the Harpy Eagle enclosure to get a sense of this great bird and then wandered about the grounds keeping our eyes on fruiting trees, flowering shrubs and various open animal pens. Just opposite the Harpy cage a large tree was visited by a succession of frugivores including Orange-chinned Parakeet, Masked Tityra and Plain-Coloured and Palm Tanager. A number of species came to drink and bathe at a small pond at the White-tailed Deer enclosure including Buff-bellied Wren as well as neo-tropical migrants Philadelphia Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler and Summer Tanager. Several Giant Cowbirds and one Shiny Cowbird fed on spilled grain on the floor of the deer’s feeding stall.
Seven - The Summit Ponds are two mid-sized reservoirs set amidst dry, low forest and open scrub. The area, just opposite the Summit Gardens, is fantastically birdy; something of interest was always in view. Highlights included Gray-headed Chachalaca, Boat-billed Heron, Bat Falcon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher and a pair of staked out, day-roosting Spectacled Owls. A Rosy Thrush-Tanager singing at our feet from the scrub could not be coaxed into view.
Eight - Backside of Gamboa Rainforest Resort - This attractive establishment is located beside the community of Gamboa and can be reached by taking an immediate left after crossing the Chagres River. The Canopy Tower has an arrangement with the resort to let guests visit the grounds. We dropped by twice, both times in the afternoon. Parking by the orchid nursery, we walked the kilometre or so road to the aerial tram’s parking lot. The lawns, gardens, wetlands and patches of secondary forest, were, like the Summit Ponds, filled with birds. Sightings included an American Pygmy Kingfisher on a dead branch overhanging the pond near the aerial tram parking lot, Broad-billed Motmot on a telephone wire along the road and two Yellow-bellied Seedeaters in with a large flock of Variable Seedeater roosting in a wetland/cane tangle. A scope scan of the far bank of the Chagres River revealed a number of wetland birds including Pied-billed Grebe and Black-bellied Whistling Duck. The mammal highlight was a troop of White-face Capuchin Monkeys feeding on nectar from a flowering Balsa Tree near the kingfisher pond.
Eight - Night Drive - At eight in the evening of January 14 we climbed into the open truck and headed down Semaphore Hill Road, searching for nocturnal birds and mammals. The trip lasted almost two hours and was a great success. Guide Alexis Sanchez stood at the front of the moving vehicle, rapidly sweeping the overhanging trees with a powerful spotlight, looking for the reflective eye shine of night creatures. We had barely left the Tower when we had our first sighting, a Two-toed Sloth. Just a little further down Alexis signaled the driver to stop again, this time for a Central American Woolly Opossum feeding in a flowering Balsa Tree. Another flowering Balsa held a Kinkajou. At the base of the hill we turned right on the main road and almost immediately Alexis had the driver back up. “Get ready” he said and when the vehicle stopped he lit up a Crested Owl perched on a long, thick horizontal branch above the parking lot to the El Charco trail. Much excitement! A Common Opossum was our next sighting, followed by a stop at another flowering tree where both an Olingo and a Kinkajou were feeding, allowing for a great side-by-side comparison of these similar species.
Sightings on the Night Drive: Crested Owl (1), Common Opossum (3), Central American Woolly Opossum (1), Hoffmann’s Two-toed Slot (5, including a mother and baby), Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth (1), Kinkajou (5) and Olingo (1).
Nine - The Pipeline Road runs inland just past the Ammo Dump Ponds deep into Soberania National Park. Our three visits to this renowned site provided the best birding of the trip, although it did not yield as many species as the open habitat along the canal. To enter the area, one must pass two gates. At the first gate/guard house an area of secondary forest commences. In a couple of kilometres or so a second gate (unstaffed) and small bridge marks the start of the Pipeline Road proper, and more mature forest. The road runs 17 kilometres in total, but apparently only the first five are open to public access. The Canopy Tower has special permission to bring its vehicles past the second gate. A great way to independently explore it would be by bike.
Although the road provides excellent birding, the area cannot be characterized as wilderness. On two of our three visits we met up with several other birding parties with whom we happily shared sightings. On our second trip we encountered large numbers of sandal and shorts clad “researchers” fiddling with various equipment and inexpertly joy-riding up and down the road in SUVs.
First Visit - Departing from the lodge at 6:30 a.m., we drove quickly to the first gate, proceeded past it and then parked just before the second gate. At the first bridge there was a Bay Wren. We continued slowly down the road, getting a feel for the common birds of the forest. Guide José Perez brought our attention to the call of a Great Jacamar. Several minute of imitative whistling by José brought the bird closer and closer until it finally revealed itself for stunning, close-by, sun-lit scope views.
