The Ultimate In Birding Tours

North/Central America & The Caribbean

PANAMA & DARIEN SPECIALITIES – from the western highlands and Coiba Island to the Darien Gap

Friday 24th January – Sunday 9th February 2025

Leaders: Leo Garrigues and a top local bird guide

17 Days Group Size Limit 7
Western Panama & Coiba Island Extension

Saturday 18th January – Friday 24th January 2025

7 Days Group Size Limit 7


Birdquest’s Panama & Darien Specialities birding tours represent the ultimate in endemics and specialities tours to this bird-rich part of the world. Our unique Panama & Darien Specialities tour focuses on Harpy and Crested Eagles, Azuero Dove, Maroon-chested Ground Dove, Russet-crowned Quail-Dove, White-throated Mountain-gem, Pirre, Violet-capped and Glow-throated Hummingbirds, Veraguan Mango, Lattice-tailed Trogon, Dusky-backed Jacamar, Coiba Spinetail, Beautiful Treerunner, Black and Speckled Antshrikes, Wing-banded Antbird, Panamanian Tyrannulet,  the monotypic Sapayoa, Varied Solitaire, Black Oropendola, Chiriqui Yellowthroat, Pirre Warbler, Viridian Dacnis, Yellow-green Brushfinch, Pirre and Tarcacuna Bush Tanagers and Green-naped and Sulphur-rumped Tanagers. Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo is also possible.

The S-shaped isthmus of Panama, barely more than 80 kilometres (50 miles) across at its narrowest and no more than 210 kilometres (130 miles) at its widest, is one of the great crossroads of the world. In Spanish times it was the base for conquering expeditions northwards and southwards along the Pacific Coasts, and since the early days of the 20th century, the impressive Panama Canal has saved countless ships from having to make the long and hazardous voyage around Cape Horn.

What fewer people realize is that this narrow strip of land has played a key role as a faunal exchange route between the North and South American continents. The land that was to become southern Central America first emerged as a chain of volcanic islands some 50 million years ago, serving as faunal stepping stones for more mobile groups of creatures. Only within the last 3-4 million years was a continuous land bridge formed, allowing for even more life forms to pass between continents. Typical Neotropic bird families such as tinamous, jacamars, toucans, woodcreepers, antbirds, manakins and cotingas, began to move into Central America where today they diminish in numbers of species from south to north. Other groups including owls, swallows, wrens and thrushes, spread in the other direction and conquered South America. Meanwhile, speciation in both areas continued unabated, and today Panama holds a diverse and fascinating mixture of Central and South American elements, in addition to a number of birds that are endemic or are only shared with adjacent Colombia or Costa Rica, giving it the richest avifauna (amazingly, nearly 1,000 species have occurred in this small but bird-rich country) in Central America.

Much of this fantastic tour focuses on the remote Darien region of Panama, which is, to this day, largely roadless (hence its name ‘The Darien Gap’, as no road yet connects Central and South America) and a place where nature still thrives. One of the classic Neotropical wilderness birding destinations, for those who have experienced a visit to the Darien, it is surely one of their most cherished birding memories.

In 1513, Vasco Nunez de Balboa led an expedition on a 25-day trek through the jungle to the western coast of what later became known as Darien, proving that the land in this area was a narrow isthmus between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Spaniards called the trail that developed after Balboa’s pioneering efforts El Camino Real (The Royal Road).

The remote mountain from which Balboa first sighted the Pacific Ocean lies deep within the vast wilderness of the superb Darien National Park, where the isolated mountain tops have witnessed the evolution of a number of endemic and little-known birds in the cool cloud and elfin forests that cloak their slopes. Furthermore, an interesting range of primarily South American species ‘spill over’ into the park’s verdant lowland jungles, including Harpy and Crested Eagles, three species of colourful macaws and a host of smaller but equally captivating birds.

Forming a natural boundary between Central and South America, the vast wilderness of the Darien harbours some 60 or more species of Panamanian birds found nowhere else in the country, quite a few of which are endemic or are only shared with a tiny fraction of neighbouring Colombia.

Our main tour journey begins in Panama City from where we will begin our journey to the east of the country. We will first pause at the excellent San Francisco Reserve, where as well as seeking out the endemic Panamanian Tyrannulet, we’ll also get a great introduction to this country’s superb avifauna with possibilities including the stunning Golden-collared Manakin and Blue Cotinga.

We will then continue the short distance to Cerro Chucantí, a remote and recently established birding destination, which has proven excellent for delivering some of the country’s most difficult and least-known specialities including Russet-crowned Quail-Dove, Violet-capped Hummingbird, Beautiful Treerunner, Varied Solitaire and Tarcacuna Bush Tanager.

Continuing on to the Darien proper and the far east of the country, we will begin our explorations in the lowlands. Here we will be hoping to see two of the world’s most impressive raptors, namely Harpy and Crested Eagle. The smart Dusky-backed Jacamar will also be much-wanted near-endemic, and other mouth-watering specialities possible here include Wing-banded Antbird, the handsome Black Oropendola and Viridian Dacnis.

