PANAMA – ONE OF THE BEST BIRDING DESTINATIONS

Panama is a country in Central America situated between North and South America. It is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Covering around 40 percent of its land area, Panama’s jungles are home to an abundance of tropical plants and animals, its boasts a bird population of approximately 904 bird species, 182 amphibian species, 241 mammals and 242 reptile species – what is more impressive is some of them can be found nowhere else on the planet. The country is considered as one of the best birding spots and in particular, finding the Resplendent Quetzal.

birds of panama in El Valle one of the best places to watch birds
Bay-headed Tanagers in El Valle, Panama

Earlier this year we had the opportunity to travel to this facinating country for 14 days to experience Panama at its wildest and build a route for our tour.  Our trip started off with a visit to El Valle de Antón, home to over 500 bird species, a couple of waterfalls and a few thermal pools.

wildlife during bird watching tour panama
Three toed sloth

El Valle de Anton or Anton Valley is located in the mountains of Panama, on the floor of the largest inhabited volcano crater in the world.  With its lush cloud forest it’s no wonder there is an abundance of birds and wild animals.

black throated trogon in panama
Black-throated Trogon

Our trip took us to Gamboa and the famous Pipeline Road. This protected region is located approximately one hour from Panama City and the town was originally built to house employees of the Panama Canal and their dependants. Pipeline Road has been regarded as one of the best birding spots in Panama and in the Americas. The species list exceeds 400!

Wildlife during bird watching tour
Agouti in Pipeline Road Central Panama.

Pipeline is easy for birding and bird photography since it is relatively flat with hilly sections for the last 10 km.  Birds can be seen flying ahead or resting close to the road. Wild animals can be seen feeding on of just off the road depending on the time of day.

speckled tanager during bird watching tour
Speckled Tanager

Rio Sereno is a town in the Chiriquí Province located in close proximity to the Costa Rican border.  It is a rural dairy and agricultural region and the town is surrounded by vegetation.  There is an abundance of wildlife in this region, a haven for birding and nature enthusiast.  There were so many different bird species and various howler monkeys in this region it was simply amazing.

best places to watch birds in panama
Male Howler Monkey

It is quite common to see groups of monkeys in the cloud forests of Panama, most of these monkeys are by no means shy and are just as curious to scope us out. Above is the what appeared to be the leader of the group, his howling could be heard from miles away.

quetzal in one of the best places to watch birds in panama
The Resplendent Quetzal

The search for the Resplendent Quetzal began in the La Amistad National Park, this  park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Five species of big cats roam the park: pumas, ocelots, margay, jaguars, and jaguarundis. It has 600 species of birds, including the three-wattled bellbird, resplendent quetzal, yellow-green finch and bare-necked umbrellabird. Three indigenous tribes – the Naso, Bribri and Ngöbe-Buglé – also live within the park. These indigenous groups live in small, traditional villages.

The main focus on this tour was to build a route to find the magnificent Resplendent Quetzal. It was not an easy task as these birds migrate to higher grounds in the cloud forest and only come closer to lower regions when they are ready to breed. This is usually between January and May. We were extremely lucky on one afternoon when we simply went for a walk and saw a pair flew by about 20 meters in front of us. Seeing this bird in the wild is definitely something to remember and should be on any serious birding and/or bird photography enthusiast’s bucket list.