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Canopy Family

December 2013

Featured Bird

Yellow-tailed Oriole

Yellow-tailed Oriole
Icterus mesomelas

The Yellow-tailed Oriole is a member of the family Icteridae, which includes blackbirds, cowbirds and oropendolas.  These birds are primarily yellow with a black back and bib.  Their wings are black with a bold yellow stripe called an “epaulet”.  They have a relatively long, predominantly black tail with yellow outer tail feathers.  They are our only oriole with prominent yellow in their tail.  Males and females are similar in appearance.  They are found in tangled thickets, swampy lowlands and woodland habitats, and often near water.  They feed mainly on insects, but also nectar and fruit, and are known to aid in pollination and seed dispersal, especially of bananas.  Yellow-tailed Orioles tend to forage in pairs.   They have a beautiful, mellow song, for which they are valued; unfortunately there are population declines due to pressure from the cage bird trade in some countries.  They are common in the lowland regions of Panama, and can be found near wetlands around the Canopy Tower.

Focus on Plants


White-top Sedge
Rhynchospora nervosa

This short, grass-like plant is a member of the sedge family, Cyperaceae.  It is characterized by the presence of leaf-like bracts, which have a white basal portion, giving it a star-like appearance.  The bracts surround the inflorescence, which sits on top of the plant.  The inflorescences are called “spikelets”, and each spike contains several tiny flowers.  Like grasses and rushes, sedges are pollinated by wind; however, because of the flower-like bracts, it may attract insect pollinators.  The White-top Sedge is found in gardens, orchards, fields and other open areas throughout the Neotropics.  It often prefers shady areas and generally dry soil.  This beautiful sedge is common along the forest edges and open areas in Panama, and is an attractive plant, often catching the eye of our guests at our lodges.

Photo of the Month

This White-faced Capuchin gave Alison Rilling a funny face during a Canopy jungle boat tour in November.  Click on the photo for larger image. 

Recent Sightings and Trip Reports

In the last month we have had great sightings of Harpy Eagle, Black-crowned Antpitta, Blue-throated Toucanet, White-winged Becard, Silky Anteater and Rothschild's Porcupine!  Check out more recent sightings and trip reports for the amazing birds, mammals, reptiles & amphibians, butterflies and dragonflies seen around the Canopy Tower, Canopy Lodge and the new Canopy Camp Darien!

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Share Your Experience with Us!

Have you stayed with us lately?  We would love to hear from you! We welcome you to post your comments and experiences on TripAdvisor.  Visit our TripAdvisor pages for the Canopy Tower, Canopy Lodge and Canopy B&B.  If you haven't visited us yet, check out what others are saying!

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Greetings from the Canopy...

Dear Friends, 

There are many ways that we can portray the beautiful wildlife of Panama.  We love to share photos, videos and other multimedia that have been taken at our lodges on our website and Facebook page.  We have started our very own Canopy Family YouTube Channel, where you will find videos taken by our guides and guests.  New videos are always being added, so check back frequently for recent videos of birds, mammals and other wildlife.  

With Christmas just around the corner, we are preparing for an extra special season, as we welcome guests at all of our lodges for the holiday.  Those celebrating with us will be surrounded by friends, family and of course, birds!  From all of us at Canopy Family, we wish everyone a safe and enjoyable festive season.  


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


Raúl Arias de Para - President/Founder

Canopy Family News

Harpy Eagle Sighting at the Canopy Camp!

Harpy Eagle

On November 18, the first sighting of a majestic Harpy Eagle, our national bird, was confirmed at Canopy Camp Darien.  Ismael “Nando” Quiroz saw the young bird, perhaps 2 years old, fly to a large exposed branch where it sat and gave the opportunity for him to take a few photos.  This is a very exciting sighting, as previously Harpy Eagle feathers have been found on the property, but there had been no confirmed sightings.  This rare bird is iconic in the Neotropics, the largest and most powerful raptor, representing healthy and extensive forest ecosystems.  We are very proud to share this sighting with you, and we hope that our guests will enjoy future sightings at the Canopy Camp.


First Annual "Introduction to Tropical Biodiversity" Tour a Success!

Last month, we ran our first annual “Introduction to Tropical Biodiversity” Tour, featuring guest scientists Dr. Howard Topoff and Dr. Carol Simon, formerly from the American Museum of Natural History and City University of New York.  It was a great success, as we found many different tropical species and learned about their fascinating behaviors.  Our participants had a wonderful time!  We are looking forward to running this tour again in 2014.  Click here for this tour’s trip report.

Our Christmas Gift to You: Canopy Family Recipes

Canopy Tower meal

Our guests consistently compliment the delicious meals prepared daily by the chefs at the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge, and often request recipes.  For this festive season, we would like to give you the recipes of our favorite dishes, so you can try them out at home!

From the Vault: Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo featured in Neotropical Birding Magazine

Neotropical Birding magazine featured the Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo in the spring 2011 edition, article and photos by Kevin J. Zimmer.  In this article, Kevin describes the life history of these little-known birds, as well as a personal encounter with two Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoos at the Canopy Adventure in El Valle in 2010. To learn more about the Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo and access the article, click here.  

Creature Feature

Leafcutter Ant

Leafcutter Ants
Atta spp.

One of the most encountered and iconic animals of the tropical rainforest are leafcutter ants.  Leafcutter ants are fungus-growing ants found in the humid forests of Central and South America.  Aside from humans, they form the largest and most complex societies of any organisms on Earth.  Their underground nests, or “gardens”, can be huge—up to 80 m wide, with a large central fungus garden and 1000s of smaller chambers; colonies may contain up to 8 million individuals.  An adult human would be able to stand inside the main chamber of a leafcutter ant colony!  Leafcutter ants collect fresh vegetation—primarily leaves, flowers and grasses.  The foraging workers travel far from the nest, in search of specific leaves, and with their strong mandibles cut pieces of leaves which they carry back to the nest.  The leaves are then chewed up and used to cultivate a fungus, which the colony feeds on.  Different species of ants grow different species of fungus, and the fungus is dependent on the ant colony just as the ant is dependent on the fungus, creating a mutualistic relationship.  The queen can lay up to 30,000 eggs per day, all of which become non-reproductive, wingless females (workers and soldiers).  Once a year, the queen lays fertile winged males and females, which leave the nest to mate.  Males die soon after, but females, who have brought with them some fungus, become queens and start their own colonies.  Click here for a video of leafcutter ants in action.

Did you know?  Leafcutter ants can carry almost 10 times their own weight, the equivalent of a human lifting 1 ton over their head!

Sneak peek at next month's Canopy Family newsletter...

Here's a clue to next month's featured bird... who am I?? 

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