The climax of our Darien exploration will be a hike up into the highlands, up onto the Cerro Pirre Ridge. Although somewhat arduous, our efforts to get to this vast wilderness area will be richly rewarded. Of particular note are such sought-after Darien endemics, near-endemics and very restricted-range specialities as Pirre Hummingbird, Pirre Warbler, Green-naped Tanager and Pirre Bush Tanager.

After the Darien, we will have a much easier tour finale at Nusagandi. This area holds some great birds, including Black Antshrike, the very localized Speckled Antshrike, the near-endemic Sulphur-rumped Tanager and the enigmatic Sapayoa, a suboscine of uncertain affinities that is now usually placed in its own family.

During the optional extension, we will explore parts of Western Pana and little-visited Coiba Island, which hold a series of endemic and near-endemic specialities.

From Panama City, we will take a flight to David in western Panama where a visit to mountainous regions in the area will allow us to see a number of species endemic to western Panama and Costa Rica, including such mega-specialities as Chiriqui Yellowthroat, White-throated Mountain-gem and Maroon-chested Ground Dove, plus the lovely Lattice-tailed Trogon which is easier here than in Costa Rica A large number of highland specialities that are shared with Costa Rica are also likely including such gems as Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Violet Sabrewing, Three-wattled Bellbird and the incredible Resplendent Quetzal.

Next, we will visit the area around Las Lajas where, as well as finding the near-endemic Veraguan Mango, we will explore nearby Cerro Colorado for the endemic Yellow-green Brushfinch as well as more specialities shared with adjacent Costa Rica such as Ruddy Treerunner, Streak-throated Treehunter, Black-and-yellow Phainoptila and Golden-browed Chlorophonia.

We will then head south to the small coastal resort of Santa Catalina, from where we will take a day trip to the nearby Coiba Island. Here we should have little difficulty tracking down the endemic Coiba Spinetail and Azuero Dove (which occurs here and on the nearby Azuero Peninsula). We may also see some seabirds, including Galapagos Shearwater if we are fortunate.

Birdquest has operated tours to Panama and Darien since 1998.

Glow-throated Hummingbird Extension Option: The poorly-known Glow-throated Hummingbird was discovered in the remote Cerro Hoya National Park relatively recently, and this is possibly the only place this rare species has been reliably observed in recent years. If there are participants who would like to try and see this endemic speciality of Panama, we will arrange an extension. We will hike into and camp in the remote Cerro Hoya National Park where we will try our best to add our names to the select few that have been fortunate enough to see this species! During the extension, we will spend three nights in good quality hotels but two nights will be basic camping (with tents available for twin or single occupancy) set up by our local agents. The walk to our camp is long and fairly demanding. The cost will depend on the number of participants. Please inform us at the time of booking if you are interested in this extension.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels and lodges are predominantly of a good or medium standard. At Cerro Chucantí and Rancho Frio (Pirre Base Station), we will be staying at simple lodges, with shared bathroom facilities and possibly more than two people to a room. During our hike to the Pirre Ridge, we shall be staying for a total of five nights in simple but reasonably comfortable tented camps (with tents available for twin or single occupancy) set up by our local agents. At Nusagandi we shall be staying at Burbayar Lodge, a fairly simple but comfortable lodge where excellent food is served in a lovely, open-air dining room and where the chalets have private bathrooms. Road transport is by small coach or minibus/passenger van, with 4×4 vehicles to get us to the more remote locations.

Walking: The walking effort during our Panama’s Darien birding tour is mostly easy to moderate, but there is a long ascent to reach the ridge at Cerro Chucantí and to the camps on the route to Cerro Pirre Ridge, which can be taken at a slow pace, and some sections are steep (and slippery after rain).

Climate: At this season it should be mostly dry and often sunny. It can be quite hot and humid in the lowlands, whilst at higher elevations, it can be quite cool, especially at night. There may be some rain.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Panama’s Darien birding tour are worthwhile.


  • Day 1: Evening tour start at Panamá City.
  • Day 2: Fly to David. Drive to Boquete.
  • Day 3: Boquete, then return to David.
  • Day 4: Fortuna road then drive to Las Lajas.
  • Day 5: Cerro Colorado then drive to Santa Catalina.
  • Day 6: Excursion to La Coiba Island. Overnight at Santa Catalina.
  • Day 7: Return to Panama City.
  • Day 1: Evening tour start at Panamá City.
  • Day 2: Drive to Tortí.
  • Day 3: Tortí area, then drive to Cerro Chucantí.
  • Day 4: Cerro Chucantí.
  • Day 5: Cerro Chucantí, then drive to Meteti area.
  • Day 6: Meteti area.
  • Day 7: Meteti area, then drive to Yaviza and travel by boat to Rancho Frio/Pirre Station.
  • Day 8: Rancho Frio/Pirre Station.
  • Day 9: Hike towards Cerro Pirre to Rancho Plastico.
  • Day 10: Rancho Plastico.
  • Day 11: Hike to Cerro Pirre (Mt Pirre Ridge Camp).
  • Day 12: Cerro Pirre (Mt Pirre Ridge Camp).
  • Day 13: Return to Rancho Plastico.
  • Day 14: Return to Rio Frio.
  • Day 15: Return to Yaviza and drive to Burbayar Lodge at Nusagandi.
  • Day 16: Burbayar Lodge at Nusagandi.
  • Day 17: Nusagandi, then return to Panama City airport for late afternoon tour end.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include this flight:

Panama City-David

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

2025: confirmed £5680, $7290, €6630, AUD11000. Panama City/Panama City.
Western Panama & Coiba Island Extension: £2330, $2990, €2720, AUD4510. Panama City/Panama City.

