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Canopy Family

November 2014

Featured Bird

Rosy Thrush-Tanager
Rhodinocichla rosea

A “most-wanted” bird in Panama, the beautiful Rosy Thrush-Tanager likes to play hard-to-get.  While fairly common, this brightly colored bird of scrubby secondary forest undergrowth does a great job of remaining out of view on the ground as it forages for beetles and other insects in the leaf litter, leaving many birders (and guides!) frustrated.  With a little patience, this boldly marked bird will reward you with a glimpse or sighting as it flicks leaves side to side with its bill.  Approximately the size and shape of a thrush (18 cm, 7”), the Rosy Thrush-Tanager has dark brown-gray head, wings, back and tail.  Males have a vibrant raspberry-red throat and breast, with a rosy and white supercilium.  Females are very similar, but with burnt orange instead of rosy red on the breast, throat and lores.  They have a loud, rich, wren-like song, and pairs will duet antiphonally.  They also have a variety of calls.  Rosy Thrush-Tanagers are found from Costa Rica to Colombia and Venezuela, and have an unusual disjunct population on the Pacific coast of Mexico.  In Panama, they are found in the central lowlands and western foothills, and are fairly common around the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge. 

What am I?  As its name suggests, the Rosy Thrush-Tanager is a member of the tanager family (Thraupidae), but its true classification has been debated and studied for decades.  It has been considered among the wrens, warblers, mockingbirds & thrashers, and tanagers, and previous names included “Thrush-Warbler” and “Wren-Warbler”.  A recent study even suggested it belongs in the bunting and sparrow family!  With all this uncertainty, the Rosy Thrush-Tanager likely merits its own family, a classification we may see in the near future.

Focus on Plants

Sobralia citrea by Jerry Harrison

Sobralia citrea

Sobralia citrea is the most common large, white-yellow orchid found along the Caribbean slope from Costa Rica through central Panama.  This distinct orchid was just recently described by American botanist Robert Louis Dressler in 2005, and is most commonly known from Panama.  The genus Sobralia is very diverse and contains approximately 125 species.  Their delicate flowers usually last only a few hours, as a result of a self-digesting enzyme.  Flowers in this genus are small to large, and buds open synchronously within a species, likely due to an environmental cue.  They have stiff, pleated leaves and reed-like stems that terminate in inflorescence.  Most Sobralia are epiphytic, but some are terrestrial, and are pollinated by bees.  Sobralia citrea is found in foothills (800-1000 m elevation), and is blooming now in El Valle and Cerro Azul.  For an up-close photo of the flower (and other Panamanian orchids), check out our orchid checklist.

Photo of the Month

Aquamarine male Green Honeycreepers (and their lime-green female counterparts, below) are commonly seen at eye level in the treetops at the Canopy Tower.  Josh Haas from Michigan captured this stunning male during his recent visit, and Kim Nagy from Boston photographed this equally beautiful female.  Click on the photos to view larger images. 

Recent Sightings and Trip Reports

In the past month we have had great sightings of Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Pacific Antwren,  the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Tayra (a weasel-like mammal), and rarities including Aplomado Falcon and Smoky-brown Woodcreeper!  Check out more recent sightings and trip reports for the amazing birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, butterflies and dragonflies seen around the Canopy Tower, Canopy Lodge and the new Canopy Camp Darien!

Canopy Tower TripAdvisor

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, Canopy Camp 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, 

We have had a great hawk migration season!  We counted a total of 108,307 raptors over the Canopy Tower between October 16 and November 7.  Thanks to our hawk counters extraordinaire—Domiciano Alveo, Michael Castro and Jenn Sinasac—for their time and enthusiasm!  Our guests really enjoyed seeing thousands of Turkey Vultures, Broad-winged and Swainson’s hawks pass over the tower during the past month, truly a spectacle in Panama this time of year.  Our biggest day was November 1, when over 37,000 raptors passed over the Tower--check out the video!  Please see our hawk count data for this year.  As temperatures drop in the north, a majority of the other migrants have returned to Panama as well, feeding voraciously during the winter and boosting our checklist numbers!

This Christmas, come spend the holidays at the Canopy Camp Darien!  We are offering 25% off our Birds of Canopy Camp Darien birding package during the Christmas week, see more details in this newsletter.  We would love to spend the holidays with you!

