Join us for a birding adventure of a lifetime to witness one of the world’s greatest hawk migration events when literally hundreds of thousands of raptors funnel through the narrow isthmus of Panama toward their wintering grounds in South America! This amazing hawk migration spectacle will be the centerpiece of a 7-night tour emphasizing the best of central Panamanian birding—and the Observation Deck of the Canopy Tower is the perfect vantage point to witness this raptor bonanza! We will enjoy 7 nights lodging at the world-famous Canopy Tower, located atop Semaphore Hill in the rainforests of Soberania National Park. From our base of operations at the Canopy Tower, we take excursions to Panama’s premier birding site, the Pipeline Road, as well as to Metropolitan Nature Park and Ancon Hill, where over 2.5 million migrating raptors pass every fall, Summit Ponds & Old Gamboa Road, Panama Rainforest Discovery Center and its remarkable observation tower, the marshy Ammo Ponds, Chagres River & Gamboa and the stunningly beautiful highlands of Cerro Azul & Cerro Jefe. This birding adventure is designed not only for you to personally experience the mind-boggling number of migrating hawks, but also to see an incredible country rich in biodiversity—not only birds, but also mammals, butterflies, beautiful plants, insects, reptiles & amphibians, and friendly people! You will experience it all!
October 18-25, 2019
October 28 – November 4, 2019
Rate for this special tour: $1,999.00
(Contact us for 2021 rates)
Rate is US$ per person (+ taxes), double occupancy. This all-inclusive birding adventure includes lodging and meals at the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge, bilingual professional guides, wine with dinner, airport transfers to and from Panama City and all tours as stated in the itinerary. Please check with our reservations office for the times of our scheduled airport transfers to coordinate your arrival and departure times.
This tour does not include flights to and from Panama City, taxes, private airport transfers, tips and alcoholic beverages.
To book this special birding adventure, please contact us. Spaces are limited so book your spot now!
PM: Arrival & Canopy Tower Observation Deck
Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met by our driver who will transfer you to the Canopy Tower, located at the top of Semaphore Hill in the rainforests of Soberanía National Park. We will enjoy seven nights at this highly-acclaimed eco-lodge. A member of our staff will greet you as you arrive at the Tower, and you will be provided with an orientation on the use of the facilities. At this time we will answer any questions you may have. As your luggage is being ferried to your room, you may visit the dining/bar area and enjoy a refreshing drink. We highly recommend that you begin your birding adventure on the Observation Deck. The view from the platform is incredible! Here, you get a unique eye-level perspective of the rainforest canopy. Many birds, including toucans, parrots, tanagers, and hawks, plus sloths, monkeys, large basking Green Iguanas and other animals are commonly seen. This will be your first opportunity to see huge kettles of hawks and other raptors swirling overhead! From this vantage point you can also see ships transiting the Panama Canal, the majestic Centennial Bridge and miles of rainforest! You may also want to visit the hummingbird feeders at the base of the Tower for Long-billed Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Violet-bellied & Blue-chested Hummingbirds and White-vented Plumeleteer. Occasionally, a Snowy-bellied Hummingbird is spotted! Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.
AM: Raptor Watch: Canopy Tower Observation Deck/Semaphore Hill/Ancon Hill
Your guide will be waiting for you up on the Observation Deck to watch for the hawk migration, but also to help you sort out the birds that woke you up this morning! While looking for birds, you can enjoy hot coffee, tea and orange juice. Some of the bird species we hope to see from the observation deck are Green & Red-legged Honeycreepers, Green Shrike-Vireo, Blue Cotinga, Scaled Pigeon, Mealy & Red-lored Parrots, Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Araçari, and many different flycatchers and tanagers. Resident raptors to look out for include Short-tailed & Zone-tailed Hawks, Plumbeous & Gray-headed Kites, and even King Vulture and Black Hawk-Eagle! At this time of year, hawk migration is at its peak as thousands of Turkey Vultures and Broad-winged & Swainson’s Hawks, along with the odd Osprey, Peregrine Falcon and Mississippi Kite, fly long distances from their northern breeding grounds through the Isthmus to South America. It is impressive to say the least and the Observation Deck at the Canopy Tower is the best place to view this spectacle! The Canopy Tower “Semaphore Hill Hawkwatch” is an official count site for the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), and annually we count over 300,000 migrating raptors over the Canopy Tower itself. Over 3 million migrating raptors in total pass over the Isthmus of Panama. We will take every opportunity we can during this tour to view this annual event. Canopy Tower’s official hawk counter will be on the deck every day from 8 am to 5 pm, counting the raptors passing over and in the vicinity. Along with your guide, they will explain how raptor migration takes place, and how to count literally tens of thousands of raptors passing by, along with the ecological importance of surveying migrating hawks.