Single Supplement: 2025: £370, $480, €430, AUD720.
Western Panama & Coiba Island Extension: £230, $300, €270, AUD450.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.


Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 1  Our Darien birding tour starts in the evening at Panama City, where we will stay overnight at a hotel close to the airport.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 2  This morning we will begin our journey eastwards to Tortí for an overnight stay.

Along the way, we will begin our birding and are likely to come across a number of the more common roadside and open country birds such as Black and Turkey Vultures, White-tailed Kite, Roadside, Grey-lined and Broad-winged Hawks, Pale-vented Pigeon, Plain-breasted and Ruddy Ground Doves, Smooth-billed Ani, Crested and Yellow-headed Caracaras, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Grey-breasted Martin, Tropical Mockingbird, Shiny Cowbird, Great-tailed Grackle and Blue-grey and Palm Tanagers. Stops at wetter areas may yield Black-bellied Whistling Duck, (American) Great and Western Cattle Egrets, Green Heron, Purple Gallinule, Southern Lapwing, Wattled Jacana, Ringed and Green Kingfishers, Red-breasted Blackbird, Thick-billed Seedfinch and Ruddy-breasted and Variable Seedeaters, whilst surrounding scrubby patches will hold additional species such as Red-crowned and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Southern Beardless and Yellow Tyrannulets, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Long-tailed Tyrant, Tropical Gnatcatcher, (Southern) House Wren, Clay-coloured Thrush, Blue-black Grassquit, Bananaquit and Streaked Saltator.

Later we will explore the nearby San Francisco Reserve which is well-known as one of the best localities for the diminutive Panamanian Tyrannulet (sometimes known as Yellow-green Tyrannulet), a rather understated endemic. Also here we will have our first chance of finding a number of other species. Indeed the potential list is rather long, and although we will not find them all, we will have further chances to find these species further along our route.

Along the forest edge, and in clearings, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for the impressive King Vulture, Black Hawk-Eagle, White and Short-tailed Hawks and White-collared, Short-tailed and Band-rumped Swifts, whilst raucous calls may lead us to Brown-hooded and Blue-headed Parrots, Red-lored and Southern Mealy Amazons, Crested and Chestnut-headed Oropendolas, Scarlet-rumped and Yellow-rumped Caciques, and Yellow-backed and Orange-crowned Orioles.

Fruiting trees may attract a variety of interesting frugivores such as Spot-crowned Barbet, Collared Aracari, the amazing Keel-billed Toucan, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, the stunning Blue Cotinga, and Black-crowned and Masked Tityras, as well as smaller species such as Rose-breasted and Blue-black Grosbeaks, Summer, Grey-headed, White-shouldered, Crimson-backed, Golden-hooded and Plain-coloured Tanagers, Blue Dacnis, Red-legged and Green Honeycreepers and White-eared Conebill. Nearby flowers should attract some of the possible hummingbirds which include White-necked Jacobin, Rufous-breasted and Long-billed Hermits, the insect-loving Purple-crowned Fairy, Black-throated Mango, Long-billed Starthroat, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Crowned Woodnymph, Blue-chested, Rufous-tailed and Violet-bellied Hummingbirds, the range-restricted Sapphire-throated and Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds, and the smart Blue-throated Sapphire.

As we walk the tails, we will keep our eyes open for ground-dwellers such as Great and Little Tinamous (both easier to hear than see), Blue Ground Dove and White-tipped and Grey-chested Doves. Also down in the understorey we’ll be looking and listening out for a variety of antbirds such as Chestnut-backed, Bicolored and Spotted Antbirds, and the sneaky Black-faced Antthrush, and wrens, including Black-bellied, Bay, Isthmian and Buff-breasted Wrens and the amazing Song Wren. Other antbirds present could include Fasciated, Great, Barred and Black-crowned Antshrikes, the localized Black Antshrike, Checker-throated Stipplethroat, Moustached, White-flanked and Dot-winged Antwrens, and the canopy-loving (Northern) Rufous-winged Antwren.

In the mid-storey we’ll be keeping an eye out for flashes of colour as Slaty, Black-tailed, Gartered and Black-throated Trogons, Great Jacamar, and smart Whooping and Broad-billed Motmots are all possible, whilst distinctive calls will hopefully lead us to rather sedate Black-breasted, (Northern) Pied and Barred Puffbirds. We’ll also be keenly listening out for the strange pops and whistles that may lead us to gorgeous Golden-collared, Red-capped and Golden-headed Manakins as well as Russet-winged Schiffornis (much easier to hear than see) and the seldom-seen Speckled Mourner.

Taps and drums will betray the presence of some of the woodpeckers, with possibilities ranging from the tiny Olivaceous Piculet to Black-cheeked, Red-rumped, Cinnamon and the huge Crimson-crested and Lineated Woodpeckers. Similar in behaviour are the woodcreepers, which are represented here by Plain-brown, Cocoa, Black-striped and Streak-headed Woodcreepers, as well as the related Plain Xenops.

