Panama is well-known as a top destination for birding in the Americas. With over 1,000 species recorded in the small country, the possibilities for finding birds is seemingly endless. With a great variety of habitats from coastal lowlands, river courses, and foothill plains to high elevation cloud forest and volcanos, Panama supports great biological diversity. In addition to birds, Panama is home to over 1,800 species of butterflies. In fact, one of the meanings of the word Panama is “abundance of butterflies.”
Birds and butterflies complement each other perfectly in their preferred times of activity. While birds in the lowlands are most active at dawn and dusk, butterflies show their bright colors during the middle of the day when it is hot and sunny. Both birds and butterflies are active all day long in the foothills and highlands.
As a great introduction to the birds and butterflies of Panama, we will enjoy great sightings of many winged things, from some spectacular birds to amazing butterflies and other insects. Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Black-faced Solitaire, Cinnamon Woodpecker, are some of Panama's most notable birds. We hope to see Zebra-striped Hairstreak, Deep-blue Eyed-Metalmark, Cloud Forest King and Great White Longtail. During our Panama birds and butterflies tour, we will advantageously look for both birds and butterflies, and anything else that may pop up along the way!
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN PANAMA CITY
Welcome to Panama! Our Panama Birds and Butterflies tour begins by a short transfer from Tocumen International Airport to your hotel. This afternoon we will spend some time exploring the grounds of the hotel in search of some of Panama’s common birds. Collared Aracari, Keel-billed Toucan, Blue-gray and Palm tanagers, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Wattled Jacana, Southern Lapwing and Bat Falcon are some species we may see. We will be introduced to some of the local butterflies as they forage around bushes and grassy areas. Banded Peacock, White Peacock, Tropical Buckeye, Tropical Checkered-Skipper, Mimosa Skipper and Variable Cracker are common here. Our first day will conclude with a delicious dinner.
DAY 2: SOBERANIA NATIONAL PARK
Today we head out early for an exciting day exploring the world-famous Pipeline Road located in Soberania National Park. As we walk the gravel road through lowland rainforest, we will watch for some of the 400+ species of birds that have been recorded here. Some key species are Slaty-tailed Trogon, Black-crowned Antshrike, Black-bellied Wren, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Golden-collared Manakin, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Semiplumbeous Hawk and White-whiskered Puffbird.
Butterfly possibilities will seem endless here. Common and Menelaus morphos are a common sight along the road. Thoas Swallowtail, Mexican Sailor, Starry Cracker, Great White Longtail, Two-eyed Eighty-Eight, Hecale Longwing and Many-banded Daggerwing are also common here. At the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center, nectar feeders attract Crowned Woodnymph, White-necked Jacobin, Violet-bellied Hummingbird and Long-billed Hermit. An observation tower brings us up above the treetops where we will scan for Blue Cotinga, Yellow-throated Toucan and King Vulture.
DAY 3: CERRO AZUL & CERRO JEFE
Our early departure this morning will have us arriving in Cerro Azul just after dawn. This foothills region east of Panama City is home to some special birds including the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Rufous-winged and Speckled tanagers, Black-eared Wood-Quail. It is particularly great for hummingbirds such as Violet-capped Hummingbird, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and if lucky, Rufous-crested Coquette! We continue through the day visiting trails and quiet roadsides in search of birds and butterflies. Butterflies are abundant here. Some of the more notable ones are Spying Eyed-Metalmark, Scarce Morpho, Rusted Clearwing-Satyr, and Six-spotted Eighty-Eight. Cerro Azul also offers us some beautiful scenery, sweeping vistas and tropical forests of Chagres National Park.
DAY 4: METROPOLITAN NATURAL PARK & SUMMIT PONDS
Metropolitan Park on the western side of Panama City is a natural paradise. Our morning walk here will take us through Pacific dry forest in search of flycatchers, motmots, trogons, wrens, tanagers and some very beautiful and unique butterflies. Black-throated Trogon, Whooping Motmot, Dusky Antbird, Rufous-and-white Wren, Lance-tailed Manakin, Crimson-crested Woodpecker and Yellow-green Tyrannulet (endemic) are just a few of the common birds we see here. Notable butterflies include Stigma Skipper, Widespread Peacock-Skipper, Carousing Anteros (Jewelmark), Red Cracker, Ziba Scrub-Hairstreak and Yellow Metalmark.
After lunch, we will head over to the nearby Summit Ponds and Old Gamboa Road. At the ponds, Boat-billed Herons nest along the vegetated edges and Lesser Kiskadees skim the pond. Up to 5 species of kingfishers, including American Pygmy Kingfisher, can be found. Further down the road, we will look and listen for Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Jet Antbird, White-bellied Antbird, Laughing Falcon and Yellow-billed Cacique. Tiger Beauty, Lucianus Metalmark and Giant Owl-Butterflies may also catch our eyes!