Depending on the direction of the winds, the hawk migration can be fantastic over the Canopy Tower, or if the winds are not in our favor, then we can venture to Ancon Hill in Panama City, the highest hill in the metropolitan area, where Panama Audubon counts the migrating hawks and vultures from their observatory. On a good day, the numbers here are outstanding! Over a million birds have been known to pass over in one day during the peak of the season. Our schedule will remain rather flexible based the hawk migration conditions to make the most of this birding adventure!
PM: Raptor Migration Workshop & Ammo Ponds (15 min. from Canopy Tower)
This afternoon we will spend some time learning about raptor migration and hawk identification. This group of fascinating birds can present some identification challenges, and our Raptor Migration ID workshop will cover raptor migration basics, raptor ID, how raptors migrate, where they go, raptor migration hotspots & flyways, hawk migration in Panama and the importance of counting migrating raptors. This will give you a great introduction to what we will be experiencing during the week at the Canopy Tower.
The Ammo Dump Ponds are located just past Gamboa on the way to Pipeline Road. It is the best place to see the elusive White-throated Crake, as well as a host of other waterbirds. Least Grebes and Purple Gallinules are common, and Rufescent Tiger-Heron and Ringed Kingfisher are also resident. Here, we often find Greater Ani, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Whooping Motmot (recently split from Blue-crowned), Yellow-tailed Oriole, Southern Lapwing, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Tropical Kingbird, Scrub Greenlet, Lesser Kiskadee, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Panama, Social & Rusty-margined Flycatchers and even American Pygmy Kingfisher! This birding adventure will be excellent, as we add to our impressive list of birds. Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.
World Famous Pipeline Road FULL DAY (20 min. from Canopy Tower)
After breakfast we board the Birdmobile or El Tinamu, both open-air vehicles, to take us to the Pipeline Road, the best place in central Panama to find forest birds, and one of the premier birding spots in the world! Eight species of wren, five trogons, four puffbirds, three motmots, several tanagers, Great Jacamar, Common Potoo, Pheasant Cuckoo, Greater Ani, Gray-cowled Wood-Rail, Gray-headed Chachalaca, Forest Elaenia, Blue Ground Dove, Great & Little Tinamous and many other birds have been recorded here, even including the elusive Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo and the majestic Harpy Eagle! And if its 17 km are not enough, there’s plenty of side trails, plus 11 creeks and rivers that can be followed into the forest. We will also search for Streak-chested Antpitta and Black-faced Antthrush. Army ant swarms are found frequently, attended by a host of birds including Bicolored, Ocellated & Spotted Antbirds. Plus, we will look for Golden-collared, Red-capped & Blue-crowned Manakins, always crowd favorites! Pipeline Road is also a great place for raptors. Three forest-falcons (Barred, Collared & Slaty-backed) are resident as well as Tiny Hawk, Semiplumbeous Hawk, and Ornate & Black Hawk-Eagles, and we will keep our eyes on the skies overhead for migrants passing over the Caribbean slope. Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Black-crowned & Masked Tityras, Cinnamon & Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Red-lored & Brown-hooded Parrots, Collard Araçari, Yellow-throated & Keel-billed Toucans, and Black-striped, Northern Barred & Plain-brown Woodcreepers may also be found, to name a few! We will enjoy a picnic lunch in the forest. The afternoon holds more birding in store for us as we move deeper into the forest before returning back to the CANOPY TOWER for dinner.