Farther down the road at the location of a seedling plantation in the ditch (marked by hundreds of tiny flags) a mid-sized dark bird fluttered low across in front of us. A minute or so later another bird flopped by just above the ground; a Plain-brown Woodcreeper. This behaviour struck me as out of place. “There is an army ant swarm here” José quietly said.
Army ants do not build permanent nests but form “bivouacs” each night. In the morning the queen, eggs, larvae and attendants remain behind and a hunting party heads out in search of small insects and spiders to catch, dismember and send back to the main mass. As the hunting party moves through the forest, small prey items and larger frogs, lizards and scorpions flee in panic from the leading edge of the group. Birds gather to feed on these refugees; some do so opportunistically, for others (the “ant obligates”) this is a main source of food. Woodcreepers and a few of the aptly named Antbirds are usually in attendance at swarms along the Pipeline Road. The most coveted obligate is the rare and charismatic Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, a crested, crow-sized, long-tailed forest ghost. Because this species is so seldom encountered it was barely on my wish list of things to see.
Our ant swarm was a relatively small one, perhaps 2m². Attending it was one Rufous Motmot, two Plain-brown Woodcreepers, two Northern Barred Woodcreepers, three Spotted Antbirds, four Bicolored Antbirds, five Ocellated Antbirds, one Kentucky Warbler and three Gray-headed Tanagers. There were two Black-striped Woodcreepers in the general vicinity, but it was uncertain if they were attending the ants. In any event, all the birds were very quiet, sitting low above the swarm or on the ground in front of it; occasionally dashing out to catch an item of food. Most birds at ant swarms are oblivious to people so everyone had fantastic looks at the action from just two to three metres away. After most of the birding group had their fill of the excitement they moved on down the Pipeline Road. I remained behind, walking slowly backwards from the leading edge of the hunting party, observing and photographing the birds for 45 minutes or so. Finding and watching an ant swarm and its attendants is one of the great natural history/birding experiences.
When the others returned we all headed slowly back to vehicle and began the drive out. Halfway between the first and second gate a group of birders by the roadside urgently signaled us to stop. We hopped out and it was apparent that there was another ant swarm right by the road. One of the birders quietly hissed “Ground-Cuckoo”, pulled me close, pointed in to the dim forest and said “It’s moving that way fast”. I did not get on the bird. We waited an hour by the slowly moving swarm but the cuckoo never came back.
Second visit - We proceeded past both the first and second gates and parked about two and a half kilometres down the road. From there we set of on foot, quickly finding a Black-tailed Trogon. Guide José Soto alerted us to the song of a Scaly-breasted Antpitta and then whistled it in. At one of the bridges along the road he spotted a Tiny Hawk in a nearby tree and lined it up in the scope for us. We did not encounter an ant swarm but did come across several mixed species flocks, one that held a few ant obligates including Spotted Antbird, Bicolored Antbird and Gray-headed Tanager. Other interesting sightings included a perched Semiplumbeous Hawk, Spot-crowned Antvireo, a beautiful male Blue Cotinga radiant in the sun and a black and green Poison Arrow Frog.
Third visit - On our last day in Panama we left the Tower early and drove to the Pipeline Road. We parked just a little past the first gate and walked slowly through the secondary forest, leisurely studying birds by the roadside. In the morning sun we had fantastic looks at Black-throated Trogon, Blue Cotinga, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Golden-collared Manakin and Yellow-backed Oriole. After 45 minutes or so guide José Perez returned to the truck and brought it around to pick us up. We had barely begun to drive when José slowly pulled over and indicated that he could hear an ant swarm nearby. In contrast to our first encounter with army ants at which the birds were essentially silent, this was a bigger swarm with more birds; birds that were sharply vocalizing to one another as they competed over food. The commotion was 20 metres in from the road and José carefully lead us through the underbrush to get a view of the action. As we neared the epicenter of activity I began to intently sort through the now familiar obligates: Plain-brown and Northern Barred Woodcreeper, Spotted, Bi-coloured and Ocellated Antbird and Gray-headed Tanager. After a few minutes of staring at the action, José whispered “there is a large bird on the ground, a Ground-Cuckoo”. I followed the direction of his head nod and instantly, with no agonizing wait, a Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo was visible through a small clear point in the undergrowth.
We watched the bird for twenty minutes or so. Most of the time it stood motionless on or near the leading edge of the swarm, making the occasional sudden dash to catch something fleeing the ants. José indicated that one was very fortunate just to find an ant swarm and that to see a Ground-Cuckoo was a many times rarer occurrence. We felt very grateful.
