Posted on 11 June 2010
I’ve never understood the birding craze. It is as foreign to me as the whole ”trekkie” or Star Wars obsession thing, but birding is growing quickly in Panama and it looks like it’s here to stay. So while I can’t exactly get excited about seeing a bird 100 feet up in a tree somewhere, I am jealous of the passion birders have for their hobby and think it’s great that this market allows Panama to showcase its natural resources with minimal effects on the environment. I spoke to Guido Berguido, naturalist, biologist, expert birder and owner of Advantage Panama (www.advantagepanama.com), who shed a bit of light on Panama’s growing role as a birdwatching hot-spot.
What makes Panama such a hot destination for most serious birders?
Guido: There are a great many reasons that make of Panama an ideal place for birdwatchers. We could actually write a book on the subject.
Panama has more species of birds than the US and Canada combined! We can summarize this into the following:
1.) Diversity of tropical habitats in a small surface area; Panama is a tiny country roughly the size of South Carolina or the country of Austria. Located between 8-9 degrees from the Equator, Panama’s tropical rain forests offers environmental conditions (constant sunlight, heat, humidity) that are optimal for the development of flora and fauna; birds are of course no exception.
2.) Panama’s irregular geography and topography allow it to contain more than 12 different Life Zones, ranging from tropical dry forest to humid forests, to paramo-like conditions on top of the tallest mountains at over 11,000 ft.
3.) Panama’s geographic position at the crossroads of the Americas means that we are fortunate to find in our tiny country both species typical to North and Central America, as well as species otherwise only found in South America
4.) Accessibility & infrastructure. Modern highways and the forested Panama Canal Watershed allows visitors to visit more than seven different protected areas, each containing various habitats and therefore unique avifauna, within a 1-hour drive from downtown Panama City. Panama City is one of the most cosmopolitan capital cities in Latin America with modern infrastructure and First-World services and ammenities.
What are the best spots for Birdwatching in Panama?
1.) Panama Watershed: Soberania (Pipeline Rd.), Chagres (Madden, Cerro Jefe), and San Lorenzo National Parks (Achiote)
2.) Darien province: All around not only the National Park but also Western (Chucanti), Central (Mogue and La Marea), and Eastern (El Real, Pirre, Cana)
3.) La Amistad Biosphere Reserve (Baru Volcano, PILA, Fortuna)
4.) Eastern Panama Province & Nusagandi (Burbayar, Bayano forest, Torti)
5.) Eastern Talamanca Range (Santa Fe, El Valle, Campana)
6.) Islands with endemics or with species of restricted distribution found nowhere else in Panama *(Coiba, Escudo de Veraguas, Frailes del Sur )