BirdLife International, in order to concentrate its conservation efforts, has identified areas of high bird endemism throughout the world and classified these as Endemic Bird Areas. Costa Rica and the Panama Highlands are one of the richest of these Endemic Bird Areas with no less than 55 endemics. This unique tour has been specially designed to seek out these endemics whilst staying at comfortable birding lodges and visiting areas protecting large swathes of cloudforest. We have also timed this tour to take in the world’s largest raptor migration spectacle which channels through this narrow isthmus, a truly incredible phenomenon to encounter. Many birders would have visited Costa Rica or Panama before, but even if you have done both of them, this tour will add numerous birds to your lifelist from hard to find recently recognised endemics in Costa Rica to specials restricted to volcano peaks in remote regions of northern Panama.
The bird endemism of this area is legendary, not only represented by a high number of endemics (and overall bird diversity) but also by the fact that many of these birds have been genetically isolated and are therefore ancient relics with no close relatives. The cute Wrenthrush (previously known as the Zeledonia) has now been recognised in its own monotypic bird family, and seven other genera are restricted entirely to this area: Panterpe (Fiery-throated Hummingbird), Elvira (White-tailed and Coppery-headed Emerald), Phainoptila (Black-and-yellow Phainoptila – previously Silky-flycatcher), Thryorchilus (the charming Timberline Wren), Pezopetes (Large-footed Finch), Pselliophorus (Yellow-thighed and Yellow-green Finch) and Acanthidops (Peg-billed Finch.) Other target endemics include Black Guan, a total of 9 hummingbirds, Bare-shanked Screech-Owl, the strange Prong-billed Barbet, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Blue-and-gold and Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Cabanis’s Ground Sparrow and Volcano Junco. Other highlights may include the Resplendent Quetzal whose reputation precedes itself, Black-crested and White-crested Coquettes, Orange-collared Manakin, Fiery-billed Aracari, Black-faced Antthrush, Isthmian Wren, Black-cheeked Ant Tanager (restricted to the Osa Peninsula), Baird’s Trogon and Three-wattled Bellbird, Snowy Cotinga, Chriqui Yellowthroat and Nicaraguan Seedfinch.
We kick off in small nation of Costa Rica that has geared itself heavily towards avitourism and therefore developed a superb infrastructure to service the numerous visiting birders. And with over 850 species it is easy to understand why! The backbone of the country is formed by a scenic mountain range, and here the cloud forests are home to most of the aforementioned endemic birds. We will also dip into the Pacific lowlands on our tour, and we can look forward to many striking species of trogons, toucans, motmots and hummingbirds, among many other spectacular birds.
Departing Costa Rica, we enter the Chiriqui Highlands of Panama searching for further highland forest endemics. The final leg of our tour is spent on the idyllic Bocas del Toro archipelago, at the aptly named Tranquilo Bay Lodge, enjoying the staggering scenery and some equally incredible birding. Here we will focus on Caribbean lowland and mid-elevation species as well as hopefully connecting with the river of raptors that move through this area at this time of year. Thrilling birding, quality lodges and a relaxed pace make this tour perfect for anyone who has yet to experience the exciting avifauna of Central America or for those who have an appetite for a repeat taste!
Resplendent Quetzal, Cabanis’s Ground Sparrow, Black-crested and White-crested Coquettes, Orange-collared & Golden-collared Manakins, Fiery-billed Aracari, Black-faced Antthrush, Isthmian, Canebrake & Bay Wrens, Black-cheeked Ant Tanager, Baird’s, White-tailed & Black-throated Trogons, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, White-throated & Purple-throated Mountaingems, Volcano, Fiery-throated & Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds, Bare-shanked Screech Owl, Black-and-yellow Phainoptila, Flame-throated & Black-eared Warblers, Yellow-thighed Finch, Three-wattled Bellbird, Prong-billed Barbet, Rufous-necked Wood Rail, Green-breasted Mango, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Barred & Finsch’s (Crimson-fronted) Parakeet, Black-crowned Antshrike, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Snowy Cotinga, Nicaraguan Seed Finch.
Mantled Howler Monkey, White-throated Capuchin, Colombian Night Monkey, Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey, Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth, Brown-throated Sloth, Variegated Squirrel, Red-tailed Squirrel, Central American Dwarf Squirrel, Central American Agouti, Whote-nosed Coati, Kinkajou, Common Bottlenose Dolphin
cloud forest, oak forest, lowland rainforest, mudflats, grasslands, highland lake, subalpine paramo, island archipelago, pelagic
warm and humid in the lowlands, alternating to cool and somewhat cold conditions at higher altitudes
some long drives, early mornings and late evenings, but generally laid back birding