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Canopy Family

April, 2012

Featured Bird


Speckled Tanager
Tangara guttata

The Speckled Tanager belongs to the Thraupidae, a large diverse family that occurs only in the Americas. This family is renowned for its many brightly-colored species, most notably  honeycreepers and members of the genus Tangara. About 5 inches in length, Speckled Tanagers have unique heavy black spotting above and below.  The general color of the bird is yellowish on the head to a more lime-green color on the back and wings, with a white belly.  This is the only “spotted” tanager found in Panama.  Males and females are similar, with immature birds being less spotted.  Tanagers as a whole feed mainly on various fruits, but most will take insects, especially when feeding young. Speckled Tanagers are found on both the Pacific and Caribbean slopes in the foothills and highlands from 1,000 to 5,000 ft.  On the Pacific slope they are less common and more patchily distributed. Speckleds spend most of their time in the upper levels of the forest and often travel with mixed flocks. Look for Speckled Tanagers at Cerro Azul while on day excursions from the Canopy Tower and at El Cope from the Canopy Lodge.

Focus on Plants


Psychotria poeppigiana

Hot-lips is one of the characteristic shrubs of the neoptropics, and one which visitors are always delighted to see.  It is a member of the Rubiaceae (coffee family) and belongs to a genus containing nearly two thousand species worldwide. The opposing bright red bracts of the flowering stalk look like giant ruby-red lips, hence its racy local name  “labios ardientes.”  The actual flowers are small, yellow and protrude between the “lips.” 


The plants are visited by a number of butterflies and hummingbirds. The pea-sized fruit are bright blue. The opposite leaves, the stems and flower bracts are all covered in a soft, hairy fuzz.  Mature, robust specimens may reach small tree size, but most encountered are small shrubs under six feet tall.  Look for hot-lips along Semaphore Hill, Pipeline Road or the margins of forests near the Canopy Tower or the Canopy Lodge.

Canopy Tower Family News...

New rooms coming to Canopy Lodge!

Four new rooms are being constructed at the end of the main Canopy Lodge building.  The two-story structure will have two rooms on each floor, with the upper and lower floors connecting to the main lodge by covered walkways.  This new addition will replace the current "Canopy Cottage" single rooms. These new larger rooms will be much more accommodating than our current single rooms.   The lower two rooms will have sliding doors opening to the gardens and the upper rooms will have large windows overlooking the gardens.  No opening date has been set.  Stay tuned for updates.

Greetings from the Canopy...


Thank you for all the positive feedback regarding our first newsletter in this new format. Your suggestions and comments are very much appreciated!

Carlos Bethancourt will be representing the Canopy Tower Family in Ohio, May 4 - May 13, at The Biggest Week in American Birding, "The Warbler Capital of the World!" This will be Carlos’ first trip to Ohio, and he is very excited to spend a week with the warblers and meeting new friends! During the festival he will be keeping busy greeting guests at our booth, guiding bird walks and presenting a birding travel talk: The Natural Splendor of Panamá.  If you are able to attend the festival, make sure to stop by and say hello to Carlos and let him tell you about the fantastic birding and the unique wildlife Panama has to offer.  Before Carlos returns to Panama he will be presenting "The Natural Splendor of Panama" at Bruckner Nature Center on May 14th, 7-8:30pm and at Columbus Audubon on May 15th, 7-8:30pm.

April 15th starts our Green Season, with very attractive discounts. Our most popular 7-night birding packages, Birds of the Canopy Tower and Birds of the Canopy Lodge, are both priced at $1539, a savings of $820 from the High Season. Here are our other Green Season package price savings

Finally, do you have a favorite Panama bird, plant or creature you would like us to feature in our newsletter?  If so, drop us an email at jharrison@canopytower.com and we may include it in a future issue.


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


    Raúl Arias de Para

    Canopy Tower Family


A Very Special Lady Indeed!


                                                                                                        She just turned 95. Her mother lived to an even more incredible 104. This matriarch of central Panama is living history. Panama, the independent country, was a mere teenager when she was born. And yet, she continues on living as she has for decades at her little finca, set on a hill just outside the former Canal Zone in the small village of Huile. Suffice it to say that her living extended family is immense, too many to list here.

Born March 18, 1917, Graciela Martinez Ramos is quite remarkable. One daughter has recently retired from ANAM, Panama's National Park system, where she was instrumental in teaching locals "green" farming practices. One son is a pastor in Huile, and both were present at her birthday celebration, along with countless others. But, with all that she has experienced, with her almost encyclopedic knowledge of the local flora and fauna, and with all the children, grandchildren, great- and great-great grandchildren she "mothered," this story is centered on one event. This is that story:

Many years ago, a small boy proudly brought her a beautiful Red-legged Honeycreeper that he had just dispatched with his new slingshot. He thought he was an excellent marksman, having killed such a small target. She told him that he must be hungry and instructed him to pluck the feathers from his trophy so it could be properly cleaned and cooked.  A puzzled look came over the small boy and he passively added, “I didn’t kill it to eat; I was just playing with my slingshot.”  Her straightforward reply: “If you kill something, it is because you must be hungry.” With the still warm bird in hand, the young boy was marveling at the brilliant colors, which were not evident before. She made him clean the bird but did not force him to cook and eat it when she realized the lesson was learned.   From that moment, the young boy gained a great appreciation for nature—an appreciation that would become a life-long ambition and love.

The young boy has since grown up to become one of Panama’s best and most popular birding guides.  Many of you know and admire him already. His name is Carlos Bethancourt...and Graciela is his grandma!

Creature Feature


Panamanian Night Monkey
Aotus zonalis                             

The night monkeys, also known as owl monkeys or douroucoulis, are assigned to the genus Aotus, the only truly nocturnal monkeys. Though Aotus means "without ears," they possess tiny hard-to-see external ears. They are found in forests of Central and South America, from Panama south to Paraguay and northern Argentina.   Debate still exists on the number of species.

The Panamanian Night Monkey ranges from Panama to northwest Colombia. They are small, with the males weighing around 31 ounces and females slightly more.  The fur on the back is gray-brown to reddish-brown with yellowish belly fur. The back of the hands and feet have black or dark brown fur.

Unlike many nocturnal animals, their eyes do not have the light-reflecting surface (tapetum lucidum), so they don’t have the “eyeshine” typical of many night-active creatures.

They live in small territorial groups from two and six, consisting of a bonded adult pair and young of varying ages.  One infant (occasionally twins) is born each year, and the male carries and tends to the infant after the first few weeks.   

Night monkeys walk on all four legs, but they are capable of leaping or running when necessary. Their diet consists of a variety of foods. In a study on Barro Colorado Island, diet was found to consist of 65% fruits, 30% leaves and 5% insects.

You can often find a family of Panamanian Night Monkeys in their "day roosting tree" along a small trail off Pipeline Road and along trails near the Canopy Lodge.

© Canopy Family