AM: Raptor Watch: Metropolitan Park & Ancon Hill (25 min. from Canopy Tower)
“Metro Park,” encompassing 265 hectares, has the distinction of being the only large forested park within a metropolitan capital in Latin America. More importantly, it protects 192 hectares of dry lowland Pacific forest, yielding bird species that are difficult to find elsewhere. We will start our morning here with some high-quality birding! The beautiful Rosy Thrush-Tanager is here, as is the striking Lance-tailed Manakin. It’s also a good place to find Southern Bentbill, Rufous-and-white, Isthmian & Rufous-breasted Wrens, Dusky Antbird, Crimson-crested, Lineated & Red-crowned Woodpeckers. Plain-colored, Palm, Blue-gray & Golden-hooded Tanagers are common; Red-legged & Green Honeycreepers, Whooping Motmot, Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Araçari, Forest & Greenish Elaenias and the endemic Yellow-green Tyrannulet are resident. A mirador (overlook) along Mono Titi trail is a good spot to witness the mass migration of thousands of Turkey Vultures and Swainson’s & Broad-winged Hawks as they fly over Panama City toward their wintering grounds in South America. Once the thermals start forming by mid morning, we will head over to Ancon Hill, where several overlooks from this promontory yield excellent views of the city as well as the hawk migration! Lunch at CANOPY TOWER.
PM: Summit Ponds & Old Gamboa Road (10 minutes from Canopy Tower)
Old Gamboa Road and the associated ponds at Summit are great places to find a wide variety of Canal Area birds. At Summit Ponds, we will scan for Green, Striated, Capped & Boat-billed Herons as well as Green, Ringed, Amazon, Green-and-rufous (rare) & American Pygmy Kingfishers, which are all resident here! We also seek out Rusty-margined & Streaked Flycatchers, Lesser & Great Kiskadees, Greater Ani, Mangrove Swallow, Bat Falcon, Cocoa Woodcreeper and Lineated Woodpecker. Going straight past the two ponds we’ll be on Old Gamboa Road, one of the birdiest spots around. This road passes through a variety of habitats and has plenty of specialties, including Blue Ground Dove, Great Antshrike, Jet Antbird, Black-tailed, Bran-colored & Royal Flycatchers, Lance-tailed & Golden-collared Manakins and the delightful Rosy Thrush-Tanager! We also hope to find species like White-bellied Antbird, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Yellow-backed Oriole, Boat-billed & Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Yellow-headed Caracara, Crane Hawk, Black-chested Jay and more. Spectacled Owl is a real possibility too, as the guides know where they often roost. Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.
AM: Panama Rainforest Discovery Center (30 minutes from Canopy Tower)
Today we will begin our birding adventure with an early breakfast then head back to Pipeline Road to spend the morning at the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center. This facility owned by the Avifauna Foundation is a fantastic place to see a wide variety of forest birds and raptors during the migration season. We will explore its well-maintained trails and climb the well-constructed spiral metal tower, which takes you above the rainforest canopy. From the top of the tower, there are plenty of opportunities to see some different canopy species including Pied & White-necked Puffbirds, Blue Cotinga, Yellow-throated Toucan, and multiple species of trogons, pigeons and parrots. Resident raptors are commonly seen up here, including Gray-headed & Double-toothed Kites and Semiplumbeous & White Hawks. If the winds are favorable for migration, expect to see some raptors overhead on their way down south. At the covered visitor’s center, we watch hummers feeding at point-blank range and other birds in the surrounding shrubbery and trees; there is also a small gift shop with snacks. Lunch at CANOPY TOWER.
