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Canopy Family

August, 2012

Featured Bird

Black-breasted Puffbird

Notharchus pectoralis

The distinctive puffbird family (Bucconidae) is exclusive to the neotropics, and most members of this family have large heads, short tails and some color combination of black, white and brown. Their habit is to perch quietly for long periods and sally out to catch insects. Nests are in holes the birds excavate in termite nests or burrows they dig in a mud bank. 

The black-breasted has a large white ear patch and a broad black band on the chest.  These features distinguish it from other black and white puffbirds found in Panama. Central Panama is the northernmost range of the species.  Black-breasted Puffbirds are fairly common in lowlands of the Caribbean slope in the canal area. They are often seen perched on a branch in the forest canopy.

Focus on Plants

Wallis' Oerstedella Orchid

The attractive Oerstedella orchids were once included with Epidendrum, but were split into a separate genus by subtle morphological differences about 30 years ago. They are native mainly to the moist montane forests of Mesoamerica, particularly Costa Rica and Panama. Oerstedella wallisii is one of several members of this genus that combines contrasting colors in a striking way. It produces elegant, thickish, waxy, long-lived flowers, often on short stems from nodes along the stout canes. The flowers are 1.5 inches wide.

Quick facts:

  • about 22 species of Oerstedella in Costa Rica & Panama
  • its long-lived flowers make it suitable for cultivation
  • leaf sheaths have prominent warts, a major reason for split from Epidendrum
  • O. wallisii is widespread and found in mountains and on Barro Colorado Island.
Victor Emanuel along with Ben & Jessica Reynolds and their son Eliot at Canopy Lodge

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Greetings from the Canopy...

Dear Friends,

     My dear friend Victor Emanuel, whom I have known for over 12 years, recently came for a vacation.  His company, VENT (Victor Emanuel Nature Tours), was the first to bring groups to the Canopy Tower (1999) and Canopy Lodge (2005) and is in line to be the first at the Canopy Camp Darien (2013). However, I have never had the time to really get to know him because on previous visits he was always leading groups. 
     Most people know Victor as a birder and founder/owner of VENT, the largest company in the world specializing in birding tours, with 160 tours to over 100 destinations. But Victor’s interests are much broader and diverse. He loves to read history and politics and is up to date on world affairs, interests I share.  In addition, his concern about people less privileged is genuine, and he devotes time to mentor children in Austin. His youth birding camps, in conjunction with the ABA and Leica Sports Optics, have sponsored over 200 young birders. This year we co-sponsored Abir Quiroz, the daughter of Nando Quiroz, the head of our Darien operation.
     Victor sits on the board of several nature conservation organizations, the prestigious Cornell Lab of Ornithology is one example -- all of this and more is bundled in a body with boundless energy and good humor. 
      The success of the Canopy Tower Family is due in no small measure to the advice, support and friendship of Victor Emanuel.  We are privileged and honored to count him as our friend.  


   Best wishes, and I hope to see
   you here in Panama soon,


   Raúl Arias de Para

   Canopy Tower Family

Canopy Tower Family News

On July 19th, 16 enthusiastic members of Club de Jardineria de Panama, celebrating their 50th anniversary, visited the Canopy Tower for an afternoon of fun and to have their meeting. The day began with a ride up Semaphore Hill, with stops along the way, where CTF Biologist Jerry Harrison shared some facts on the more remarkable plants seen. At the Tower manager Zelesny Jiménez presented a brief history and an overview of the Tower's operation.  After a look from atop the observation deck, the ladies enjoyed a fabulous lunch prepared by the Canopy Tower staff.  A great afternoon of botany, birds and lunch was enjoyed by all.  

Creature Feature

Red-tailed Squirrel

Sciurus granatensis

     This medium-sized squirrel has dark-brown upperparts with an orangish to red tail that is black at the tip. In Panama, the belly is deep orange. Red-taileds found at higher elevations are larger and have thicker fur. They are found from northern Costa Rica to Ecuador and on Trinidad and Tobago, ranging from the lowlands to 3,200 meters (just over 10,000 feet).  They can be found around the Tower and Lodge.
     It is most active during the morning and late afternoon. They are excellent climbers and use all levels of the forest but spend a lot of time feeding and traveling on the ground. At night, they den in tree hollows or make a nest of leaves and twigs in vine tangles. This species is usually solitary and territorial and has a home range of 1-4 hectares (2 to 9 acres).
     Red-taileds are often located by the rasping sounds they make when chewing on hard seeds. They also eat various fruits and sometimes bark and fungi.

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