It will also be our first chance to get to grips with a variety of Tyrant Flycatchers and allies. Not everyone’s favourite, but one of the largest bird families in the world! As well as the hoped-for Panamanian Tyrannulet, we may also find Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, the strange Southern Bentbill, the tiny Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Olivaceous, Yellow-olive and Yellow-margined Flatbills, Yellow-crowned and Brown-capped Tyrannulets, Forest Elaenia, Sooty-headed and Mistletoe Tyrannulets, Tropical Pewee, Bright-rumped Attila, Choco Sirystes, the subtle Rufous Mourner, Lesser Kiskadee, and Dusky-capped, Boat-billed, Rusty-margined, White-ringed, Piratic and Streaked Flycatcher, as well as the closely related Cinnamon, One-colored and White-winged Becards, the lovely Northern Royal Flycatcher, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher and Sulphur-rumped Myiobius.

Other likely species include Greater Ani, Squirrel Cuckoo, Lesser Greenlet, Trilling Gnatwren, Yellow-crowned and Thick-billed Euphonias, Orange-billed Sparrow, a selection of wintering North American Wood Warblers which may include Northern Waterthrush, Golden-winged, Black-and-white, Tennessee, Bay-breasted, American Yellow and Chestnut-sided Warblers, the stream-loving Buff-rumped Warbler, Dusky-faced Tanager, Buff-throated Saltator and the sweet singing Slate-coloured Grosbeak. If we are lucky, we will find one or two of the scarcer species such as Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, the elusive Central American Pygmy Owl, the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker (though we will have other chances if we fail to find it here) or the near-endemic Sulphur-rumped Tanager.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 3  After a morning in the San Fransisco Reserve, we will make our way to another reserve, the rather remote Cerro Chucantí Reserve for a two nights stay. If it has been dry, we will be able to drive up to the reserve, but if not we will need the help of some equine friends. Later in the day, we will begin our exploration of this excellent area.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 4  Cerro Chucantí is a relatively recently established reserve that protects a host of interesting and endemic bird species. Cerro Chucantí is the highest point in the Maje Mountain Range, at over 1,400m (4,600ft). Not only does the site show interesting examples of primary tropical rainforest typical from the Darien region, but it is particularly interesting because it is relatively isolated and there are no other taller mountains for more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) around.

To get to the highest forest it may well be necessary to once again travel on horseback, but once up in the moss-laden forests we will soon forget any hardships. A few species are easier to find here than elsewhere on the tour, and we will be making a particular effort to find the smart Russet-crowned Quail-Dove, the near-endemic Violet-capped Hummingbird, the smart Varied Solitaire, and the endemic Beautiful Treerunner and Tarcarcuna Bush Tanager.

Other exciting species we could well come across include the smart little Tody Motmot, the localized Blue-throated Toucanet, the elusive Yellow-eared Toucanet, the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, the localized White-ruffed Manakin, the stunning Blue Cotinga, the smart Green Shrike-Vireo, the colourful Black-and-yellow Tanager and if we’re lucky the rare and elusive Tawny-faced Quail.

We are also likely to come across a number of more widespread species such as Crested Guan, Short-billed Pigeon, Green and Stripe-throated Hermits, White-vented Plumeleteer, Barred Hawk, Russet Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Long-tailed, Ruddy, Northern Barred and Spotted Woodcreepers, the sneaky Brown-billed Scythebill, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, White-throated and Golden-crowned Spadebills, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Black-capped and Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrants, wintering Acadian Flycatcher, Southern Nightingale Wren, White-breasted and Grey-breasted Wood Wrens, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, the smart Fulvous-vented Euphonia, Slate-throated Whitestart, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis and Tooth-billed, Carmiol’s, Bay-headed and Silver-throated Tanagers.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 5  After a final morning at Cerro Chucantí, looking for any of the specialities we are still missing, we’ll retrace our steps and make our way to the Meteti area, in the heart of the Darien lowlands, for a two nights stay.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 6  During our stay in the Meteti area, we will be hoping to see two of the world’s most impressive raptors, though our chances of doing so will, to a large extent, be governed by the knowledge of currently active nests or recently fledged young, neither of which is guaranteed. However, over the years, this area has become one of the best areas in the world to find both the ultra-impressive Harpy Eagle and the equally desirable Crested Eagle, and we will do our utmost to find these amazing species. Meteti is also one of the best areas to look for the attractive, near-endemic Dusky-backed Jacamar, the localized Double-banded Greytail and the near-endemic Black Oropendola.

It is of course a rich area, and we are likely to find many new species for the trip which may include Grey-headed Chachalaca, Scaled and Ruddy Pigeons, Striped Cuckoo, Pale-bellied Hermit, the amazing Ruby-topaz Hummingbird (not always present), the smart Violet-bellied Hummingbird, Plumbeous, Grey-headed, Double-toothed, Hook-billed and Swallow-tailed Kites, Crane, Savanna, Black-collared, Swainson’s (especially if much migration is happening) and Common Black Hawks, the raucous Red-throated Caracara, Laughing Falcon, American Kestrel, the diminutive Bat Falcon, Collared and Slaty-backed Forest Falcons (both tough to see), White-tailed Trogon, the chunky White-necked Puffbird, the retiring Grey-cheeked Nunlet, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Yellow-throated Toucan, Golden-green Woodpecker, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Black Antshrike (another chance), White-bellied Antbird, Ochre-lored Flatbill, Streaked, Panamanian and Great Crested Flycatchers, Black-tailed Myiobius, Black-chested Jay, the impressive White-headed Wren, Tropical Parula, Yellow-crowned Euphonia and Lemon-rumped Tanager.

