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

October 2015

Featured Bird

Chestnut-backed Antbird Rafael Lau

Chestnut-backed Antbird
Myrmeciza exsul

A skulky, dark antbird of the tropical forest understory, the Chestnut-backed Antbird is more commonly heard than seen.  This medium-sized antbird has a dark gray head with distinctive blue bare skin around its eyes, and rich a chestnut brown back and wings.  Underparts are dark gray in the male and brown in the female.  The subspecies found in eastern Panama shows white dots on the wings.  It stays low to the ground and forages for insects and invertebrates from low perches, and like most members of the antbird family, does not regularly follow ant swarms.  They occasionally join mixed flocks.  They are rather vocal, and their 2-3 note whistle call is a common sound of the lowland rainforests.  The Chestnut-backed Antbird is found in lowland humid forest, second growth and edges, and is often found in small forest patches in fragmented areas. They often prefer vine tangles, older treefall gaps and dense thickets.  A pair will defend their territory year round, and are often seen together.  They often pump their tail, especially in territorial defense behavior.  On the occasion where they do attend an ant swarm, they are usually displaced by professional ant-following antbirds.  Chestnut-backed Antbirds are common in the lowlands of Panama around the Canopy Tower and Canopy Camp. 

Interesting fact: The Chestnut-backed Antbird may have been given the name “exsul,” meaning “stranger” in Latin, due to its sporadic appearance at ant swarms by early naturalists who believed that all antbirds follow ant swarms (which is not true!).

Focus on Plants

Dimerocostus strobilaceus

Dimerocostus strobilaceus

One of the numerous species of spiral gingers in the family Costaceae, Cañagria is a large flowering plant of Central and South America found from Nicaragua to Bolivia.  It grows very tall, typically 3-6 meters in height.  White or yellow flowers are present year-round on the end (usually) of a leafy stem with a spiral staircase leaf arrangement, characteristic of the spiral gingers, and distinguishing this family from the ginger family, Zingiberaceae.  Bees and flies visit the large flowers resulting in pollination, and butterflies, such as this Perching Saliana, (below), as well as tiger beetles are common visitors as well.  It is found in wet forests and along streambeds in the lowlands to 500 meters elevation, sometimes up to 1800 meters.  In Panama, Cañagria is used by the Guna Indians to treat hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.  Cañagria is common along Pipeline Road and in lowland forests surrounding the Canopy Tower and Canopy Camp.

Perching Saliana and Dimerocostus strobilaceus

Photo of the Month

Blue Dacnis Willy Blanchard

The tropics are all about color!  Above, this flashy pair of Blue Dacnis was photographed by Willy Blanchard on his recent trip to the Canopy Tower.  Below, Yvonne Hormeyer captures a lovely male Blue-frosted Banner during her recent visit to the Canopy Camp.  The contrast between the orange spots on black is just spectacular!  Click on the photos to view larger images. 

We love featuring our guest photos in our newsletter.
Send us your photos!

Blue-frosted Banner Yvonne Hormeyer

Recent Sightings and Trip Reports

In the past month we have had great sightings of Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Brown-billed Scythebill, Tody Motmot, Snowcap and many migrants including Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Blackburnian Warbler and thousands of Mississippi Kites!  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!

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!

View past issues of our newsletter!

Follow the Canopy Family

Canopy Family Facebookimage

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

Here's a clue to next month's featured bird...


Stumped?  Visit our Canopy Family Flickr Photostream and browse our photos for this upcoming featured bird!


Dear friends, 

We are enjoying the peak of the migration season in Panama!  Everywhere you look there are migrating birds mingling with our resident species, competing for insects and fruit.  The resident birds must adapt to the influx of competitors this time of year, often even changing parts of their diets.  

We have also kicked off our 2015 hawk migration count at the Canopy Tower!  We have been monitoring the raptor migration at the Semaphore HIll Hawkwatch since 2004.  Panama is an incredible place to experience raptor migration, and almost the entire populations of some North American raptors pass through the Isthmus every year.  Hawks, kites and vultures are passing through in great numbers, and so far our hawk count team—Domi, Jenn, Michael, Danilo and Cesar—have counted over 50,000 raptors over the Canopy Tower!  I invite you to follow our hawk count online, we update the database daily.  We offer an annual tour focusing on raptor migration, Panama's Hawk Migration Spectacular!, an ideal tour for any avian enthusiast.

Carlos & Evelyn Bethancourt will be at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival November 4-8th in Harlingen, Texas.  Join Carlos on a guided walk during the festival and be sure to drop by our booth and say hello!

