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Canopy Family

January 2014

Featured Bird

Collared Aracari

Collared Aracari
Pteroglossus torquatus

This brightly-colored, large-billed bird is a medium-sized member of the toucan family.  They have dark upperparts with a chestnut-colored collar, a red rump, and bright yellow underparts with a red-black belly band and black spot on its chest.  Their upper mandible is pale yellow with a saw-tooth pattern along the lower edge and black tip, and their lower mandible is black.  Their curiously large bills are specially designed—durable for eating fruit and lightweight for flight.  Collared Aracaris live in small groups of 6-15 birds and they feed together, forage together, and even sleep together—up to 6 adults and young roost in the same tree cavity with their tails folded over their backs.  Like other toucans, they are cavity nesters; their nests are located 6-30 meters off the ground in a natural cavity or old woodpecker nest.  The young fledge 6 weeks after hatching, and the parents continue to feed the young for a few weeks after they leave the nest.  They are found in woodlands, lowland forest, forest edges, and plantations from Mexico to western Ecuador and Venezuela.  Collared Aracaris are commonly seen feeding in the canopy from the observation deck of the Canopy Tower, and are regular visitors to the fruit feeders at the Canopy Lodge.   

Tough feet:  Collared Aracaris do not line their nests with soft material; the nestlings have special heel pads that protect their feet from the hard bottom of the nest.

Focus on Plants

Gumbo Limbo Tree

Gumbo Limbo Tree
Bursera simaruba

The Gumbo Limbo tree is one of the most recognizable trees of the American tropics—often called the “tourist tree” because it is "always red and peeling".  This medium-sized tree grows to 30 meters tall and has a diameter of 1 meter or less.  The leaves are pinnate with 7-11 leaflets.  The peeling bark prevents vines and lianas from clinging to the trunk and branches.  This tree is an important food source for many species of resident and migrant species of birds, as well as monkeys and squirrels, who feed on the fatty fruits and seeds.  Gumbo Limbo is a very useful tree; its wood is suitable for light construction, and the resin is used as glue, varnish and incense.  Anti-inflammatory properties in its leaves, bark and resin can be used to treat a variety of aches and pains.  The resin is used as a treatment for gout.  The bark is used as a common topical remedy for skin conditions including sores, measles, sunburn and insect bites, and a decoction of the bark can be used to treat pain, flu, fever and sunstroke.  Furthermore, this tree is considered one of the most wind-resistant species and can act as a good wind barrier to protect crops and roads, and is commonly planted in hurricane zones.  Gumbo Limbo trees grow in a wide variety of habitats from south Florida through Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, to Brazil and Venezuela, and is common in the lowlands of central Panama around the Canopy Tower. 

Cool Fact!  The wood of the Gumbo Limbo tree is the traditional wood used to make carousel horses in the United States before plastic became popular.

Photo of the Month


This male White-whiskered Puffbird posed along Pipeline Road as Canopy Tower guide Domiciano Alveo took his photo using a technique called "digiscoping" -- taking a photo through a spotting scope.  Photo courtesy of Steve Rowe and Wendy Dey, who recently spent their holidays at the Canopy Lodge and Canopy B&B.  Click on photo for larger image.

Recent Guests at Our Lodges

Nigel Marven Canopy Tower

Wildlife adventurer, filmmaker and presenter Nigel Marven and Canopy Tower senior guide Carlos Bethancourt.  Nigel stayed at the Canopy Tower in early January to do some scouting for an upcoming filming session this season, featuring some of the amazing wildlife of Panama.

Canopy Tower birders

Carol Jones and friends from the bird banding station at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory in Texas, ready to go birding at the Canopy Tower this January.

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Greetings from the Canopy...

Dear Friends, 

Happy New Year!  We hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, filled with family, friends and birds!  We are preparing for a big year—with the opening of the Canopy Camp in Darien this month, and celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Canopy Tower, we have so much to look forward to!  2014 is also the centennial of the Panama Canal, so this year will be a special one for all of us in Panama, and a great time to visit our country, so consider Panama in your travel plans this year.

