Forrest is an outstanding guide. I often have trouble getting on a bird and he was very patient with me. He lived up to all the hype my friend told me. Looking forward to more trips with Rockjumper and especially with Forrest.
Our Best of Panama birding tour is a joy, as long travel days and arduous hikes are not necessary. We spend several days in the Canal Zone, allowing us an unrivalled opportunity to explore the rainforests of Soberanía National Park. These exquisite forest and wetland sites provide diverse birding, while mammal opportunities are excellent. Pipeline Road, Ammo Dump Ponds, Rainforest Discovery Centre, and the Parque Metropolitano Panama are among the most famous birding sites we will visit. The diversity and quality of birds and birding in the area very near to the Panamanian Capital makes this area perhaps the most convenient and fruitful birding anywhere in Latin America. Some 350 species can be found within a 30-mile radius of the city! We then head to the delightful hill country of El Valle de Antón where we explore cloudforest and a new range of mouth-watering Panama birding species!
Panamanian Tyrannulet, Veraguan Mango, Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo, Blue Cotinga, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Great & Little Tinamous, Keel-billed and Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, Collared Aracari, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Spot-crowned Barbet, Black-eared Wood Quail, Fasciated, Russet & Black-crowned Antshrikes, Red-capped, White-ruffed, Lance-tailed, Blue-crowned & Golden-collared Manakins, Broad-billed and Rufous Motmots, White-whiskered & White-necked Puffbird, Spotted, Dusky, Bicolored, Ocellated & White-bellied Antbird, Black-faced Antthrush, Dot-winged, White-flanked, Slaty, Moustached & Checker-throated Antwrens, Red-lored & Northern Mealy Amazons, Blue-headed & Brown-hooded Parrots, Slaty-tailed, White-tailed Trogon, Black-bellied Wren, White-breasted Wood Wren, Crimson-crested and Lineated Woodpeckers, Scaled, Black-crowned and Streak-chested Antpittas, Bay-headed, Speckled and Black-and-yellow Tanagers, Green Shrike-Vireo, Black-chested Jay, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Southern Bentbill, White-winged Becard, Northern & Russet-winged Schiffornis, Northern Barred Woodcreeper, Speckled Mourner, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Black-and-white & Ornate Hawk-Eagles, Crested Owl, Barred Forest Falcon, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Spotted Barbtail, Black Guan, White Hawk, Red-faced Spinetail, Ochraceous Wren, White-vented Euphonia.
Hummingbird fans: Rufous-crested Coquette, White-tipped Sicklebill, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Green Thorntail, Violet-capped, Violet-headed & Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds, Green Hermit, White-tailed Emerald, Green-crowned Brilliant, Purple-throated Mountaingem, Snowcap.
Mantled Howler Monkey, White-faced Capuchin, Ocelot, sloths
rainforest, cloudforest, marshes, rivers
mostly tropical conditions; warm and humid
mostly relaxed pace with some longer hikes
Panama Canal, pristine rainforest
Day 1: Arrivals in Panama City
Today is set aside as an arrival day. For some, this will be the start of their Panamanian adventure, while for others, we will arrive in Panama City after a stunning week in the Darién! This evening we stay at our conveniently located lodgings in the Gamboa district, right in the thick of the action!
Day 2: Semaphore Hill Road, Ammo Dump Ponds & Soberania National Park
After an early breakfast, we will head down to Semaphore Hill, surrounded on either side by lowland humid rainforest, searching for forest species that may include up to 5 species of trogon, Fasciated and Black-crowned Antshrikes, Red-capped and Blue-crowned Manakins, Broad-billed and Rufous Motmots, White-whiskered Puffbird, Double-toothed Kite, Spotted Antbird, Great Tinamou, Black-faced Antthrush, and many flycatchers including Bright-rumped Attila, Yellow-margined and Olivaceous Flatbills, Dot-winged, White-flanked and Checker-throated Antwrens, Olivaceous Woodcreeper and White-shouldered Tanager.