Open grassland and wetland areas and riversides will also hold new species such as Magnificent Frigatebird (drifting over), Wood Stork, Neotropic Cormorant, Little Blue Heron, the smart Capped Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Mangrove Swallow, the gorgeous Prothonotary Warbler and Giant Cowbird.

At night we may well find Pauraques along the roadsides, Tropical Screech, Mottled and perhaps Black-and-white or Crested Owls, and we may also come across bizarre Common and Great Potoos, either in the torch beam or at a daytime roost.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 7  We will spend another morning in the wonderful areas around Meteti, before making our way south to Yaviza and then on to the famous Pirre Station, also known as Rancho Frio. The journey here will require a boat trip from Yaviza, followed by a 4WD ride and finally a walk to the station itself. We will of course be birding as we go, arriving at Rancho Frio late in the afternoon for a two nights stay.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 8  We will spend the entire day birding the rich lowland forests in the vicinity of Rancho Frio, exploring numerous trails where a number of exciting possibilities exist. If we have not already found them, we may have another chance of the great eagles here, as both Harpy Eagle and Crested Eagle are sometimes found breeding in the area. Other more sought-after and localized species that we will hope to find in this area include both Plumbeous and Semiplumbeous Hawks, Spectacled Parrotlet, the scarce Spot-crowned Antvireo, Dull-mantled Antbird (far better looking than its name suggests!), the amazing Ocellated Antbird (most likely if we encounter an army antswarm), the much-wanted Black-crowned Antpitta, the smart Streak-chested Antpitta, the localized Slaty-winged Foliage-gleaner, the much-wanted Black-tipped Cotinga, White-ringed Flycatcher, the strange Lemon-spectacled Tanager and the impressive Scarlet-browed Tanager.

More widespread additions to our trip list could include Muscovy Duck, Ruddy and Plumbeous Pigeons, Band-tailed Barbthroat, the smart Fasciated Tiger Heron, Great Black Hawk, Rufous Motmot, the docile White-whiskered Puffbird, White-fronted Nunbird, huge Blue-and-yellow and Red-and-green Macaws, the elusive Scaly-throated Leaftosser, Dusky Antbird, the attractive Blue-crowned Manakin, the noisy Rufous Piha, the canopy-loving Grey Elaenia, migrant Eastern Wood Pewees, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, the endearing Tawny-faced Gnatwren, the elusive Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Stripe-throated Wren, Black-striped Sparrow, Purple Honeycreeper and Yellow-backed Tanager

If we are fortunate we will also come across a few of the more difficult species such as the impressive Great Curassow, Marbled Wood Quail, shy Ruddy and Olive-backed Quail-Doves, the stunning Crimson-bellied (or Splendid) Woodpecker, Saffron-headed Parrot, the secretive Green Manakin or the beautifully coloured and much-wanted Viridian Dacnis. We will also be on the lookout for the extremely wary Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo, though we shall be very fortunate if we manage to see this reclusive forest floor dweller.

At night we will explore the vicinity of our camp for nightbirds, and should have a reasonable chance of finding Choco Screech Owl and Spectacled Owl, whilst Central American Pygmy Owls can sometimes be heard tooting away, even during the day.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 9  After a final morning birding around Rancho Frio, we will begin our hike towards Cerro Pirre in earnest, climbing to the campsite at the wonderfully named Rancho Plastico, situated at around 600m (2000ft) for a two nights stay. The birdlife will subtly change as we gain altitude, and we should encounter a number of trip additions during our hike.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 10  We will take a break from hiking today, and spend the day birding the sub-montane forests in the vicinity of our camp, though not all of the local trails are easygoing.

We will once again be hoping for a number of localized and highly-sought avian delights, many of which can be a challenge to find. High on our wants list will be the secretive Choco Tinamou, the strange Tooth-billed Hummingbird, the unique (Broad-billed) Sapayoa, the secretive Choco Tapaculo, the much-wanted Sharpbill (which has at times been placed in its own family), and the superb Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo, and if we haven’t found them already, this area is often good for the brilliant Yellow-eared Toucanet and the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker. We may find a pair of Wing-banded Antbirds noisily flipping over dead leaves on the forest floor or a Rufous-breasted Antthrush revealing its presence by its characteristic double whistle.

Other more widespread new species we may encounter include Green-crowned Brilliant, Violet-headed Hummingbird, the impressive Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Rufous-rumped, Dot-winged and Slaty Antwrens, Zeledon’s Antbird, Dusky Leaftosser, the widespread but never common Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, the shy Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Northern Tufted Flycatcher, the impressive Sooty-headed Wren, the somewhat subtle Pale-vented Thrush, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Shining Honeycreeper, smart Speckled, Rufous-winged and Grey-and-gold Tanagers and the isolated local race of Yellow-green Grosbeak.

