If you are having trouble reading this email, please click here.
Canopy Family

May, 2012

Featured Bird


Ocellated Antbird

Phaemostictus mccleannani

The Ocellated Antbird  is our largest antbird at 8 inches in length. It is also one of the most spectacular looking army ant specialist, with its easily recognizable large, bright-blue, bare facial patch. Scalloping above and below gives the bird an overall spotted appearance. Unlike many other antbirds, the sexes are similar. 

Of the usual antbird ant swarm attendees (Bicolored-, Spotted- and Ocellated Antbird), the Ocellated is the least common and is rarely seen away from the ants.  The Ocellated is found in lower levels of the forest and often on the ground.  Antbirds, as with other swarm attendees, don’t actually feed on army ants, but rather, are attracted to the numerous insects fleeing from the advancing  swarm.

It is always a treat to chance upon a large army ant swarm.  Along with antbirds, one can find motmots, puffbirds, woodcreepers, woodpeckers, Gray-headed Tanagers, and others. When on Semaphore Hill Road, Pipeline Road or the Canopy Adventure Trails, always be on the lookout for a swarm.  You will usually hear the commotion of the birds and even the ants crawling, before you spot anything.

Larry Thompson of Livermore, CA, suggested we feature the Ocellated Antbird.  He was kind enough to send his photo from Pipeline Road (March 2011).  Larry had this to say about his Ocellated experience: “I had to go into thick brush to see it and got pretty scratched up, but getting the image of this iconic bird was worth it.  I hope to have a return visit soon.” Thanks, Larry, for the pic and story.

Focus on Plants


Expanded Lobster Claw

Of all the thousands of tropical plants, Heliconia is one plant genus that many people visiting Panama recognize. Even determining species is not too difficult, in most cases!

Heliconia latispatha (above) is native and common from Mexico south through tropical South America. The relatively inconspicuous flowers emerge from gaudy, claw-shaped, reddish-orange floral bracts. The entire flower stalk can be 20 inches long! The flowers are followed by smooth blue fruit. The leaves are large and banana-like.

Known by enthusiasts as "Expanded Lobster Claw," Heliconia latispatha prefers partly shady, moist edges of tropical forests and roadsides bordering good forest. The large, unusual flowers make long-lasting cut flowers in floral arrangements.

Heliconia Quick Facts:

  • native to the tropical Americas and Caribbean
  • a disjunct group of six species from the Pacific islands (Samoa westward to Sulawesi)
  • 200-225 species are generally recognized, with many more cultivars and varieties
  • all New World species pollinated by hummingbirds
  • Pacific island species pollinated by nectar-eating bats and honeyeaters (birds)
  • popular for tropical landscaping
  • used in floral arrangements because they are long lasting
  • known in Panama as "Platanillo"
  • related to Bird-of-Paradise flowers
  • more types of cultivars exist than actual number of wild species
  • about 10 species found near the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge

For more information, please visit heliconia.org

View past issues of our newsletter!

Greetings from the Canopy...

Dear Friends,

Our Green Season is now in full swing, the forest is regaining its lushness and the birds and other wildlife are thriving with the arrival of the welcomed rains. For the most part our rains are heavy and brief and come mid-day during siesta between tours.  In fact, birding after a good rain can be tremendous!

I invite you to vist our "especially for photographers" page, a contribution of my son Daniel (Daniel, by the way, is an excellent photographer, and here you may view some of his images). This new addition to our website is devoted to explaining how the Canopy Tower Family caters to photographers. If you are a photographer, the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge are two perfect venues for capturing outstanding images!

Also, we have updated two of our species lists. Our Butterfly Checklist was graciously compiled by butterfly expert Kim Garwood. The list now includes over seventy photos taken by Tino Sanchez, Canopy Lodge manager/guide. Finally, additional species and more photos were added to the Plants and Wildflowers Checklist. You can find both here along with our other species lists. I am sure you will enjoy these new additions.



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


    Raúl Arias de Para

    Canopy Tower Family


News of the Canopy Tower Family

Gavin, Carlos & Will in front of the Canopy Tower

WINGS Birding Tours 

In late March, WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, based in Tucson, Arizona, brought a group of birders here for "Panama: Spring at the Canopy Tower."  WINGS leader Gavin Bieber was joined by Will Russell,  a founder and Managing Director of WINGS. Will is now “semi-retired,” but occasionally assists in leading tours. The birding group was well taken care of in the guide department, as Canopy Tower head guide Carlos Bethancourt teamed up with Gavin and Will, making for an unbelievable trio! 

Chuck, Bill, Carlos, Terry & Ben atop the Canopy Tower

Leica Team Visit

Leica Sports Optics USA sponsored a trip to the Canopy Tower in early April for the Leica Team.  The four-member team is headed by Terry Moore (Vice President, Leica Sport Optics USA).  Team members Chuck Hagner (Editor, BirdWatching magazine), William (Bill) H. Thompson, III  (Co-Publisher and Editor, Bird Watcher's Digest magazine) and Ben Lizdas (Sales Manager, Eagle Optics) joined Terry for a visit to the Canopy Tower.  Carlos Bethancourt showed the team some of Panama's best birding spots.  On the first day of their tour, Carlos got a lifer for Terry: a Pheasant Cuckoo on Pipeline.   This bird had eluded him on many trips to the tropics.  On the last day the team found a Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo on Pipeline, a lifer for everyone except Terry.  The Canopy Tower Family and the Leica Team have a great relationship, and we look forward to their next visit!

Creature Feature


Casque-headed Lizard  Corytophanes cristatus

     Also known as Helmeted Iguana, this thick-bodied lizard is over 4 inches long, not including the tail. The sexes are similar, with the female being slightly larger. Both have a large, single crest on the head. The margin of the crest has a series of serrate (pointed) scales, which continues down the middle of the back the entire length of the body. This lizard has the ability to rapidly change color. 
   The arboreal Casque-headed Lizard is diurnal (active during the day) and perches low on understory shrubs and small trees on thin vertical branches. It is a sit-and-wait predator, sometimes remaining motionless for days waiting for a large insect to venture too close.
    This species is rarely observed because of its cryptic coloring and its tendency not to move when approached. The one pictured here went unnoticed until we were within inches of his branch!
     Search for the Casque-headed Lizard along trails around the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge!

© Canopy Family