After lunch, we shall visit the nearby Ammo Dump Ponds, a large water body replete with surrounding wetlands and forest, offering a great variety of birds to be seen! Rufescent Tiger Heron, Little Blue Heron, White-throated Crake, Snail Kite, Wattled Jacana, Boat-billed Heron, Grey-cowled Wood Rail, Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfishers, along with a gorgeous, American Pygmy Kingfisher, can be found in and around the pond. The surrounding areas are great habitats for Greater and Smooth-billed Anis, Black-striped Sparrow, Crimson-backed and Blue-grey Tanagers, Variable, Yellow-bellied and Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters, Grey-breasted Martin, Mangrove and Southern Rough-winged Swallows, Streaked Flycatcher and Tropical Kingbird, all of which are commonly found here. Over the Panama Canal, we will watch for Magnificent Frigatebird and Brown Pelican.
Day 3: Pipeline Road & Rainforest Discovery Centre
After an early dawn breakfast this morning on our Panama birding tour, we head out for a full day of birding along the world famous Pipeline Road! First, we shall head to the private Rainforest Discovery Centre, giving us access to the 40-metre high canopy tower, perhaps one of the best towers in all of Central America, never mind Panama. This is sure to be a major highlight, even for those of you who don’t like heights very much. With the canopy at eye level, we can look forward to a host of species normally seen in flight or from below only. Red-lored and Northern Mealy Amazons, Blue-headed Parrots, giant Keel-billed and Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, Collared Aracari and one of our major targets for the day, Blue Cotinga.
Canopy flocks often contain hidden gems, so we shall be on the lookout for Green Shrike-Vireo, Black-chested Jay, White-necked Puffbird, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Yellow-rumped Cacique and the diminutive jewel, Red-legged Honeycreeper.
After thoroughly gorging ourselves on a healthy treat of new species, we shall return to terra firme and spend the remainder of the day walking the Pipeline Road. This old dirt road, built to access a pipeline installed along the canal during World War II, is now surrounded by some of the best mature secondary forests in all of Central America! Over 400 bird species have been recorded here. As we walk along the first portion of the road through Caribbean slope forest, we hope to see a plethora of forest species including Dusky and White-bellied Antbirds, Little Tinamou, Black-bellied Wren, White-breasted Wood Wren, Southern Bentbill, Golden-collared Manakin, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, White-winged Becard, Crimson-crested and Lineated Woodpeckers, White-tailed Trogon, Russet-winged Schiffornis and Streak-chested Antpitta! We also hope to come across an ant swarm, where Spotted, Bicolored and Ocellated Antbirds, Northern Barred Woodcreeper, Song Wren, Grey-headed Tanager and others gather for a feeding frenzy. Pipeline Road is, in addition, a great place to search for rainforest mammals, including White-faced Capuchin, White-nosed Coati and Northern Tamandua. If we are lucky, we may find a number of other specialities, including Speckled Mourner, Spot-crowned Antvireo and Moustached Antwren. The rare Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo are occasionally seen here too.
Day 4: Gamboa Resort & Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal
After breakfast this morning on our Panama birding tour, we will stroll around our lodgings, which is one of the best places in Panama for raptors, with Black Hawk-Eagle, and both Roadside and Short-tailed Hawks. The different habitat type here has its respective species variety, and we could find Thick-billed Seed Finch, Barred Antshrike, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Thick-billed and Yellow-crowned Euphonias, Ruddy Ground Dove, Lesser Nighthawk, Red-throated Ant Tanager, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Streaked Saltator and migrants including Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Summer Tanager!
In the afternoon, we shall head over the Miraflores Locks, which is part of the Panama Canal. We will be able to see, firsthand, one of the most significant sites in American history, which included not only the building of this mighty canal, but also the division of Colombia and the establishment of Panama itself. Bird-wise, we shall keep an eye overhead for Magnificent Frigatebird as well as Mangrove and Southern Rough-winged Swallows. This evening, we may head out again to search for nocturnal species that may include Spectacled and Mottled Owls as well as Common Potoo.