Closing Thoughts - Special thanks to the Canopy Tower staff including guides José Perez, Alexis Sanchez and José Soto for their bird-finding skill and excellent company. Thanks also to Jay VanderGaast of Field Guides who generously shared his knowledge of the area and to Raul Arias de Para, the visionary behind the Canopy Tower and its sister destination, the Canopy Lodge. Panama is a country we will visit again.
Paul Jones - Ottawa, Canada pauljodi AT magma.ca
(Common Name - Scientific Name - Status per Canopy Tower checklist - Our sightings)
1. Great Tinamou - Tinamus major - Common - Haunting call heard daily around the tower, one seen along Semaphore Hill Road from the truck, one flushed from the Plantation Road
2. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck - Dendrocygna autumnalis - Common - Two in the wetlands behind the Gamboa Rainforest Resort
3. Blue-winged Teal - Anas discors - Winterer - Four in the wetlands behind the Gamboa Rainforest Resort
4. Gray-headed Chachalaca - Ortalis cinereiceps - Common - Two at Summit Ponds
5. Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps - Common - Three in the wetlands behind the Gamboa Rainforest Resort
6. Brown Pelican - Pelecanus occidentalis - Common - Two along the Canal near the Ammo Dump Ponds
7. Neotropic Cormorant - Phalacrocorax brasilianus - Common - One each at Ammo Dump and Summit Ponds
8. Anhinga - Anhinga anhinga - Common - One at Summit Ponds
9. Magnificent Frigatebird - Fregata magnificens - Common - Regular sightings along the Canal
10. Rufescent Tiger Heron - Tigrisoma lineatum - Uncommon - Three at the Ammo Dump Ponds including a young bird on a nest, one in a wetland behind the Gamboa Rainforest Resort
11. Great Egret - Ardea alba - Common - One, Ammo Dump Ponds
12. Little Blue Heron - Egretta caerulea - Common - Four in the wetlands behind the Gamboa Rainforest Resort
13. Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis - Common - One, Summit Ponds
14. Green Heron - Butorides virescens - Common - One each at Ammo Dump and Summit Ponds
15. Boat-billed Heron - Cochlearius cochlearius - Uncommon - Two at Summit Ponds including an adult on a nest
16. Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus - Common - Many sightings daily
17. Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura - Common - Many sightings daily
18. King Vulture - Sarcoramphus papa - Uncommon - One scoped in the distance from the observation deck, early afternoon
19. Osprey - Pandion haliaetus - Common - One along the canal
20. Swallow-tailed Kite - Elanoides forficatus - Uncommon - One scoped from the observation deck, early afternoon
21. Snail Kite - Rostrhamus sociabilis - Common - One, Ammo Dump Ponds
22. Tiny Hawk - Accipiter superciliosus - Rare - A pair at a nest site along the Pipeline Road
23. Semiplumbeous Hawk - Leucopternis semiplumbea - Uncommon - One each along the Semaphore Hill and Pipeline Roads, perched mid-canopy early morning
24. White Hawk - Leucopternis albicollis - Uncommon - Several sightings from the observation deck, one along Semaphore Hill Road
25. Roadside Hawk - Buteo magnirostris - Common - One along the main road
26. Broad-winged Hawk - Buteo platypterus - Winterer - One along the main road
27. Short-tailed Hawk - Buteo brachyurus - Common - Several sightings from the observation deck
28. Black Hawk-Eagle - Spizaetus tyrannus - Common - One from the observation deck
29. Collared Forest-Falcon - Micrastur semitorquatus - Uncommon - Loud “Gow!” call heard early morning from the observation deck, also along Pipeline Road
30. Yellow-headed Caracara - Milvago chimachima - Common - Sighted from the observation deck, also at Summit Gardens, Ammo Dump Ponds
31. Bat Falcon - Falco rufigularis - Uncommon - One at Summit Ponds
32. White-throated Crake - Laterallus albigularis - Common - Heard at Ammo Dump Ponds, seen and heard at back of Gamboa Resort
33. Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus - Common - Seven in the wetlands behind the Gamboa Rainforest Resort
34. American Coot - Fulica americana - Uncommon - Four in the wetlands behind the Gamboa Rainforest Resort
35. Limpkin - Aramus guarauna - Rare - One heard near base of Pipeline Road
36. Southern Lapwing - Vanellus chilensis - Common - Three in the mown fields behind the Gamboa Rainforest Resort
37. Wattled Jacana - Jacana jacana - Common - Ammo Dump Ponds, wetlands behind the Gamboa Rainforest Resort
38. Pale-vented Pigeon - Columba cayennensis - Uncommon - Sightings at the Gamboa Resort, Summit Ponds
39. Scaled Pigeon - Columba speciosa - Abundant - Two sightings, Ammo Dump Ponds and Gamboa Rainforest Resort
40. Short-billed Pigeon - Columba nigrirostris - Uncommon - Regularly heard along Pipeline Road, one sighting there
41. Ruddy Ground-Dove - Columbina talpacoti - Abundant - Several at Gamboa Rainforest Resort
42. White-tipped Dove - Leptotila verreauxi - Common - Regular sightings in open areas (Summit Ponds, Summit Gardens, etc.)
