Canopy Family Panama

Panama's Butterflies

Common Jewelmark
Common Jewelmark (Sarota chrysus), photo by Jenn Sinasac


Butterflies are one of nature’s most eye-catching creatures, considered by many throughout history as signs of joy and love.  They can be found from the high arctic tundra down through the far stretches of the southern hemisphere.  Like birds, they can be found in almost every ecosystem on Earth.  It is estimated that there are over 250,000 species of butterflies & moths (order Lepidoptera) living today, of which approximately 20,000 species of butterflies have been described.  In the Neotropical region of the Americas, the diversity of butterflies is incredibly high; and hundreds of species can be found in Panama alone.  Butterflies are active year round; however, they rely heavily on their host plants, and their activity can be quite seasonal, with more flight and visibility in the wetter months (April to December) of the year.

Chiriqui Flasher
Chiriqui Flasher (Astraptes chiriquensis), photo by Tino Sanchez

Butterflies have the same appeal as birds do to naturalists—they are beautiful, charismatic, and identifiable (with wonderful field guides and resources available to aid in identification).  They have distinct markings and with few exceptions, can be identified to species.  Unlike birds, they do not sing or vocalize, thus cannot be located by any audio clue.  Crackers (Hamadryas spp.) are an exception; males make a snapping sound with their wings in flight during territorial disputes and courtship displays.  Unlike birding, there is no requirement to learn audio identification, watching butterflies is purely visual.  

Butterflies can be found in open habitats and forests; from the forest floor in the understory, such as satyrs and owl-butterflies, to above the canopy where sulphurs and kite-swallowtails like to fly.  Different species of butterflies can be found at different elevations, and therefore there is really no end to watching butterflies in nature!  



Our Tours

Narbal Hairstreak
Narbal Hairstreak (Olynthus narbal), photo by Tino Sanchez

Panama's Brilliant Butterflies Tour

Whether a beginner in exploring the world of butterflies, or a seasoned enthusiast, we offer a special tour focused on the wonderful world of Neotropical butterflies.  With our expert guides, search the cloud forests around the Canopy Lodge in El Valle de Anton and enjoy canopy butterflies at their best from the observation deck of the Canopy Tower in Soberania National Park, along the banks of the Panama Canal.  This 7-night tour offers an opportunity to see hundreds of species of Panama's butterflies.  Click here for a detailed itinerary and more information about this exciting tour.  



Glorious Blue-Skipper Paches loxus Jenn Sinasac Darien
Glorious Blue-Skipper (Paches loxus), photo by Jenn Sinasac

Butterflies of Canopy Camp Darien

Renown as a birding mecca, Darién is now being more explored for all flora and fauna it holds. Butterflies adorn all habitats here; and there is so much to explore! During this 5-night tour, we seek out some of Darién’s most intriguing butterflies, found nowhere else in Central America! Based at the Canopy Camp, we enjoy daily excursions to some of the best butterflying sites in the area, one of which is the grounds of the Canopy Camp itself! El Salto Road, Nuevo Vigia Embera village and San Francisco Reserve will keep our eyes, cameras and souls entertained with hundreds of species of butterflies. Red Peacock, Electron Metalmark, Periander Metalmark, Widespread Eighty-Eight, Green-backed Ruby-eye, Great White Longtail, Tailed Cecropian, Blind Eighty-Eight and dozens of species await our visit.

Useful Butterfly Resources

Canopy Family Butterfly Species List

Click here for a complete downloadable species list of the butterflies of the Canopy Tower, Canopy Lodge and Canopy Camp.  Check back regularly, as our butterfly list is always growing!

Trip Reports

Click on the following links for our butterfly tour trip reports and trip lists:

December 2014  |  May 2015  |  August 2015  |  December 2015

May 2016  |  June 2016  |  August 2016  |  December 2016

May 2017  |  August 2017 #1  |  August 2017 #2  |  December 2017

May 2018  |  August 2018  |  December 2018

May 2019  |  August 2019  |  December 2019

Michael O'Brien (Victor Emanuel Nature Tours) leads a "Central Panama: Birds and Butterflies" Tour every other year at the Canopy Tower.  Read Michael's trip report from his inaugural tour in 2012 here.

Recommended Butterfly Field Guides for Panama

While there is not yet a field guide exclusively for butterflies of Panama, here are some useful field guides for identification of butterflies in Panama. 

A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of Mexico and Central America by Jeffrey Glassberg (2007)  and A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of Mexico and Central America: Second Edition by Jeffrey Glassberg (2018)

Butterflies of Central America, Vols 1, 2 and 3 by Kim Garwood (2011-2013)

Butterflies of Southern Amazonia by Kim Garwood (2009)

Useful Websites and Links

The following websites are very useful in the identification and classification of butterflies of Tropical America.  

Neotropical Butterflies 

Butterflies of America 


Fatimella Emesis
Fatimella Emesis, photo by Tino Sanchez

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