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Canopy Family

September 2014

Featured Bird

Great Tinamou

Great Tinamou
Tinamus major

The Great Tinamou is a large ground bird of the lowland and foothill forests from Mexico through the Amazon Basin.  They have a round body, thin neck and small head, a short decurved bill and short tail, and are often referred to as “cannonballs with wings”.  They are 40-45 cm (16-18 in.) in length, and weigh up to 1 kg.  Their plumage is olive-brown and finely barred, with a grayish head and pale throat.  During the day, Great Tinamous walk or sit quietly on the forest floor; at night they roost on a branch or liana above the ground, and are generally solitary.  They can be rather difficult to encounter due to their cryptic coloration and secretive behavior, and are most often detected by their voice—a loud, mournful quivering song that travels through the understory of the forest, usually at dawn and dusk.  Like most tinamous, Great Tinamous are polygynandrous, meaning the male is exclusively responsible for the parental care.  After mating, the female lays 4 blue eggs among buttress roots, which are incubated by the male; the male then cares for the young for up to 3 weeks after hatching.  In Panama, Great Tinamou can be found across the country in lowland and foothills humid forests, and are frequently heard and regularly seen around the Canopy Tower and Canopy Camp. 

Did you know??  Tinamous are one of the most ancient living birds today, and fossils date back to the Miocene epoch.  Even though they can fly (but not well, at that), they may be considered ratites (or perhaps more appropriately "paleognaths"), which include many flightless birds such as ostriches, rheas and kiwis.

Focus on Plants

Yellow Panama Heliconia hirsuta

"Yellow Panama"
Heliconia hirsuta

“Yellow Panama” is a distinguishable, beautiful plant found commonly in Panama.  Heliconia hirsuta is the most variable species of the genus Heliconia, with many variations and colors throughout its native tropical American range.  This fast-growing plant grows up to 2 meters (6.5 ft.), and is heavily foliated with large alternate leaves 15-35 cm (6-14 in.) long.  Attractive flowers terminate each vertical stem.  Each inflorescence consists of 5-10 yellow bracts with greenish tips, and from each bract grows a yellow flower with black tips, giving it its variation name “Yellow Panama”.  Blue fruits grow from the bracts.  Depending on the variation, bracts and flowers may be red, orange or yellow (attracting hummingbirds as pollinators), but black-tipped flowers and blue fruits are distinctive in this species.  This common Heliconia can be found in the forest and gardens surrounding our lodges.

Photo of the Month


At the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center, it is possible to see up to a dozen species of hummingbirds at their feeders.  In this photo alone, taken by Canopy Tower guest Kevin Hannam, you can see Long-billed Hermit (left), and a female Violet-bellied Hummingbird and molting male Crowned Woodnymph on the feeders!  Click on the photo for a larger image. 

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, Tayra, and rarities including Orange-breasted Falcon!  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, 

This month we are changing seasons, but not between the wet and the dry season; we are welcoming the migration season!  A number of migrants are arriving in Panama now—Swallow-tailed and Plumbeous kites are passing through in good numbers, and wood-pewees, swallows and warblers have already been spotted around the lodges.  We know there are many more to come, it is an exciting time of year for us birders in Panama and our guests boost their species lists with the presence of the Neotropical migrants.


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


Raúl Arias de Para - President/Founder

Canopy Family News

New Canopy Family Mobile Website Launched

Canopy Family Mobile Site

Welcome to Canopy Family's new mobile website!  For all those who surf the internet from your smartphone devices, you will now experience a more readable, user-friendly Canopy Family website.  Our new mobile website provides a better text size on smaller devices, and all the general information our users want on this clean, simple site.  We have also incorporated some useful mobile features: all of our species lists available right in your hand (perfect for during your stay at our lodges), our frequently asked questions, and a call button to connect to us right from your mobile phone, from anywhere in the world.  When you visit our website from a smartphone, you will be redirected to the new mobile site, and you always have the option to access our full website.  Check out our new mobile website on your smartphone now, and let us know what you think!  

