Wild nature in a busy metropolis: birding in Panama City

In a tropical city nature penetrates deeply among the anthropized habitats, colonizing each available green corner and even large mammals can be spotted in the gardens and park of Panama City.

The birding sites were described diffusely in the web, so I’m not going to say too much about them, telling mainly what we had of interesting and showing a selection of photos.

Generally the cities are good places for the nature photography, because there is no hunting or poaching pressure, but also, on the other side, animals are used to the human widespread presence, so they are usually much tamer and easier to be photographed at the right distance.

Map of the visited birding sites

1- Centro Natural Punta Culebra (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute)

Interesting place with a reptilarium and a small aquarium, but the visit was worth mainly for the presence of some very confident birds, Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloths (Choloepus hoffmanni) and Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana) in the dry woodland of the island.

Apparently it was a good place for the Common Raccoon (Procyon lotor) as well, but they told us not in the dry season.

Portrait of a Green Iguana (Iguana iguana)
Streaked Saltator (Saltator striatipectus)
Portrait of a Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)
Pattern of scales and bosses on the neck of a Green Iguana (Iguana iguana)
Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus), male
Yellow-green Vireo (Vireo flavoviridis)
Garden Emerald (Chlorostilbon assimilis)
Northern Scrub-Flycatcher (Sublegatus arenarum)
Yellow-green Vireo (Vireo flavoviridis)
Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus), female
Crimson-backed Tanager (Ramphocelus dimidiatus)
Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)
Mangrove Warbler (Setophaga petechia aequatorialis)
Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)
Skyline from the Causeway to Isla Culebra, Isla Naos, Isla Perico and Isla Flamenco
Pale-vented Pigeon (Patagioenas cayennensis)
The funny architecture of the Biomuseo

2 – Casco Viejo (“Old Quarter”)

The city center of the capital was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997 and is now a nice area to visit, with some well restored historical monuments and attractive squares.

Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús
Plaza De La Independencia and Catedral Basílica Metropolitana Santa María La Antigüa
Convento de Santo Domingo and Museo de Arte Religioso

The best birding areas we noticed were the the promenade around the point of Plaza de Francia, with some nice flocks of waders resting there because of the high tide, and the harbour by the Fish Market (Mercado de mariscos).

In the first site, by the shore, the species we had were: Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor), Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea), Wilson’s Plover (Charadrius wilsonia), Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus), Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) and Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla)

Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)
Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus) and Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla)
Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea)

By the Mercado de Mariscos, instead, good ones were Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) and Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla).

Harbour of the Mercado de Mariscos
Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla), American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) and Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
Boy drinking a coke

3 – Balboa Inn and surroundings

At this nice hotel found on booking, we spent our second stay in the capital: the surroundings were apparently safe and rich in gardens and nice houses.

Species I noticed were: Central American Agouti (Dasyprocta punctata), Variegated Squirrel (Sciurus variegatoides), Grey-headed Chachalaca (Ortalis cinereiceps), Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl), Orange-chinned Parakeet (Brotogeris jugularis), Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola) and Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus).

Grey-headed Chachalacas (Ortalis cinereiceps)
Variegated Squirrel (Sciurus variegatoides)
Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola)

4 – Cerro Ancón (“Ancon hill”)

This area was the first we visited in Panama, when we slept at the Bodhi Hostel and was described in another post: –> Cerro Ancón.

Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus)

5 – Parque Natural Metropolitano (“Metropolitan Natural Park”)

The park protects a hilly area covered in seasonal tropical forest particularly accessible because of presence of many different trails.

During a morning around we had 4 species of mammals and about 40 species of birds including: Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana), Whooping (Momotus subrufescens) and Broad-billed Motmot (Electron platyrhynchum), Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus), Lance-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia lanceolata), Green Shrike-Vireo (Vireolanius pulchellus) and Blue Dacnis (Dacnis cayana).

Whooping Motmot (Momotus subrufescens)
Northern Tamandua (Tamandua mexicana)
Bay-breasted Warbler (Setophaga castanea)
White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica)
Broad-billed Motmot (Electron platyrhynchum)
Central American Agouti (Dasyprocta punctata)
Yellow-olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias sulphurescens)
Broad-billed Motmot (Electron platyrhynchum)
Brown-capped Tyrannulet (Ornithion brunneicapillus)
Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), male
Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana)
Elephant Ear Tree (Enterolobium cyclocarpum)
Yellow-backed Oriole (Icterus chrysater)
Red-throated Ant-Tanager (Habia fuscicauda), male
Dusky-capped Flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer)
Crimson-crested Woodpecker (Campephilus melanoleucos), male
Black-crowned Antshrike (Thamnophilus atrinucha), female
Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza)
Delicate Ameiva (Holcosus leptophrys)
Black-chested Jay (Cyanocorax affinis)
A trail through the forest
Iphidamas Cattleheart (Parides iphidamas)
A dancer (Argia sp.)
Lance-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia lanceolata), male
Yellow-headed Gecko (Gonatodes albogularis)
Rufous-and-white Wren (Thryophilus rufalbus)
Leaf-cutter ants (Atta sp.)
Rufous-breasted Wren (Pheugopedius rutilus)
Dusky Antbird (Cercomacroides tyrannina), female
Rose Cactus (Leuenbergeria bleo)

Luca Boscain & Michela Ugazzi

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