If we are lucky we will bump into one or two of the trickier inhabitants of the forest such as Tawny-faced Quail, Violaceous Quail-Dove or the hard-to-see Blue-fronted Parrotlet.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 11  Today we will break camp and make the steep hike up to the Mt Pirre Ridge Camp, which is situated at around 1100m (6700ft) on Cerro Pirre, for a two nights stay. We will of course be birding as we go, and will begin our exploration of the ridge if time and energy permit.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 12  Today we will spend the entire day exploring the highest areas along the Mt Pirre Ridge, looking for the select band of localized endemics that can only really be found in this area. At the red-flowering Cephaelis bushes that line the trail we shall look for Pirre Hummingbird, only found here and on a few neighbouring peaks. On the Cerro Pirre ridge, we will enter a strange world of elfin forest, where rain and wind have contorted moss-draped trees into gnarled shapes. Here live some of the Darien’s most localized endemics: Pirre Warbler, Green-naped Tanager and Pirre Bush-Tanager. Beautiful Treerunner (rarely seen here) and Varied Solitaire also occur, though hopefully, we will have seen these species at Cerro Chucantí. Understorey flowers are defended by the abundant and very territorial Greenish Puffleg, otherwise only known in the Andes of South America, and sooner or later we are likely to encounter a group of Brown-headed Spider Monkeys crashing through the canopy. Other goodies that we’ll be attempting to see at these higher altitudes include the smart Black-eared Wood Quail, the tiny Purple-throated Woodstar, Collared Trogon, the attractive Red-headed Barbet, the tiny Ochraceous Wren, the localized Dagua Thrush, the gorgeous Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, migrant Blackburnian Warblers and the fabulous Emerald Tanager.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 13  After a final look for any species we have not found at the highest elevations, we will retrace our steps to the camp at Rancho Plastico for an overnight stay, making an effort to find any species that are still eluding us.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 14  Once more, we will retrace our steps, this time back to the Pirre Base camp at Rancho Frio for an overnight stay, again targeting any of the species we have not yet found.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 15  After some early morning birding, we will make our way back to Yaviza and then by road to Nusagandi for a two nights stay at Burbayar Lodge, set amidst the green hills of the Serranía San Blas, to the east of Panama City.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 16  The tall foothill forests of Nusagandi are home to some of Panama’s most prized birds. Along a narrow mountain trail, we shall enter the realm of perhaps the most primitive of all antbirds, the very localized Speckled Antshrike. Another elusive bird inhabiting these solemn forests is the (Broad-billed) Sapayoa, a suboscine of uncertain affinities, that nowadays is usually placed in its own distinct family. Among flocks of noisy Carmiol’s Tanagers and other understorey birds, we shall diligently check out all drab-olive-coloured candidates in case they are this enigmatic species, though most likely we’ll be lead to our quarry by its song!

Other species found in this bird-rich habitat are Swallow-tailed and Plumbeous Kites, Semiplumbeous and Broad-winged Hawks, Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon, Red-throated Caracara (the latter two species are both easier to hear than see!), Blue-chested Hummingbird, Slaty-tailed, Black-tailed, White-tailed Gartered and Black-throated Trogons, (Northern) Pied Puffbird, Collared Aracari, the impressive Yellow-throated Toucan, Cinnamon Woodpecker, the raucous Southern Mealy Amazon, Olivaceous and Spotted Woodcreepers, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Dot-winged Antwren, Russet Antshrike, Dull-mantled Antbird (a much better bird than its name suggests), the compact Brown-capped Tyrannulet, the tiny Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Long-tailed Tyrant, Bright-rumped Attila, smart Blue-crowned and Red-capped Manakins, the noisy Rufous Piha, Russet-winged Schiffornis, the sneaky Trilling Gnatwren, Stripe-throated and Bay Wrens, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Fulvous-vented and White-vented Euphonias, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Bay-breasted Warbler, Bananaquit, Thick-billed Seedfinch and Blue-black Grosbeak. We’ll check fruiting trees and bushes for Green and Shining Honeycreepers, Plain-coloured, Rufous-winged, Tawny-crested and Dusky-faced Tanagers and the near-endemic Sulphur-rumped Tanager.

If we are fortunate we will come across an army antswarm, where we may well find the incredible Ocellated Antbird and Northern Barred Woodcreeper, as well as, if we are really lucky, the very shy Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Black-headed Antthrush or the spectacular Black-crowned Antpitta (or Gnatpitta as it is sometimes known). Other elusive denizens of these foothill forests but within the realm of possibility include Plumbeous and White Hawks, Purplish-backed and Olive-backed Quail-Doves, the scarce Band-tailed Barbthroat, the stunning Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, the scarce endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker and the amazing Song Wren.

We shall visit a patch of woodland in the upper Bayano Valley where we should find the restricted-range Black Antshrike in addition to some more widespread species such as Jet Antbird.

Panama & Darien Specialities: Day 17  After some final birding at Nusagandi we shall have time to pack, wash and change at our lodge. After reluctantly parting from our hosts at Burbayar Lodge, we shall return to Panama City airport where our tour ends in the late afternoon.



