Panama  doesn’t just attract bird-watchers: It creates them.
Panama is smaller than South Carolina, but has more bird species than the United States and Canada put together. That means beautiful birds are everywhere all the time, and impossible to ignore.
There’s always something singing, crying, croaking, flitting, flapping, or soaring overhead. More than likely it’s something you’ve never seen before, flashing colors you thought only existed in a box of Crayolas.
Birders have counted 972 species in Panama so far. Migrants visit from North and South America, and more than 100 species are endemic. Twelve are found nowhere else on earth. Hundreds of species are easy to find without much effort.
Important areas for endemics are the Caribbean and Pacific lowlands and islands (like Bocas del Toro ), the Darién , and, especially the western highlands , the last of which also happen to be among the most accessible, lovely, and comfortable areas for visitors.
Panama offers good birding year-round, though the isthmus is hopping September–April, as that’s when North American migrants (avian and human) arrive to escape the cold. A special event during this time is the spectacular raptor migration of millions of broad-winged hawks, Swainson’s hawks, and turkey vultures, which takes place October–mid-November and March–early April.
They pass overhead in flocks that can number in the many thousands. The former Canal Zone  is the best place to witness this extraordinary phenomenon. June and July are the toughest times to spot birds.
Long-established lodges and inns are dotted around the top birding areas, with knowledgeable owners who can supply expert naturalist guides and detailed birding information. Some of these are world famous, ranging from the upscale Canopy Tower  (in the former Canal Zone, close to Panama City ) to the rustic lodge at Cana  (on the remote Cerro Pirre, in the Darién ), which has been called one of the world’s top-10 birding destinations.
Many lodges are simply great places to stay, even for those with no interest in anything with wings. They are listed throughout this travel guide, as are recommended naturalist guides and birding areas.
For detailed birding itineraries and tips, the up-to-date A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama, by George R. Angehr, Dodge Engleman, and Lorna Engleman, is an indispensable resource. The classic A Guide to the Birds of Panama, by Robert S. Ridgely and John A. Gwynne, is an encyclopedic, beautifully illustrated list of species found in Panama.