Raul Arias de Para Canopy Family

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


Raúl Arias de Para - President/Founder

Upcoming Deals



Join us this December for our Panama's Brilliant Butterflies tour and save 25%, a savings of $636 per person!  Spaces are limited so contact us soon to book your spot on our upcoming butterfly tour.  These flying jewels are very active these months and await you in Panama! 

We are approaching 700 species on our Canopy Family Butterfly Checklist, and it continues to grow weekly!  To find out which amazing species we are seeing on our butterfly tours, check out our recent trip reports and lists.  

Canopy Family News

Canopy Family participates in 1st Forum on Ecotourism in Darien National Park

Darién National Park, Panama and Central America’s largest national park comprising an area of 579,000 hectares and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, is a biologically diverse area in Eastern Panama.  The park is home to 4 species of macaws, Jaguar, Baird’s Tapir and is a stronghold for the majestic Harpy Eagle.  The park is also home to two of Panama’s indigenous groups living on reservations in their traditional ways.  Much of its vast area is accessible only by air and river travel.  Many conscientious travelers desire greatly to visit Darién for its natural and cultural treasures. 

On September 17, Canopy Camp manager Nando Quiroz and Canopy Family resident biologist Jenn Sinasac attended the First Forum on Ecotourism in Darién National Park in Metetí, Darién.  The themes of the forum focused on the benefits of making the park more accessible to ecotourism activities and concessions within the park for ecotourism-based operators.  Nando joined the private-sector panel and spoke about the Canopy Camp, our activities and initiatives in Darién.  There is much interest among the Ministry of the Environment and Panama’s ecotourism operators to explore and provide experiences in Darién National Park!

Canopy Family Ecotourism ForumNando Quiroz Canopy Family Ecotourism Forum Darien

In the Press

We enjoy being a part of the local and international media.  Check out these recent publications featuring the Canopy Family Lodges!

Global Big Day COPA Panorama

Remember the Global Big Day?  It happened on May 9, 2015, when over 13,000 people from over 115 countries birded and collectively saw over 6000 species of birds worldwide!  They submitted their sightings to eBird and supported global bird conservation.  Canopy Tower was the global headquarters for this unprecedented event.  Here is an article published in the August edition of Panorama, the COPA airlines magazine, about the event.  Cornell Lab of Ornithology's seasonal publication "Living Bird" published a short article on the event as well; you can read this article here.  

Outdoor News Minnesota

In March 2015, Canopy Tower was featured in a short article called "Tales from the Tropics," written by Val Cunningham for Outdoor News [Minnesota]: Backyard and Beyond.

Recent Guests at Our Lodges

Chuck Seniawski Danilo Rodriguez Canopy Lodge PanamaRufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo Chuck Seniawski

Chuck Seniawski from Cheyenne, WY stayed at the Canopy Lodge in September and had a wonderful experience with guide Danilo Rodriguez, seeing over 240 species of birds including the elusive Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo!  

Sabrewing Nature Tours Canopy Tower

Sabrewing Nature Tours' first tour to Panama was an absolute blast!  Sabrewing owner Rob Ripma along with 5 enthusiastic guests and Canopy Family guide Eliecer Rodriguez had a fantastic 11 days at the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge, seeing 399 species of birds!  

Creature Feature

Central American Agouti

Central American Agouti
Dasyprocta punctata

Locally known as “ñeque,” the Central American Agouti is a large, forest-dwelling rodent, 45-60 cm in length with a big snout, rounded back, long, skinny legs, a very short tail and short, rounded pink ears.  It has orange-brown fur, but its fur color is very variable throughout its range.  Long rump hairs are raised into a fan-shaped crest when the agouti is startled or in territorial aggression.  The Central American Agouti is diurnal, active from early dawn until late dusk, and spends much of the day foraging for seeds and fruits.  When food is abundant, agoutis cache nuts and seeds, and for this reason are very important seed dispersers in tropical rainforests.  Central American Agoutis are monogamous, live in pairs and maintain territories together; however, the pair usually does not stay close together and agoutis are usually seen on their own.  Agoutis give birth to 1 or 2 well-developed young, and within hours of birth, the young are led to a tight nest where they remain concealed, only emerging when the mother calls them to the entrance to nurse.  Young are independent at 4-5 months old. They are usually quiet, but the grinding of their teeth is often heard as they bite nuts and seeds.  When startled, they give a few low grunts and then a high-pitched bark, and run off, and are very fast and agile.  Central American Agoutis range from Mexico to northwest South America.  They are heavily hunted throughout their range and are therefore usually quiet and shy; however, they are rather common around the Canopy Family lodges and in other protected areas.

© Canopy Family