A prominently placed, and obviously well used, copy of “The Birds of Panama Field Guide” is a pretty good clue that there is a birdwatcher nearby. I spoke to a pair of these folks recently and was given some insight into the hobby in Puerto Armuelles.
I have known that there are people in Puerto, and down the Burica Peninsula, that are interested in watching and recording the various birds they see as a hobby. However, I didn’t know how interesting and in-depth it could really be until I spoke to a couple of friends about it, and saw the sparkle in their eyes when they told me about “this or that” new species they had seen recently, sometimes grabbing their book to show me a photo of the once elusive bird.
Panama is said to have over 900 species of birds. Bird-watching is actually a popular tourist attraction all over the country. One couple (from Canada) explained to me that they had spent 2 years in the Coronado beach area (near Panama City), hoping to see as many different avian species as possible. After going on several bird-watching tours with guides, to the Canopy Tower and mountains around the area, they became hooked. They learned to look, listen, and identify species, with the help of their Guide and bird book. During the 2 years on the eastern end of Panama, they recorded about 250 different species that they spotted. Then, they moved to Puerto Armuelles!
Within the first few weeks in Puerto, this couple told me that they identified about 30 new species just in their backyard! They see about 20 species of birds every morning while enjoying their morning coffee on their deck. They also pointed out that walking around Puerto on the various trails and in neighborhoods is much cleaner, more natural and pristine, than it was in Coronado. They are excited because the bird-watching here in Baru (western Panama) is much better!
I was told that the best time for bird-watching is in the mornings, just after sunrise, about 6:45 am. Walk very slowly around your neighborhood, watching and listening. Stand still in nature when possible, for up to an hour, just observing. You can often spot several new species while standing still! Some bird-watchers will note in their bird book, next to the photo of a specific bird, the date, time, and location where they spotted it. This can come in handy if one is interested in participating in International Birding activities. Ebird.com is an online resource, administered by Cornell University, where birders can input and share information. There is also a “Big Day” event held twice a year ( May and October), when birders are challenged to see how many different species they can spot in a single day. Panama is frequently at the top of this list with winners! There is also an eBird Moblie App to use when you are out in the field.
The Audubon Society also sponsors annual bird counts that you can participate in. Read a bit more about that HERE.
Some of the most astonishing birds that my friends say they have seen around Puerto Armuelles are the various Toucans, Southern Lapwings (beach birds), and the Aracari (these birds love to eat my papayas!).
Common birds you may see in Puerto Armuelles include Tropical Kingbird, Blue-Gray Tanager, Great Kiskadee Flycatcher, Red Crown Woodpecker, Hawks Caracara, and Cherries Tanager.
Here is a bird-watching tour site in Panama that has photos of some of the common birds you’ll see: Panama Bird Photos
The good news, according to these avid bird-watchers, is that first timers need do nothing but walk outside. You don’t have to travel to some secluded jungle area. No equipment or special knowledge is needed to begin observing the beauty of our feathered friends all around us in Puerto Armuelles!
Enjoy the sound of birds in the afternoon in Panama, on this audio recording by Peter Marting.