Ideal for:  Families | Couples | Nature Lovers | Relaxation | Retreats
Best Time of Year: December (although birding is enjoyed year-round)
Most Popular Destinations: Panama Canal, Soberanía National Park, Punta Patiño Nature Reserve, Chiriquí Highlands
Related Activities: Hiking

When it comes to birdwatching, few countries in the world compare to Panama. Boasting a stunning variety of bird species and several world-famous sites from which to observe them in their natural habitat, Panama is truly unbeatable for avid birdwatchers.

As almost half the country is covered by tropical rain and cloud forests, Panama is the ideal place for birding vacations. More than 970 species of bird make their home in the dense forests, including around 120 migratory species and 12 endemic varieties. Although Panama is relatively small, the country boasts a diversity of bird species greater than both the U.S. and Canada combined.

Although Panama is the perfect place to see tropical birds in their natural habitat at any time of year, December brings with it an important annual tradition – the 24-hour Atlantic Christmas Bird Count. This event is the highlight of the birding calendar in Panama, and amateur ornithologists come from around the world to marvel at the 340 or so species of bird that can be seen in the rainforests surrounding the Panama Canal.

Many birdwatchers choose to embark on their own tropical adventures across Panama in search of Central America’s rarest and most impressive birds. While this is certainly an adventure worth taking, some amateur ornithologists and wildlife lovers choose to hire private guides, as many of the locals know the best times of year and locations to see some of the country’s most remarkable birds. If you choose to embark on a guided birdwatching tour, be sure to ask which areas will be covered in the itinerary, as well as what species you’re likely to encounter. And, of course, don’t forget to bring your camera!

Go Birding in…

Bocas del Toro

The Bocas del Toro Archipelago is a prime birding spot, and is home to many varieties of bird, including the black guan, purple-throated mountain gem, bare-necked umbrella bird and white-tailed emerald.
Best Time to Visit: December-March

Chiriquí & The Highlands

The Chiriquí Highlands are known for the diversity of the bird life that inhabits the dense cloud forests of this beautiful region. The resplendent quetzal is considered among the world’s most beautiful birds and is particularly well-known in this region. A hiking trail as well as a hotel have been named after this prominent bird. Other species, including the brown-backed dove, blue-throated toucanet and fiery-billed aracari, can all be seen here.
Best Time to Visit: Year-round

Panama City

The region surrounding Panama City is rich with bird life, making it an ideal destination for birdwatchers. Several national parks are within easy reach of Panama City, including Camino de Cruces National Park and Soberanía National Park. In addition, Gamboa and Pipeline Road areas are well-known as quality birding hotspots. In fact, more than 300 of Panama’s 970 species of bird have been spotted at Gamboa alone. Expect to see harpy eagles (Panama’s national bird), brown twistwings, stripe-cheeked woodpeckers and speckled antshrikes in this area.
Best Time to Visit: July-December

Darién Rainforest

Darién National Park boasts more than 1.3 million acres of land, and is also home to many of Panama’s most exotic birds. In addition to being the natural habitat of four species of macaw, Pirre Mountain, which is located within the park, is also where the reclusive golden-headed quetzal makes its home.
Best Time to Visit: December-March

Gulf of Panama & The Pearl Islands

A little off the beaten track for most birdwatchers, this area is rich with several species of bird and well worth checking out. Barro Colorado Island in particular is home to species including the sulphur-rumped tanager, the tawny-capped euphonia and the violet-capped hummingbird, among other impressive species.
Best Time to Visit: Year-round

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