Scouting for Sapayoa

The Sapayoa (Sapayoa aenigma) is an elusive bird of the forest streams of the foothills of eastern Panama, and an evolutionarily interesting species.  Once classified with manakins, with the behavior of flycatchers, it now is placed in its own family, Sapayoidae, and is believed to be most closely related to the Old World broadbills.  A most sought-after species indeed, on September 2, our team of guides (Carlos Bethancourt, Moyo Rodriguez, Domiciano Alveo and Jenn Sinasac) set out on a search for Sapayoa in the foothills of Nusagandi on the eastern Caribbean Slope of Panama.  The morning started out with a great mixed flock of Rufous-winged, Emerald, Tawny-crested and Blue-gray tanagers, Green and Shining honeycreepers, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Bananaquit and others.  After a great (but short-lived) thunderstorm they were off to search for the target bird for the day - the elusive Sapayoa.  Twenty minutes of hiking through pristine forest and two stream crossings later, they heard the quiet trill they were searching for.  A pair of Sapayoa were tending to their messy grassy nest overhanging the stream!  We quietly watched from a distance as they brought insects to their little ones.  It was very rewarding not only to find the birds but also to watch and learn a little bit about their behavior.  We hope to learn more about this special bird and to share it with our guests in Panama.  

Sapayoa by Carlos BethancourtCanopy Family Team Sapayoa

Sapayoa by Carlos Bethancourt; Canopy Family's guides Moyo Rodriguez, Domiciano Alveo, Jenn Sinasac and Carlos Bethancourt in Nusagandi, ready to go search for the Sapayoa.

Neotropical Birding Resources: Xeno-Canto

Black-mandibled Toucan

For those interested in familiarizing yourselves with bird songs before arriving for your birding adventure in Panama, Xeno-Canto is a wonderful resource.  You can search species, listen to songs and calls uploaded by birders and download tracks for further learning and in-field use.  Remember, use playbacks responsibly!

Recent Guests at Our Lodges

Sunrise Birding Group at the Canopy Tower

Sunrise Birding, LLC Birding & Wildlife Tours group, led by Diego Calderon, visited the Canopy Tower in September.  They had a wonderful time at the tower and enjoyed many great sightings including a rare Orange-breasted Falcon in Cerro Azul on September 7!  

Creature Feature

Black Ctenosaur

Black Ctenosaur
Ctenosaura similis

Also known as Black Spiny-tailed Lizard or Black Iguana, the Black Ctenosaur (pronounced “tina-sore”) is a large diurnal lizard of Central America.  This lizard is distinguished from Green Iguanas by its gray or tan color with 4-12 dark dorsal bands.  They have a crest of long comb-like spikes extending from the back of their head down their spine, and distinct keeled scales on their tail.  In fact, the name “ctenosaur” is Greek for “comb lizard”.  Juveniles are bright green and darken with age.  Adult males grow to be 1.5 meters (5 ft.) in length and can weigh up to 2 kg.  Black Ctenosaurs live in rocky areas with trees to climb, crevices to hide in and open areas to bask.  They are great climbers and retreat to shady trees in between basking periods, and dig burrows for shade and to avoid predation.  They are primarily herbivorous, eating flowers, leaves, stems and fruits, but occasionally eggs and small animals.  Males are territorial and defend their perches, burrows and rocks by head bobbing and inflating their throat pouch to ward off intruding males; they also do this very same behavior to attract females!  Black Ctenosaurs can be found in humid lowlands from Mexico south to central Panama, and occasionally are seen basking on sunny afternoons and feeding on fallen fruits near the Canopy Tower.

Speed Demons:  The Black Ctenosaur holds the record as the world’s fastest lizard, and has been recorded at 34.9 km/h (21.7 mph), equivalent to that of a world-class sprinter!


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

Here's a clue to next month's featured bird... who am I??  


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

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