- Watching Macaws in Flight over the Forests of Darién National Park: Few places in the world rival the Darién National Park for bird-watching. The .5 million hectares (1.3 million acres) of rainforest here provide a home for four species of macaws, including blue and gold, red and green, great green, and chestnut-fronted. These noisy and colorful birds sail over the Cana Field Station, a converted research facility and bird-watcher's sanctuary run by Ancon Expeditions (tel. 269-9415); they'll take you up Pirre Mountain, where, if you're lucky, you'll glimpse the golden-headed quetzal. Also expect to see a rainbow of tanagers, toucans, oropendolas, and black-tipped cotingas.
- Searching for the Elusive Harpy from a Traditional Emberá Village: One of Panama's top bird-watching companies, Advantage Tours Panama (tel. 232-6944 or 6676-2466), has a brand new package tour in La Marea that allows travelers to stay in an Emberá village deep in the Darién, providing both excellent bird-watching opportunities as well as the chance to sleep, eat, and even dance among the Emberás. Guides will happily accommodate jungle hikes to harpy eagle nesting sites as overnight camping expeditions deep in the jungle for smaller groups.
- Looking for More Than 500 Species of Birds Along Pipeline Road in Soberanía National Park: This is the “celebrity” bird-watching trail for the immense number of species found here. In fact, for several years Pipeline Road has set the world record for 24-hour bird counts. Even non-birders can’t help getting caught up in the action with so many colorful show birds fluttering about, such as motmots, trogons, toucans, antbirds, colorful tanagers, and flycatchers. The farther you walk or bike along the rainforest trail, the better your chances of spotting rare birds. Contact Advantage Tours Panama to arrange a bird-watching tour.
- Catching Sight of the Resplendent Quetzal in the Cloud Forests of the Chiriquí Highlands: Revered by the Aztecs and the Mayans, the iridescent green resplendent quetzal is widely considered to be the most beautiful bird in the Americas. From December to May, the best place to see one is in the cloud forests of Volcán Barú National Park, but if you want a near-guarantee, head to Finca Lérida (tel. 720-2285) in Boquete and have them book the bird-watching guide Santiago "Chago" Caballero (tel. 6626-2200; firstname.lastname@example.org) or one of his protégés -- they're the best in the quetzal-spotting business.
- Being Taken Aback by the Size of the Harpy Eagle in Punta Patiño Nature Reserve: Panama’s national bird is one of the largest eagles in the world, with a wingspan that can reach more than 1.8m (6 ft.). You can’t help being struck by this creature’s size, though now that they’re endangered, they’re not the easiest birds to spot. Head to Punta Patiño, and your chances soar. Ancon Expeditions (tel. 269-9415) has a lodge here and organizes bird-watching trips. Short on time? Visit the harpy eagles at Summit Gardens Park & Zoo tel. 232-4854), near Panama City.
Grabbing a Cab to View 200+ Species in the Metropolitan Park: Panama City’s Metropolitan Park is the only protected tropical forest found within the city limits of a major urban area in the Americas— a 10-minute cab ride and you’re there, checking out orange-billed sparrows, green honeycreepers, rufous-and-white wrens, and thrush tanagers, among more than 200 other species. Head to the top of the Cerro Mono Titi hilltop to view canopy birds, and enjoy a spectacular vista of the city.
- Discovering Trogons, Blue Cotingas, and Chestnut-Mandible Toucans on the Little-Known Achiote Road: The Atlantic Coast village of Achiote, about a 1 1/2-hour drive from Panama City, is quietly revered as a bird-watching mecca by those in the know Fluttering around Achiote are orange-chinned parakeets, barbets, and flocks of swallowtail kites. Check out their website at www.panamaaudubon.org to see if they've got any day trips planned to the area.
- Delving into the World of Bird-Watching at the Canopy Lodge or Canopy Tower: These two lodges live and breathe bird-watching, with day trips, viewing platforms, expert guides, and a fully stocked bird-watcher’s library. The lodges are located in prime bird-watching spots in Soberanía National Park and the cloud-forest foothills of Valle de Antón (tel. 264-5720 or 6687-0291).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.