43. Gray-chested Dove - Leptotila cassinii - Common - Three along the Plantation Road
44. Orange-chinned Parakeet - Brotogeris jugularis - Abundant - Many sightings, mostly in semi-open areas
45. Blue-headed Parrot - Pionus menstruus - Common - Regular sightings, mostly of flying birds zipping high overhead, identified by scratchier calls than the Amazonas
46. Red-lored Parrot - Amazona autumnalis - Common - Regular sightings, mostly of flying birds
47. Mealy Amazon - Amazona farinosa - Common - Regular sightings, mostly of flying birds but perched birds were also scoped from the observation deck
48. Yellow-crowned Parrot - Amazona ochrocephala - Uncommon - A single sighting in unusual circumstances; as we were leaving the Summit Gardens a cacophony erupted from the parrot cage and we looked up to see an un-banded Yellow-crowned Parrot fly in, perch atop the enclosure and feed the only Yellow-crowned Parrot within the cage - We later saw the same parrot perched in a tree nearby - perhaps a wild bird
49. Squirrel Cuckoo - Piaya cayana - Common - One each at Semaphore Hill Road, Ammo Dump Ponds and Gamboa Rainforest Resort
50. Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo - Neomorphus geoffroyi - Very Rare - We just missed seeing one along the Pipeline Road between the first and second gate. Two days later we connected with an ant swarm in the same area and guide Jose Perez got us on to the bird, probably the same one at the same swarm we had earlier missed - To see this bird I would recommend visiting the Pipeline Road as many times as possible, staying alert for ant swarms, sticking close to the guide and keeping your fingers crossed
51. Greater Ani - Crotophaga major - Common - A pair seen at Ammo Dump Ponds, pairs also seen attending ant swarms at the base of the Pipeline Road
52. Crested Owl - Lophostrix cristata - Rare - One on the night drive, spotted and spot-lighted by guide Alexis Sanchez - The bird was perched on a thick horizontal branch above the parking lot to the El Charco trail, just a shore distance from the base of the Semaphore Hill Road
53. Spectacled Owl - Pulsatrix perspicillata - Uncommon - One sighting, a day-roosting, staked-out pair near the Summit Ponds
54. Great Potoo - Nyctibius grandis - Uncommon - One, a day-roosting, staked-out bird at the base of the Semaphore Hill Road
55. Short-tailed Swift - Chaetura brachyuran - Common - Regular sightings - The observation deck was a good place to study swifts
56. Band-rumped Swift - Chaetura spinicauda - Common - Regular sightings
57. Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift - Panyptila cayennensis - Common - Regular sightings, though fewer seen than the above two swifts
58. Long-billed Hermit - Phaethornis longirostris - Common - Regular sightings in forested areas, including the Tower hummingbird feeders
59. Stripe-throated Hermit - Phaethornis striigularis - Common - One, low in the shrubbery along Semaphore Hill Road
60. White-necked Jacobin - Florisuga mellivora - Common - Regular sightings
61. Black-throated Mango - Anthracothorax nigricollis - Uncommon - Four, all in low forest at edge of wetlands, Summit Ponds, Gamboa Rainforest Resort
62. Violet-bellied Hummingbird - Damophila julie - Common - Regular sightings around the Tower hummingbird feeders
63. Blue-chested Hummingbird - Amazilia amabilis - Common - Regular sightings
64. Snowy-bellied Hummingbird - Amazilia edward - Common - One each at Summit Ponds and Summit Gardens
65. Rufous-tailed Hummingbird - Amazilia tzacatl - Common - Several sightings in semi-open habitat, for example Summit Gardens
66. Purple-crowned Fairy - Heliothryx barroti - Uncommon - Two, one in the tree tops off the observation deck, one mid-canopy at the base of the Pipeline Road
67. White-tailed Trogon - Trogon viridis - Common - Several sightings
68. Violaceous Trogon - Trogon violaceus - Common - Several sightings
69. Black-throated Trogon - Trogon rufus - Common - Two, a cooperative pair at base of Pipeline Road
70. Black-tailed Trogon - Trogon melanurus - Uncommon - One, Pipeline Road
71. Slaty-tailed Trogon - Trogon massena - Common - Regular sightings, the call is frequently heard from the forest
72. Blue-crowned Motmot - Momotus momota - Common - One, Summit Ponds - This bird apparently frequents lower, scrubbier habitat that the next two Motmots