Day 5: Cerro Azul, Cerro Jefe & Bayano area
Another early start will have us travelling east of Panama City to the foothills of Chagres National Park, east of Panama City. Here, a completely different climate and, more importantly, a different suite of birds await us! We will ascend into the foothills of Cerro Azul (750 m) and Cerro Jefe (1,000 m). These peaks, covered in elfin cloud forest, are home to some special birds, including Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Spot-crowned Barbet, Black-eared Wood Quail, Crested Owl, Bay-headed, Speckled and Black-and-yellow Tanagers, the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, Yellow-eared Toucanet and Russet Antshrike.
Aside from all these glorious birds, one of the main draw cards to this area are the hummingbirds; we will visit some of the gardens and residences in the area, as their feeders attract dozens of White-necked Jacobin, Snowy-bellied and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, endemic Violet-capped Hummingbird, Rufous-crested Coquette, Green Hermit, Crowned Woodnymph, Violet-headed and Blue-chested Hummingbird, and both White-vented and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. Hummingbirds are not the only denizens prevalent at these easy meals, with Rufous-capped Warbler, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Blue-grey, Crimson-backed, Summer, Hepatic, Palm and Bay-headed Tanager, alongside Shining, Red-legged and Green Honeycreeper, and both Thick-billed and Yellow-crowned Euphonia taking advantage.
We will then enjoy a picnic lunch at a picturesque residence overlooking the vast and impressive rainforest of Chagres National Park! On our return to Panama City this afternoon, we shall make a short stop near Lake Bayano where the lowland forest may turn up Great Jacamar, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Bare-crowned Antbird, and Black Antshrike.
Day 6: Metropolitan National Park and transfer to Valle de Anton
We will start our day by driving to the outskirts of Panama City and visiting the Metropolitan National Park. This is the largest tropical forest park, found within the city limits, in all of Latin America. While not particularly large, only 232 hectares, the park has a staggering species record with a bird list in excess of 250, 45 species of mammals and more than 280 species of tree.
High on our list of target species here is the endemic Panamanian Tyrannulet, whilst this is also a fabulous location to get good views of Lance-tailed Manakin. With a little luck on our Panama birding tour, we could also find the desirable Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Fasciated Antshrike, Southern Bentbill or Tiny Hawk. If we find a mixed feeding flock, the action could well erupt with Lesser and Scrub Greenlet cavorting amongst migrant warblers, Slaty-tailed, White-tailed and Gartered Trogon, Dusky and White-bellied Antbird, Yellow-crowned and Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Greenish Elaenia, Yellow-olive, Panamanian and Streaked Flycatcher, up to 5 species of Wrens, and a host of migrant warbler including Black-and-white, Magnolia, Bay-breasted, Yellow and Chestnut-sided.
After a good few hours of birding in the park, it will be time to leave Panama City and head west to Valle de Anton. Approximately two hours down the Panamerican Highway, we should reach foothills of western Panama in time for lunch.
After a delicious meal, we will set out to explore the nearby trails that traverse the dark understory of foothill forest. We will be searching for Garden Emerald, Tody Motmot, Buff-rumped and Rufous-capped Warblers, Sunbittern, Tawny-crested Tanager, Tawny-capped Euphonia and Bay Wren amongst others. The rare and spectacular Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo follows swarms of army ants through these forest trails, but we will consider ourselves extraordinarily lucky to come across one.
Day 7: Cerro Gaital National Park
After breakfast this morning on our Panama birding tour, we will head up the hill to Cerro Gaital. At an elevation of 1,000m, it is covered in dense, humid cloud forests. We will walk a rocky trail through the forest, a great place to search for Blue-throated Toucanet, Plain Antvireo, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, Collared Trogon (Orange-bellied form), Barred Forest Falcon, White-tipped Sicklebill, Green Hermit, Green-crowned Brilliant, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, White-ruffed Manakin, Common Bush Tanager, Slaty Antwren, Northern Schiffornis and Spotted Barbtail, while even Scaled Antpitta has been seen here!