Western Panama & Coiba: Day 1  The extension starts in the evening at Panama City, where we will stay overnight at a hotel close to the airport.

Western Panama & Coiba: Day 2  This morning we will take a short flight to David in western Panama’s Chiriqui province.

A priority this morning will be finding the Chiriqui Yellowthroat (a species restricted to western Panama and easternmost Costa Rica), and we will visit an area of wet pastureland in the David area where they can regularly be found. In the surrounding open country, we are sure to add other new species to our tally such as Blue-winged Teal, Common Gallinule, Great Egret, Pale-breasted and perhaps Slaty Spinetails, Black-chested Jay, Eastern Meadowlark and the range-restricted Isthmian Wren.

The drier lowlands in the vicinity of David offer an interesting selection of other open country birds, including a variety of widespread species such as Pale-vented Pigeon, Ruddy Ground Dove, White-tipped Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Southern Lapwing, Western Cattle Egret, Black and Turkey Vultures, White-tailed Kite, Roadside Hawk, the smart Red-crowned Woodpecker, Yellow-headed Caracara, Orange-chinned and Brown-throated Parakeets, smart Red-lored Amazons, Barred Antshrike, Common Tody-Flycatcher, the aptly-named Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, the noisy Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, the ubiquitous Tropical Kingbird (or TK as they are affectionately known!), Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Scrub Greenlet, Southern Rough-winged and Barn Swallows, Grey-breasted Martin, (Southern) House Wren, Tropical Mockingbird, Clay-coloured Thrush, Lesser Goldfinch, Black-striped Sparrow, Great-tailed Grackle, American Yellow Warbler, Blue-grey and Palm Tanagers, the colourful Red-legged Honeycreeper, Blue-black and Yellow-faced Grassquits, Variable and Morelet’s Seedeaters and Streaked Saltator.

Afterwards, we will head up into the forested slopes of Western Panama to the settlement of Boquete for an overnight stay.

Of prime importance for us will be the localized and endemic White-throated Mountaingem, which we should see at some feeders.

Whilst looking for this smart endemic and the restricted-range little dove, we should encounter a number of other hummingbirds including Lesser Violetear, smart Talamanca Hummingbirds, the gorgeous Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Scintillant and Volcano Hummingbirds, the impressive Violet Sabrewing, and localized Stripe-tailed and Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds.

Another major target will be the little-known, localized and rare Maroon-chested Ground Dove, which we have a fair chance of encountering in this area.

Other species likely in these wonderful surroundings include Mourning Dove, comical Acorn Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpecker, the montane Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Mountain Elaenia, the range-restricted Yellowish Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Northern Tufted-Flycatcher, the localized Yellow-winged, Yellow-throated and Brown-capped Vireos, Black-billed and Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrushes, Mountain Thrush, the gorgeous Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Siskin, the widespread but attractive Rufous-collared Sparrow, the localized Sooty-capped Bush Tanager, Yellow-thighed Brushfinch, smart Flame-throated and Black-cheeked Warblers, migrant Tennessee, Wilson’s and Black-throated Green Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Silver-throated and Flame-coloured Tanagers, and Slaty Flowerpiercer. With a little luck, we will also find the exquisite Resplendent Quetzal or even the sneaky Wrenthrush (or Zeledonia)!

Western Panama & Coiba: Day 3  After spending much of the day in the Boquete area we will return to David for an overnight stay.

Western Panama & Coiba: Day 4  Today we will visit the scenic Fortuna Road that winds up the lower mountains of Chiriqui and which offers some of the country’s best birding. Constructed along a trans-Panama pipeline, the road gives access to the Continental Divide and the forests on the adjacent Caribbean slope of Bocas del Toro province. On a clear day, the views of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, the Chiriqui Grande Lagoon and the forested mountains and lowlands must rank among some of Central America’s most superb scenery. The lush forests and cooler weather near the divide make for pleasant birding, and here we will primarily be looking for a number of specialities that are shared with Costa Rica but which are difficult to find there such as Red-fronted Parrotlet, the sneaky Lattice-tailed Trogon and the stunning Blue-and-gold Tanager.

Other great birds we may encounter include the tantalizing Three-wattled Bellbird as well as specialities such as Black Guan, White-bellied and Purple-throated Mountain-gems, the tricky Black-bellied Hummingbird, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Blue-throated Toucanet, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Black-thighed Grosbeak and the secretive Sooty-faced Finch.

Other more widespread species we may well encounter in this area include Band-tailed and Ruddy Pigeons, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-collared and Vaux’s Swifts, Green Hermit, Green-crowned Brilliant, Barred and Great Black Hawks, Collared Trogon, Golden-olive Woodpecker, the smart Red-headed Barbet, Zeledon’s Antbird, a variety of furnarids including Wedge-billed and Streak-headed Woodcreepers, Lineated and Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaners, and Red-faced Spinetail, the retiring White-throated Spadebill, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Torrent and Mistletoe Tyrannulets, Dusky-capped and Boat-billed Flycatchers, Blue-and-white Swallow, the scarce Azure-hooded Jay, Ochraceous, Stripe-breasted and Grey-breasted Wood Wrens, American Dipper, Pale-vented Thrush (drab, but an excellent vocalist!), smart Thick-billed and Tawny-capped Euphonias, Common Bush-Tanager, the endemic hypophaeus race of Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager (perhaps deserving of specific status as Drab-breasted Bush-Tanager), White-naped Brushfinch , an excellent array of American Wood Warblers including Tropical Parula, Black-and-white, Golden-winged, Mourning and Blackburnian Warblers, the stream-loving Buff-rumped Warbler, Slate-throated Whitestart, Rufous-capped and Black-eared Warblers and a plethora of colourful tanagers, including Emerald, Bay-headed, Golden-hooded, Black-and-yellow, Tooth-billed, Summer and Scarlet-rumped Tanagers.