73. Rufous Motmot - Baryphthengus martii - Common - Four in forest habitat, including one at an ant swarm on the Pipeline Road, slightly shyer than the next species
74. Broad-billed Motmot - Electron platyrhynchum - Common - Five in forest habitat, approachable
75. Ringed Kingfisher - Ceryle torquata - Common - One each at Summit and Ammo Dump Ponds
76. Green Kingfisher - Chloroceryle americana - Common - One at Summit Ponds
77. American Pygmy Kingfisher - Chloroceryle aenea - Uncommon - One, at a pond just before the aerial-tram parking lot behind the Gamboa Resort - A great little bird
78. Black-breasted Puffbird - Notharchus pectoralis - Uncommon - One along the Semaphore Road, one along the Pipeline Road
79. White-whiskered Puffbird - Malacoptila panamensis - Uncommon - Three on the Pipeline Road, one along the Plantation Road
80. Great Jacamar - Jacamerops aurea - Rare - One beautiful bird along the Pipeline Road, whistled in by guide José Perez
81. Collared Aracari - Pteroglossus torquatus - Common - Regular sightings
82. Keel-billed Toucan - Ramphastos sulfuratus - Common - Regular sightings, including from the observation deck
83. Chestnut-mandibled Toucan - Ramphastos swainsonii - Common - Heard twice, Pipeline Road and near the tram parking lot, never seen - Took this bird for granted, should have looked harder for it
84. Black-cheeked Woodpecker - Melanerpes pucherani - Common - One, Gamboa Resort
85. Red-crowned Woodpecker - Melanerpes rubricapillus - Abundant - Regular sightings
86. Cinnamon Woodpecker - Celeus loricatus - Common - Five, Pipeline Road
87. Lineated Woodpecker - Dryocopus lineatus - Common - Three, Pipeline Road
88. Crimson-crested Woodpecker - Campephilus melanoleucos - Common - Four, Pipeline Road and Semaphore Hill Road
89. Plain Xenops - Xenops minutus - Common - Regular sightings
90. Plain-brown Woodcreeper - Dendrocincla fuliginosa - Common - Regular sightings, including at ant swarms
91. Northern Barred-Woodcreeper - Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae - Uncommon - Regular sightings, including at ant swarms
92. Buff-throated (Cocoa) Woodcreeper - Xiphorhynchus guttatus - Abundant - Regular sightings
93. Black-striped Woodcreeper - Xiphorhynchus lachrymosus - Uncommon - Two sightings, both along the Pipeline Road - A particularly attractive Woodcreeper
94. Streak-headed Woodcreeper - Lepidocolaptes souleyetii - Uncommon - One, Summit Gardens
95. Fasciated Antshrike - Cymbilaimus lineatus - Common - Regular sightings
96. Great Antshrike - Taraba major - Uncommon - A pair by the pond near the aerial-tram at the Gamboa Rainforest resort
97. Barred Antshrike - Thamnophilus doliatus - Common - A pair by at the Gamboa Rainforest resort
98. Western Slaty-Antshrike - Thamnophilus atrinucha - Common - Regular sightings
99. Spot-crowned Antvireo - Dysithamnus puncticeps - Uncommon - One sighting of two birds near K5 of Pipeline Road
100. Checker-throated Antwren - Myrmotherula fulviventris - Common - Regular sightings in trail-side scrub
101. White-flanked Antwren - Myrmotherula axillaris - Common - Regular sightings in trail-side scrub though not as frequently seen as Checker-throated or Dot-winged - Has a very short tail
102. Dot-winged Antwren - Microrhopias quixensis - Common - Regular sightings, acts a bit like a chickadee, small flocks in the trail-side scrub
103. Dusky Antbird - Cercomacra tyrannina - Common - One each at Semaphore Hill Road, Summit Ponds and Pipeline Road
104. Chestnut-backed Antbird - Myrmeciza exsul - Common - One at base of Semaphore Hill Road, two on the Pipeline Road
105. Spotted Antbird - Hylophylax naevioides - Common - Present and approachable at all three Pipeline ant swarms we encountered, a very attractive bird - Also, occasional sightings independent of ants
106. Bicolored Antbird - Gymnopithys leucaspis - Uncommon - Same status as Spotted Antbird
107. Ocellated Antbird - Phaenostictus mcleannani - Uncommon - Five at first ant swarm, two at third swarm – Also, one independent of ants along the Pipline Road
108. Black-faced Antthrush - Formicarius analis - Common - One heard, Pipeline Road
109. Streak-chested Antpitta - Hylopezus perspicillatus - Uncommon - Pipeline Road, two heard, one whistled in by guide José Soto - My first Antpitta
110. Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet - Camptostoma obsoletum - Uncommon - One each at Summit Ponds, Gamboa Resort