After lunch, we will head out to the Cara Iguana Trail, where a blend of dry forest and open area gives us the opportunity to find some different species, including Lance-tailed Manakin, Tody Motmot, Rufous-breasted Wren, Lesser Elaenia, Yellow-olive Flatbill, Panamanian Flycatcher, Barred Antshrike, White-bellied Antbird, Garden Emerald, Long-billed Gnatwren, Pale-eyed Pygmy Tyrant and a number of migrants including Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green and Worm-eating Warblers.
Day 8: El Chiru, Santa Clara and Juan Hombron
After an early breakfast this morning on our Panama birding tour, we head down to El Chiru and Juan Hombron in the Pacific lowlands, where dry forest, scrubby fields and sandy beaches meet the Pacific Ocean. At El Chiru, we will search out the dry forest specialists, including Pale-eyed Pygmy Tyrant, Golden-fronted Greenlet, Grassland Yellow Finch, the near-endemic Veraguan Mango, Crested Bobwhite, Northern Scrub Flycatcher, Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Plain-breasted and Blue Ground Doves, Red-breasted Blackbird, Striped Cuckoo, Yellow-crowned Amazon and Brown-throated Parakeet. We may take a picnic lunch at the popular Santa Clara beach, where we will spend some time scanning the beach and open water for Cabot’s, Royal and Elegant Terns, Franklin’s and Laughing Gulls, Nazca and Brown Booby, Least, Western and Spotted Sandpipers, Sanderling, Willet and Whimbrel. We hope to find Sapphire-throated Hummingbird working the coastal shrubbery.
Then we will head off to the rice fields of Juan Hombron to search for a number of scarce Panamanian raptors including Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Savanna Hawk, Pearl Kite and Aplomado Falcon, as well as the more common Yellow-headed and Northern Crested Caracaras and Roadside, Grey-lined and Short-tailed Hawks. Other Pacific lowland species we hope to find today include Southern Lapwing, Tricolored Heron, Wood Stork, Glossy Ibis, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Straight-billed Woodcreeper and Pale-breasted Spinetail. After a day’s birding in the dry lowlands, we will head back up to our lodgings in Valle de Anton, where the cooler foothills provide some respite from the coastal heat.
Day 9: Altos del Maria
This morning on our Panama birding tour, we head up Altos del Maria, one of the highest elevations we will reach on our tour. As dawn breaks over the highlands, the spectacular mountains blanketed in cloud forest, vast valleys and towering cliffs come into view.
Ascending the excellent paved roads, we will climb a ridge to roughly 1,100m, where lush, mist-laden cloud forest and an enticing variety of highland forest birds await us. Some of the species we will be looking for here are Black-crowned and Streak-chested Antpittas, Black Guan, White Hawk, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Brown-hooded Parrot, Spotted Woodcreeper, Red-faced Spinetail, Ochraceous Wren, Spotted Barbtail, White-vented Euphonia, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Pale-vented Thrush, Tufted Flycatcher, Sulphur-rumped Myiobius, Smoky-brown Woodpecker and even the bizarre Brown-billed Scythebill is seen here regularly. Hummingbirds are a common sight in these highlands, and we hope to find Green Hermit, Band-tailed Barbthroat, White-tailed Emerald, Green-crowned Brilliant, Purple-throated Mountaingem, White-tipped Sicklebill and the exquisite Snowcap! After a picnic lunch alongside a small lake, we will drop down into a valley and then up the ridge on the opposite side, reaching some large swathes of mature humid forest, where we will explore the forests and roadside spots in search of even more forest birds before heading back to our lodgings for a final celebratory dinner together.
Day 10: Valle de Anton to Panama City
This morning we depart Valle de Anton after breakfast and make the return journey to Panama City, where the main tour will conclude. For some this will be the end of their birding expedition to Panama, while the rest of us continue onwards to the Chiriqui Highlands in western Panama for the start of our extension to this stunning birding area.
What our clients say about tours to Panama
- LR, Panama
Forrest is truly a pleasure. His bird-finding skills, both by sight and ear, are phenomenal, but even more striking is his singular personality and people skills. Always enthusiastic. Not only would I travel with Forrest again, I preferentially would select a tour if he was guiding.AF, Panama