Raul Arias de Para

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


Raúl Arias de Para - President/Founder

Canopy Family News

Felicidades, "El Tinamu", Meet "Tinamu II", Our New Birdmobile

After 14 great years of service, our birdmobile “El Tinamu” is ready to retire.  “El Tinamu” made countless trips up and down Pipeline Road over the past decade and a half, and many of our past guests will remember it well.  Now it’s time to introduce the newest member of our birdmobile family.  Bigger, stronger and ready to go birding… meet "Tinamu II" our new birdmobile!

El Tinamu rainfomobileNew Canopy Family rainfomobile

Now retired, "El Tinamu" (above) and our new birdmobile, "Tinamu II", below, on one of its inaugural trips with the Naturetrek group earlier this month.   

Another Great Year at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival!

Our southern Texas birding friends and traveling birders may have seen Carlos and Evelyn Bethancourt at this year’s Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, November 5-9 in Harlingen, Texas.  During the exciting festival, they talked to thousands of interested visitors about the splendor of birding in Panama and our lodges through presentations, workshops and at our booth.  We will see you all again next year!

RGVBF 2014

Carlos & Evelyn Bethancourt with "Papa Leica" Terry Moore, at the 2014 Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.  

Introduction to Tropical Biodiversity Tour 2014

Canopy Family’s second annual “Introduction to Tropical Biodiversity” Tour with guest scientists Dr. Howard Topoff and Dr. Carol Simon was a great 10 days of exploration, and we encountered such a great variety of wildlife—birds, mammals, frogs and an abundance of insects!  This year the tour visited the Canopy Camp in Darién, where one of many highlights was a pair of Green-and-black Dart Poison Frogs, and then traveled to the foothills in El Valle de Anton to explore the epiphyte-laden cloud forests.  Each night, Howard and Carol talked about various aspects of tropical biology, from social insects to birds to the evolution of coloration and communication.  Read the full trip report here, we look forward to offering this tour again in 2015!  Keep an eye on our Special Tours for exciting upcoming tours like this one.

Canopy Family Tropical Biodiversity Tour 2014

Upcoming Deals


Christmas at Canopy Camp Darien

We think there is no better way to spend the holidays than birding in Panama, and the Canopy Camp is full of wonderful birds to see.  SAVE 25% (a savings of $834.75 per person) on our signature Birds of Canopy Camp Darien birding package during the week of December 21-27th.  This year, give the gift of birds and enjoy your holidays in Darién!  Please contact us for more details.    

Recent Guests at Our Lodges

VENT group Canopy Lodge

Victor Emanuel Nature Tours (VENT) group, led by Barry Zimmer, visited the Canopy Lodge in October.  They had a wonderful time at the Lodge and enjoyed many great sightings!  

Creature Feature

Blue Morpho
Morpho helenor peleides

When you think about tropical rainforests, this brilliant blue butterfly is often the first thing that comes to mind.  Blue Morphos are large (10-20 cm, 4-8”), dazzling blue butterflies of the lowland tropical forests of Central and South America.  There are approximately 30 species of Morpho butterflies, and while a majority of them are blue, several species are white, brown or tawny colored.  The Common Blue Morpho itself has approximately 30 subspecies, and peleides is sometimes considered a separate species.  They have iridescent blue scales on the upperside of their wings, bordered by black with white dots.  The bright blue is thought to startle or scare predators when the butterfly flashes its wings rapidly.  When they land, they fold their wings up, hiding the blue color, and the underside of their wings , which is more drab, has several large eyespots.  Larvae (caterpillars) are reddish-brown with bright green patches on their back, and feed voraciously on a variety of plants.  Adults feed on juices from ripe and rotting fruits on the forest floor, using their long straw-like proboscis to slurp up their food.  They are usually seen flying up and down sunny forest trails in the understory in search of food on the forest floor, flashing their brilliant blue wings.  They locate their food by smell sensors on their antennae and taste their food with ‘tastebuds’ on their legs.  Check out this video of Blue Morphos feeding at the Canopy Lodge.  They range from Mexico south through northern South America, and are commonly seen at all of our lodges in Panama.  This will be one of the many butterflies we will encounter during our Panama’s Brilliant Butterflies Tour, coming up in December. 

Did you know?  Blue is not a true color in nature, but rather the result of light reflecting off the surface—purely structural.

© Canopy Family