111. Forest Elaenia - Myiopagis gaimardii - Uncommon - One, Summit Ponds - Generally did poorly on flycatchers, this is not a family that the guides could devote a lot of time to on our day trips
112. Yellow-bellied Elaenia - Elaenia flavogaster - Uncommon - One, Summit Ponds
113. Ochre-bellied Flycatcher - Mionectes oleaginea - Uncommon - Two, Pipeline Road
114. Paltry Tyrannulet - Zimmerius vilissimus - Uncommon - One, Semaphore Hill Road
115. Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant - Myiornis atricapillus - Common - Two sightings, both on Pipeline Road
116. Southern Bentbill - Oncostoma olivaceum - Rare - Frequently heard and seen along the Pipeline Road
117. Common Tody-Flycatcher - Todirostrum cinereum - Uncommon - Two sightings, Summit Ponds and Gamboa Rainforest Resort
118. Brownish Flycatcher (Twistwing) - Cnipodectes subbrunneus - Uncommon - One heard at second gate to Pipeline Road, we had to move along
119. Olivaceous Flatbill - Rhynchocyclus olivaceus - Uncommon - Five, Pipeline Road
120. Yellow-margined Flycatcher - Tolmomyias assimilis - Uncommon - Two, Pipeline Road
121. Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher - Terenotriccus erythrurus - Uncommon - Three, Pipeline Road
122. Bright-rumped Attila - Attila spadiceus - Common - One, Pipeline Road, building a nest
123. Rufous Mourner - Rhytipterna holerythra - Uncommon - Two, Pipeline Road
124. Dusky-capped Flycatcher - Myiarchus tuberculifer - Common - Heard regularly
125. Panama Flycatcher - Myiarchus panamensis - Common - Three, Ammo Dump Ponds and Summit Gardens - Low, approachable and, based on absence of rufous tones, easy to identify
126. Great Crested Flycatcher - Myiarchus crinitus - Winterer - Heard regularly
127. Lesser Kiskadee - Pitangus lector - Common - Three, Summit Ponds and Gamboa Rainforest Resort, associating with low brush near water - Quite distinctive, appeared to me to be more “pointy” than rounder/softer Social/Rusty-margined Flycatcher
128. Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus - Common - Regular sightings
129. Boat-billed Flycatcher - Megarynchus pitangua - Common - Two, Gamboa Resort and Summit Ponds
130. Rusty-margined Flycatcher - Myiozetetes cayanensis - Common - Regular sightings, very similar to Social Flycatcher but sharply different vocalizations, subtle plumage distinctions and the assistance of Tower guides are aids to identification
131. Social Flycatcher - Myiozetetes similis - Abundant - Regular sightings, see above
132. Streaked Flycatcher - Myiodynastes maculatus - Common - Three, Ammo Dump Ponds, Summit Gardens and Pipeline Road
133. Tropical Kingbird - Tyrannus melancholicus - Abundant - Regular sightings
134. Fork-tailed Flycatcher - Tyrannus savana - Common - One, along the main road west from the base of Semaphore Hill
135. Cinnamon Becard - Pachyramphus c. cinnamomeus - Uncommon - Four, Gamboa Rainforest Resort right along the road near the aerial-tram parking lot
136. White-winged Becard - Pachyramphus polychopterus - Uncommon - One, at the Pygmy Kingfisher pond, Gamboa Rainforest Resort
137. Masked Tityra - Tityra semifasciata - Common - Five sightings, Summit Gardens and Summit Ponds
138. Blue Cotinga - Cotinga nattererii - Uncommon - Three sightings, a distant treetop female at the Ammo Dump Ponds, a close front-lit male on the deep Pipeline Road, a female feeding lowish in a fruiting tree on the close Pipeline Road
139. Purple-throated Fruitcrow - Querula purpurata - Common - Daily sightings including Plantation Road and Pipeline Road
140. Golden-collared Manakin - Manacus vitellinus - Common - One male, base of Pipeline Road
141. Blue-crowned Manakin - Pipra coronata - Common - Four sightings, all green females
142. Red-capped Manakin - Pipra mentalis - Common - Regular sightings, including lekking birds along Semaphore Hill Road
143. Yellow-throated Vireo - Vireo flavifrons - Winterer - One, base of Semaphore Hill Road
144. Philadelphia Vireo - Vireo philadelphicus - Winterer - One, Summit Gardens
145. Golden-fronted Greenlet - Hylophilus aurantiifrons - Common - Sightings near Ammo Dump and Summit Ponds
146. Lesser Greenlet - Hylophilus decurtatus - Common - Regular sightings
147. Green Shrike-Vireo - Vireolanius pulchellus - Common - The loud “Peer! Peer! Peer!” (or “Look up hear!”) song sounds constantly from the canopy, including from the foliage surrounding the observation deck - We saw just one, from the car park platform at the base of the Tower.