DAY 5: BOQUETE
This morning our Panama Birds & Butterflies tour continues as we hop a short flight to Chiriqui. Arriving in Boquete by late morning, we will have some time to explore the grounds of the hotel before lunch. This picturesque mountain town is a nature lover’s paradise – birds and butterflies are everywhere! Rufous-collared Sparrow, Silver-throated Tanager, Flame-colored Tanager and Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush greet us at these higher elevations. A suite of flashy hummingbirds and colorful butterflies flutter around the gardens.
After lunch, we will head to the Culebra Trail, where some avian specialties of the region can be found. Prong-billed Barbet, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo and the spectacular Fiery-throated Hummingbird are highlights of this area. These forests are a good place to find several species of clearwing butterflies, as well as Cloud Forest Mimic-White, Chestnut Crescent and Cream-spotted Tigerwing.
DAY 6: FINCA LERIDA & PIPELINE TRAIL
After a delicious breakfast we will head over to the property of Finca Lerida. We will spend the morning exploring the grounds and trails of this Boquete landmark. Hummingbirds are abundant here, and Purple-throated Mountain-gem, Violet Sabrewing, Lesser Violetear and Scintillant Hummingbird are all common. White-naped Brushfinch, Slate-throated Redstart, Slaty Flowerpiercer and Scarlet-thighed Dacnis are just some of the birds we will likely encounter this morning.
As the morning runs its course, White-spotted Clearwing, Rusty-tipped Page and the exquisite Cloud Forest King will warm up their wings, among dozens of other species of butterflies. Our day continues after lunch at the Pipeline Trail. Here we continue to enjoy the exquisite wildlife of the area. At an even higher elevation, we hope to see Black Guan, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher and even a Resplendent Quetzal, if lucky!
DAY 7: LOS QUETZALES TRAIL & VOLCAN LAKES
The famous Los Quetzales Trail traverses through the upper cloud forest of Volcan Baru National Park. Resplendent Quetzals can be seen here with relative ease. Birdlife is abundant at the western trailhead. Brown-capped Vireo, Sooty-headed Chlorospingus, Volcano Hummingbird, Black-faced Solitaire and Flame-throated Warbler are just a few of the specialties we can find here. Banded Owl-Butterfly can be found resting low on tree trunks, Orange-banded Daggerwing and Mountain White are some of the notable butterflies to look for.
This afternoon at Volcan Lakes, we will find a splendid combination of lowland and highland species. White-winged Tanager, Collared Trogon, Spotted Wood-Quail, Bran-colored Flycatcher, Chestnut-collared Swift, Morelet’s Seedeater and many more. We will keep our eye open for butterflies along the road, Astala Eighty-Eight is a particularly beautiful species to watch for here. Today will be a highlight of our Panama Birds and Butterflies Tour!
DAY 8: FORTUNA & THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE
Today we head out early to take in the amazing birds of the Fortuna Forest Reserve. We will search forest edges for Black-bellied Hummingbird, White-throated Mountain-gem, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Crimson-collared Tanager and White-crowned Manakin. In dense forest we will listen for Thicket Antpitta and Buff-fronted Quail-Dove. By rivers and waterfalls, we will watch for American Dipper, Torrent Tyrannulet and Azure-hooded Jay. We will also keep our eyes open for butterflies. White Metalmark, Gaudy Checkerspot, Black-bellied Anteros (Jewelmark) and the stunning Typhla Satyr are specialties of this area.
DAY 9: PARAISO DE BOQUERON
On our final full day, we will spend the better part of the day at Paraiso de Boqueron. This is a beautiful private property situated in the foothills area of far western Chiriqui. Early in the day, Fiery-billed Aracaris come in to feed at the numerous platform feeders. Orange-collared Manakin, Black-hooded Antshrike, Costa Rican Brushfinch, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner and Bran-colored Flycatcher can be found at forest edge. Hummingbirds are abundant, and we will easily see several species visiting the feeders. Long-billed Starthroat, Brown Violetear, Scaly-breasted, Snowy-bellied, and Charming hummingbirds are regular visitors. Other highlights include Speckled Tanager, Spot-crowned Euphonia and Yellow-bellied Siskin. There are enough birds and butterflies to keep us busy here all morning!
This afternoon, back in Boquete, we are free to return to local trails to look for birds still to be seen. Or spend our last afternoon relaxing around the beautiful hotel grounds. We will enjoy a final dinner together and recap our favorite birds, butterflies and memories of the tour.
DAY 10: DEPARTURE
This morning after breakfast we will check out of our hotel and return to Panama City via a short flight. Our Panama Birds and Butterflies tour concludes in Panama City.