Burbayar: a refuge for Panama’s biodiversity

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, one of the common visitors to the hummingbird feeders

Not too long ago we were checking out some interesting birding sites in Panama. More and more I have come to realize how amazing the birding is in this country. Many great birding sites are easily accessible and it is easy to get around. Panama also offers great hotel options. The country has excellent guides and, above all, an enormous diversity of birds. Over 1,000 species, 10 national and more than 100 regional endemics (the number varies depending on which resource you consult) are found here. It is truly one of the top destinations for bird enthusiasts. One of the places we were lucky enough to visit was Burbayar, a hotel situated between the Pacific and Caribbean slopes.

Birding Between Two Slopes

Though Burbayar is only two hours from the capital, it is surrounded by thick, well-preserved forest. One of its principal attractions are the very high number of amphibians and birds that can be found here. It is not for nothing that National Geographic did a special report about the frogs in the area. Additionally, it is one of the best places to look for some rare and hard-to-see birds: Sapayoa (Sapayoa aenigma) and Speckled (Spiny-faced) Antshrike (Xenornis setifrons).

The trails of Burbayar are its main attraction

The Lodge

We only had a short time in Burbayar, but it was enough to give us a great appreciation for the amazing potential of this place. The owner, Iñaki Ruíz, built the place with his own hands (with a little bit of help, of course!) and has turned it into a must-see destination for ecotourism in Panama. He showed us around the cabins, which are rustic and comfortable. They are surrounded by amazing scenery, stunning views that could be enjoyed from the top of the hill. The distinctive hum of hummingbirds who regularly visit the numerous feeders on the property is always in the background.

Each year new species of butterflies are being found for the Panama list – this is a Malachite (Siproeta stelens)
Not sure about this dragonfly – I’m going with something in the Cannaphila genus!
The whiskers of this Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher have a tactile sense that might be useful when looking for its main prey: leafhoppers

The Birding at Burbayar

During our stay, we hiked along two separate trails within the property, led by expert guide José Perez. Joining us on these hikes were two wonderful people, Hans J Geuze and Judith Klumperman, from The Netherlands. Hans is a dedicated birder and his list of countries traveled to would stir envy in any serious traveler. Apart from that, he is a wonderful artist who paints portraits of nature, especially of birds, butterflies and moths. We were able to see many interesting bird species including the Violet-headed Hummingbird, Streak-chested Antpitta and the Ocellated Antbird.

This shy Streak-chested Antpitta was seen on one of the trails

Right now, a new hotel is under construction utilizing sustainable materials. The goal is keeping the surrounding forest as intact as possible. The new hotel, an easy and comfortable drive from Panama City, makes Burbayar an excellent choice for lodging while in Panama. We will certainly include a stay here on our tours to this lovely country. Contact us for more information on visiting Burbayar and other birding hotspots in Panama.

Thanks Iñaki, for your hospitality!

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