Panama - Birds of the Darién Jungle

Spot-breasted woodpecker © Carlos Bethancourt
Spot-breasted woodpecker © Carlos Bethancourt
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February-March 2014 

In winter of 2014, seven travelers joined Sue MacCallum, Director of Mass Audubon’s South Shore sanctuaries, on Mass Audubon’s trip to the eastern-most region of Panama, known as the Darién. The Darién is one of the most diverse and species-rich regions in all of Central America. There, some of the last large, relatively untouched swathes of lowland rainforest are just waiting to be explored. Long revered by avid birders as a haven for rare species, including Panama’s national bird, the majestic Harpy Eagle. Sue and the group recorded 240 bird species, deeming the following to be the top twelve:

  • Rufous-crested Coquette
  • Crimson-backed Tanager
  • Blue-gray Tanager
  • Ferruginous Pygmy-owl
  • Great Jacamar
  • Chestnut-headed Oropendula
  • Flame-rumped Tanager
  • White-breasted Crake
  • Motmots – both Rufous and Broad-billed
  • Bay Wren
  • Common Paraque
  • Barred Antshrike

While bird sightings were among highlights, the group also gained an appreciation for the Neotropics with its amazing diversity of life (both flora and fauna). Other memorable moments included:

  • The army ant bivouac on Pipeline Rd – antbirds lined up and waiting for action.
  • Watching the ships go through the Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal.
  • White-throated Capuchin monkeys grooming each other on Achiote Rd.
  • Savannah Hawk catching the snake on our trip to the Pacific lowlands.
  • Swimming in the Pacific and enjoying the deck at Raul Arias’ beach house.
  • Yellow-headed Caracara standing on a cow!
  • Walking and birding the famous Pipeline Rd after reading about it for many years.
  • Enjoying the variety and color of flowers in the mountains.
  • Enjoying the sounds and sights during our nocturnal outing – unexpected Night Monkeys!
  • Kingfishers and Wood-rails at Summit Pond.
  • Northern Tamandua tearing into the Azteca ant nest on Pipeline Rd.
  • So many mammals –Geoffrey’s Tamarin, numerous Two-toed and Three-toed Sloths, olingo, night monkeys, two opossum species...
  • Rufescent Tiger-heron catching and eating the snake with the chick in the nest waiting.
  • The beautiful canopy in Valle Chiquito – steep slopes, solitude, and lush greenery.
  • Making new friends in a beautiful country and sharing amazing experiences.