148. Black-chested Jay - Cyanocorax affinis - Common - Two at the Summit Gardens, two at the Summit Ponds
149. Gray-breasted Martin - Progne chalybea - Common - Regular sightings, many on the canal-side transmission wires near the Ammo Dump Ponds
150. Mangrove Swallow - Tachycineta albilinea - Common - Regular sightings along the Canal
151. Northern Rough-winged Swallow - Stelgidopteryx serripennis - Winterer - Regular sightings at Ammo Dump Ponds
152. Southern Rough-winged Swallow - Stelgidopteryx ruficollis - Common - Regular sightings - With a prominent pale rump and orange wash on the throat, this bird is conspicuously different than Northern Rough-winged
153. Black-bellied Wren - Thryothorus fasciatoventris - Common - Three, Pipeline Road
154. Bay Wren - Thryothorus nigricapillus - Common - One seen at the bridge/gate at the base of the Pipeline Road proper, one heard farther down the road at another bridge
155. Buff-breasted Wren - Thryothorus leucotis - Common - Three, Summit Gardens at the deer enclosure
156. Plain Wren - Thryothorus modestus - Common - Two, Summit Ponds
157. House Wren - Troglodytes aedon - Common - One each at Summit Gardens and Gamboa Rainforest Resort
158. White-breasted Wood-Wren - Henicorhina leucosticta - Common - Heard daily, occasional sightings, forest
159. Song Wren - Cyphorhinus phaeocephalus - Uncommon - Heard along Pipeline Road, three seen at close quarters on the Plantation Road, a great little wren, resembles an antbird and groups sings in syncopated harmony
160. Long-billed Gnatwren - Ramphocaenus melanurus - Common - Regularly heard from trail-side scrub
161. Tropical Gnatcatcher - Polioptila plumbea - Common - Regular sightings
162. Clay-colored Thrush - Turdus grayi - Common - Regular sightings, especially in semi-open habitat
163. Tropical Mockingbird - Mimus gilvus - Common - Regular sightings at Ammo Dump Ponds, Summit Ponds area
164. Golden-winged Warbler - Vermivora chrysoptera - Winterer - One, at lower end of Semaphore Road
165. Tennessee Warbler - Vermivora peregrina - Winterer - One, Summit Gardens at the deer enclosure
166. Yellow Warbler - Dendroica petechia - Winterer - Regular sightings in scrubby habitat
167. Chestnut-sided Warbler - Dendroica pensylvanica - Winterer - Regular sightings in forested areas
168. Bay-breasted Warbler - Dendroica castanea - Winterer - Regular sightings in forested areas - There were quite a few around so Euro-birders might want to get a particular fix on this pale-breasted, wing-barred bird with traces of washed-out rufous on the flanks
169. Black-and-white Warbler - Mniotilta varia - Winterer - Regular sightings in forested areas
170. Northern Waterthrush - Seiurus noveboracensis - Winterer - One at Summit Gardens at the deer enclosure, one at Gamboa Rainforest Resort
171. Kentucky Warbler - Oporornis formosus - Winterer - One, a male at an ant swarm, Pipeline Road
172. Rosy Thrush-Tanager - Rhodinocichla rosea - Common - Two heard but not glimpsed in trail-side scrub at Summit Ponds
173. Gray-headed Tanager - Eucometis penicillata - Common - Present at each Pipeline Road ant swarm, be aware of resemblance to female White-shouldered Tanager
174. White-shouldered Tanager - Tachyphonus luctuosus - Common - Regular sightings, the default tanager, often seen moving in small flocks at forest edges - Note: the female resembles a small Gray-headed Tanager
175. Red-throated Ant-Tanager - Habia fuscicauda - Common - Regular sightings
176. Summer Tanager - Piranga rubra - Winterer - Two, Summit Gardens
177. Crimson-backed Tanager - Ramphocelus dimidiatus - Common - Regular sightings
178. Flame (Lemon)-rumped Tanager - Ramphocelus flammigerus - Common - Sightings at the Gamboa Resort
179. Blue-gray Tanager - Thraupis episcopus - Abundant - Regular sightings, especially in garden/semi-open habitat
180. Palm Tanager - Thraupis palmarum - Abundant - Regular sightings, especially in garden/semi-open habitat