We have a new tour package available, Birds of the Canopy Family, a 14-night, all-inclusive birding package featuring the birds of all three of our eco-lodges—Canopy Tower, Canopy Lodge and Canopy Camp Darien.  Please contact us for more information about this exciting tour, the ultimate birding holiday in Panama! 


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


Raúl Arias de Para - President/Founder

Canopy Family News

Canopy Camp Darien Now Open!

Spectacled Parrotlet

After two years of construction and a dream of opening an eco-lodge in Central America’s most diverse biological corridor and one of the best places in the Neotropics for birding, we are thrilled to announce that the Canopy Camp is open!  We are pleased to offer the ultimate birding and wildlife experience in the heart of Darien, with comfortable accommodations in unique African safari-style tents, great food, and great birding!  During our 7-night Birds of Canopy Camp Darien tour, you will visit the best birding locations in eastern Panama.  Darien is jam-packed with regional specialties including Spectacled Parrotlet, Black Oropendola and Golden-headed Manakin.  Did we mention Harpy Eagle and 4 species of macaws?

Canopy Camp

For our Grand Opening, we welcomed the first group of guests to the Canopy Camp on January 19th—a VENT tour led by Kevin Zimmer.  This group has been having a wonderful time during their stay, with such birding highlights as Sooty-headed Tyrannulet and Pale-bellied Hermit.  Each day brings forth exciting bird sightings, and is rounded out with great meals and great company!  We look forward to welcoming many more guests to this special eco-lodge for many years to come.   

Birding at CCDDinner at Canopy Camp Darien

VENT group enjoying their stay at the Canopy Camp during our inaugural tour this January.


Canopy Tower Celebrates 15 Years!

Canopy Tower

On January 2, 1999, Raúl Arias de Para opened the doors of the Canopy Tower, recycled from a US military radar tower along the Panama Canal and surrounded by the exquisite lowland rainforests of Soberania National Park, welcoming birders and wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world to experience world-class birding in a most unique eco-lodge.  Canopy Tower has won various awards and has become one of the world’s premier birding destinations.  Over the past 15 years, we have shared incredible experiences with thousands of birders, and many of them return year after year to relive and create new memories.  From that day, the Canopy Family has grown to be what we are today, dedicated to the enjoyment of birding in the Neotropics.  We consider our guests part of our Family, and as our family grows we look forward to another great 15 years to come!


Raúl and Family Welcomes First Grandchild

All of us at the Canopy Family extend our warmest blessings to Raul, Denise and the Arias family as they welcome Santiago Cambefort Arias, born on January 11, 2014.  Santiago is Raul and Denise's first grandchild, and the proud grandparents and the family are filled with excitement and joy.  Congratulations, and welcome to the family, Santiago!

Creature Feature

Common Tent-making Bat
Uroderma bilobatum

The Common Tent-making Bat is a common forest species of the lowlands of Central and South America.  It is a member of the family Phyllostomidae, the New World leaf-nosed bats, a large family that includes vampire bats, fruit-eating bats, nectar bats and spear-nosed bats, although a majority of the species are insectivorous.  They are a medium-sized bat, 59-69 mm in length with a weight of 13-20 grams.  They have a gray-brown coat with a pale white stripe down their back, and a U-shaped tail membrane.  Their face has a fleshy nose-leaf and 4 distinct white stripes.  The nose-leaf is believed to aid in echolocation, to help direct the sounds they emit.  Tent-making bats are mainly frugivorous, but will occasionally supplement their diet with insects, pollen and nectar.  They are best known for their unique behavior of making “tents” out of large leaves.  They bite through the midrib or vein of a large leaf so that it folds over into an inverted-V-shaped shelter.  Banana and palm leaves are commonly used.  The bats roost under the leaves, which provide protection from rain, sun and wind.  A single leaf may house several bats, and they roost in groups of 2-59 individuals.  A single “tent” may be used for up to 60 days.  They are found from Mexico south to Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, in lowland forest, and can be found roosting in palms near the Canopy Tower. 

Did you know?  Common Tent-making Bats emit calls at very low frequencies, often not detectable by standard bat detectors.  For this reason, they are sometimes called “whispering bats”.


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