More uncommon species we could encounter include the scarce White-tailed Emerald, the fine Ornate Hawk-Eagle, secretive Orange-billed, Slaty-backed and Black-headed Nightingale-Thrushes, and Scarlet-thighed Dacnis. Road and weather conditions permitting, we will have a pre-dawn search for the endearing Bare-shanked Screech-Owl.

We should have time for a short visit to the Caribbean lowlands where we may find Finsch’s Parakeet, Groove-billed Ani, Tropical Pewee, Brown Jay, Olive-backed Euphonia, Red-breasted Blackbird and Montezuma Oropendola.

Afterwards, we will descend to the Pacific coastal lowlands and make our way to Las Lajas for an overnight stay.

Around Las Lajas we will focus our attention on finding the near-endemic Veraguan Mango (shared only with easternmost Costa Rica). Whilst looking for the mango, we should also encounter the localized Sapphire-throated Hummingbird.

Western Panama & Coiba: Day 5  To the north of Las Lajas, the windy slopes of Cerro Colorado are home to two more of Panama’s few true endemics, namely the spritely Yellow-green Brushfinch, and the uncommon Glow-throated Hummingbird. The former is fairly straightforward to find but we will need real luck to come across the hummingbird, which may not have been recorded from this region for several years now. Adult males are scarce and females and immature males are very hard to distinguish from the closely related and much more common Scintillant Hummingbird.

The cool cloudforests here are also home to some higher elevation specialities shared only with adjacent Costa Rica, such as the noisy Prong-billed Barbet, Ruddy Treerunner, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Streak-breasted Treehunter, the retiring Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Black-faced Solitaire, Black-and-yellow Phainoptila, Collared Whitestart, Spangle-cheeked Tanager and Golden-browed Chlorophonia, in addition to some more widespread species such as Striped Cuckoo, Lesson’s Motmot, Lineated Woodpecker, Spotted Barbtail, Yellow-green Vireo, Rufous-and-white Wren, White-throated Thrush, Elegant Euphonia and Buff-throated Saltator. If we are fortunate, we may also find the smart Black-breasted Wood Quail, Buff-fronted Quail-Dove or the tricky Brown-billed Scythebill.

Once we have achieved our objectives we will head for the attractive coastal town of Santa Catalina for a two nights stay.

Around Los Lajas, during the journey or around Santa Catalina we shall have some chances to explore the local coastline and open areas where we should pick up a number of new species for the trip. These may include a good number of wetland species such as Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Black-necked Stilt, Grey (or Black-bellied) Plover, Wilson’s, Semipalmated and smart Collared Plovers, Killdeer, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Least, Semipalmated, Western and Spotted Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, (Western) Willet, Laughing Gull, Royal and Cabot’s Terns, Wood Stork, huge Magnificent Frigatebirds, Anhinga, Neotropic Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Little Blue and Tricoloured Herons, American White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Western Osprey and Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers.

We should also encounter a number of species of open country and adjacent thickets, such as Plain-breasted Ground Dove, the grassland-loving Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Common Black Hawk, Savanna Hawk, Crested Caracara, Yellow-crowned and Southern Beardless Tyrannulets, Mangrove Swallow, the smart Yellow-crowned Euphonia, the huge Crested Oropendola, Crimson-backed Tanager and Ruddy-breasted and Yellow-bellied Seedeaters.

Western Panama & Coiba: Day 6  This morning we will take a boat to the rarely-birded Coiba Island. During the crossing, we may well see a few seabirds such as Galapagos Shearwater and perhaps Nazca Booby, as well as Black Tern and Brown Booby.

Once on the island, we may well find a few species along the coast such as American Oystercatcher, Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Green Kingfisher, and perhaps Bare-throated Tiger Heron. Once we are ready, we will explore a trail through the forest on the island, where we should have little trouble finding the endemic Coiba Spinetail and the range-restricted Azuero Dove (which only occurs here and on the remote Azuero Peninsula). These two will be our main targets, but other likely species include, the localized Garden Emerald, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, the smart Blue-throated Sapphire (or Goldentail), the imposing King Vulture, Red-rumped Woodpecker, the huge and impressive Scarlet Macaw, Blue-headed Parrot, the gorgeous Lance-tailed Manakin, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, the localized Panamanian Flycatcher, Rufous-browed Peppershrike and Scrub Greenlet.

Later in the day, we will take our boat back to the mainland, keeping an eye open for seabirds as we go.

Western Panama & Coiba: Day 7  Today we will return to Panama City and meet up with those arriving for the main tour.


by Pete Morris

View Report


by Pete Morris

View Report