181. Plain-colored Tanager - Tangara inornata - Common - Regular sightings, the second default forest tanager after White-shouldered - A small flighty bird travelling in groups - At the right angle the sun lights up a nice blue shoulder patch
182. Golden-hooded Tanager - Tangara larvata - Common - Regular sightings, especially in open forest
183. Blue Dacnis - Dacnis cayana - Common - Regular sightings
184. Green Honeycreeper - Chlorophanes spiza - Common - One, Summit Gardens
185. Shining Honeycreeper - Cyanerpes lucidus - Uncommon - Two, Pipeline Road
186. Red-legged Honeycreeper - Cyanerpes cyaneus - Common - Regular sightings
187. Variable Seedeater - Sporophila americana - Abundant - Regular sightings in open, semi-open habitat, including large flocks (30-40 birds) at the back of the Gamboa Rainforest Resort
188. Yellow-bellied Seedeater - Sporophila nigricollis - Common - Two, both with the Variable Seedeaters at the Gamboa Resort
189. Ruddy-breasted Seedeater - Sporophila minuta - Uncommon - A pair perched on a telephone wire, Summit Ponds
190. Streaked Saltator - Saltator striatipectus - Common - One, Summit Ponds
191. Buff-throated Saltator - Saltator maximus - Common - Two, Summit Ponds and Summit Gardens
192. Slate-colored Grosbeak - Saltator grossus - Uncommon - One, halfway down Semaphore Hill Road - More impressive than the field guide illustration
193. Blue-black Grosbeak - Cyanocompsa cyanoides - Common - One sighting, a pair along a brushier portion of the Plantation Road
194. Great-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanus - Abundant - Regular sightings
195. Shiny Cowbird - Molothrus bonariensis - Common - One, at the deer pen, Summit Gardens
196. Giant Cowbird - Molothrus oryzivorus - Common - Three, at the deer pen, Summit Gardens
197. Yellow-backed Oriole - Icterus chrysater - Common - Two at Summit Gardens, one at base of Pipeline Road
198. Yellow-tailed Oriole - Icterus mesomelas - Uncommon - One at Gamboa Rainforest Resort
199. Baltimore Oriole - Icterus galbula - Winterer - Three at Summit Gardens, one at Gamboa Rainforest Resort
200. Yellow-billed Cacique - Amblycercus holosericeus - Uncommon - Two at Summit Ponds
201. Scarlet-rumped Cacique - Cacicus uropygialis - Common - Regular sightings
202. Yellow-rumped Cacique - Cacicus cela - Common - Regular sightings
203. Chestnut-headed Oropendola - Psarocolius wagleri - Common - Regular sightings
204. Yellow-crowned Euphonia - Euphonia luteicapilla - Common - Several sightings
205. Thick-billed Euphonia - Euphonia laniirostris - Abundant - Several sightings
Annotated Mammal List - Panama - The Canopy Tower - January 13-17, 2009
1. Common Opossum - Didelphis marsupialis - Three on the night drive, one on Semaphore Hill Road on our early morning transfer out to the international airport
2. Central American Woolly Opossum - Caluromys derbianus - One, on the night drive
3. Northern Tamandua - Tamandua mexicana - One, low by the roadside 200 metres from the Tower
4. Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth - Choloepus hoffmanni - Daily sightings
5. Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth - Bradypus variegatus - Daily sightings
6. Geoffroy’s Tamarin - Saguinus geoffroyi - One sighting, a group of three high by the roadside 100 metres from the Tower
7. White-faced Capuchin Monkey - Cebus capuchinus - Daily sightings
8. Mantled Howler Monkey - Alouatta palliata - Daily sightings
9. Variegated Squirrel - Sciurus variegatoides - Daily sightings
10. Red-tailed Squirrel - Sciurus granatensis - Daily sightings
11. Central American Agouti - Dasyprocta punctata - Daily sightings
12. White-nosed Coati - Nasua nasua - Daily sightings
13. Kinkajou - Potos flavus - Five, in flowering Balsa trees, on the night drive
14. Olingo - Bassaricyon gabbii - One, in a flowering Balsa tree on the night drive