PM: Gamboa Resort & Chagres River (20 minutes from Canopy Tower)
After lunch, we take a short drive to Chagres River and the accompanying fields & forest. First, we must stop at the Canopy Bed & Breakfast in the picturesque village of Gamboa, to look at the bird feeders! With a beautiful backdrop of Cerro Pelado, the backyard at the Canopy B&B is teeming with bird life. At the fruit feeders, we are likely to see Red-legged, Shining & Green Honeycreepers, Flame-rumped, Crimson-backed & Blue-gray Tanagers, Thick-billed Euphonia, Yellow-bellied & Variable Seedeaters, Whooping Motmot and Gray-headed Chachalaca. Next, we’re off to the Chagres River, the main tributary for the Panama Canal. The birding along the riverbanks and the forest edges of the Gamboa Rainforest Resort can be spectacular! Here, we search for Amazon, Green & American Pygmy Kingfishers, as well as Whooping Motmot and Cinnamon Woodpecker. We could also see Gray-cowled Wood-Rail, Cocoi, Green & Striated Herons, Wattled Jacana, Pied-billed Grebe, Anhinga, Royal & Sandwich Terns, Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Tricolored & Little Blue Herons, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Mangrove Swallow, Black-chested Jay, Lesser Kiskadee, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cacique, Black-bellied & Buff-breasted Wrens, Fasciated & Barred Antshrikes, Cinnamon Becard, Slaty-tailed Trogon, White-bellied Antbird, and even Collared Forest-Falcon and Blue Cotinga at times! After first taking a last look for raptors from the Observation Deck, we enjoy dinner at the CANOPY TOWER.
Cerro Azul FULL DAY (1.5 hours from Canopy Tower)
After an early breakfast, we depart toward the hills above Tocumen where a completely different climate and, more importantly, a different suite of birds await! The weather will be much cooler & breezier as we ascend the foothills of the San Blas Mountains toward Cerro Azul (2,500 ft.) and Cerro Jefe (3,300 ft.), named after the two tall peaks in the area. Major targets in these cloud-forested hills with peaks of elfin forest will include Yellow-eared Toucanet, Black-and-white & Ornate Hawk-Eagles, Spot-crowned Barbet, Black-eared Wood-Quail, and a nice mix of higher-elevation tanagers, including Silver-throated, Emerald, Speckled, Rufous-winged, Bay-headed, Black-and-yellow, Golden-hooded and Hepatic. We can also search for the specialty hummers, including Rufous-crested Coquette, White-tipped Sicklebill, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and Green Thorntail, as well as Violet-capped, Violet-headed & Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds! We should also find the Panamanian endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, along with Lineated Woodpecker, Black-striped & Spotted Woodcreepers, Red-capped & White-ruffed Manakins, Russet Antshrike, and White-vented & Tawny-capped Euphonias. Oftentimes, we find flocks of Swallow-tailed Kites! And of course, we will keep our eyes open for migrating raptors. We have lunch at a picturesque residence overlooking miles of Chagres National Park’s impressive rainforest and featuring some very active hummingbird feeders. Later, while enjoying dinner at the CANOPY TOWER, we all will reminisce on the day’s glorious birds!
AM: Canopy Tower Observation Deck/Ancon Hill
This is our last morning to take advantage of the hawk migration in Panama. Depending on the winds and weather conditions, we can focus our morning on the raptors from the Observation Deck of the Canopy Tower, or make a final trip to Ancon Hill to experience the migration from the Pacific side. As we watch the thousands of Turkey Vultures and Swainson’s Hawks funneling through, we will keep our eyes open for the odd Peregrine Falcon, Merlin or, if lucky, Northern Harrier or Red-tailed Hawk to pass by! Lunch at CANOPY TOWER.
PM: Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal (20 minutes from Canopy Tower)
No trip to Panama is complete without a visit to the Panama Canal! The Miraflores Locks at the Pacific entrance to the Canal is the second largest set of locks on this magnificent 100-year old feat of engineering. Here, you can watch huge ocean liners transit the Panama Canal from two observation decks, offering great photo opportunities, and learn about its history, operations, markets and future in the museum in the visitor’s center. Of course, bring your binoculars—often this is a great place to watch the raptor migration! We will return to the Canopy Tower in time to enjoy sunset from the Observation Deck. Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.
No need to wake up early today. After a leisurely breakfast and some last-minute birding around the Canopy Tower, we will head back to Panama City and catch our return flights home!
Please note that the itinerary is flexible, and may change without prior notice due to weather, alterations in habitat or other conditions.
The Canopy Tower is located in impressive rainforest atop Semaphore Hill within Soberanía National Park, 35 miles north of Panamá City in the Republic of Panamá right in the center of the New World— and just 2½ hours from Miami! It’s one of best locations for birding lodges in Panama.