Birding in Boquete: There’s more to Boquete Birding than the Quetzal

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Birding in Boquete: There’s more to Boquete Birding than the Quetzal

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The Resplendent Quetzal is the superstar of the bird world in Boquete: but what about the many other species spotted at bird feeders, in town or on the trails? Far from runners-up of the Boquete Bird Beauty Pageants, these birds can be spotted all over and have qualities that make them just as special as the princely, fancy-plumed Quetzal.

Passerini's or Cherrie's Tanager

>Passerini snacking in Boquete, Panama

This velvety fella is my bird boyfriend and his wife is pretty cute, too. Passerini's and Cherrie's tanagers used to be grouped together as one species and called the Scarlet-Rumped Tanager, but both the Passerini and Cherrie bird clans found the name rather offensive, so the species was split and renamed based upon where they live (Passerini dwells on the Caribbean side, Cherrie's live in the Pacific lowlands and highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama).

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager eating fruits at Boquete Garden Inn

This beautiful bird is a Summer Tanager. But wait! He, along with some other birds of his genus, are no longer part of the Tanager family: they’ve been re-classified, and are now part of the Cardinal family. But, this bird still goes by Tanager, as he is not partial to hyphenated last names, I guess. Confusing, right?

The Clay-Coloured Thrush

 Clay-Coloured Thrush in Boquete, Panama

So why is this seemingly non-descript guy on the list? He is the national bird of Costa Rica, which baffles most people: why choose such a plain bird to be your country’s avian representative, especially when you have so many glitzy specimens to choose from? The Yigüirro, as he’s called in Costa Rica, tends to live close by, in gardens and near people, so he’s a familiar, friendly little face featured in many Costa Rican folktales and songs. The males also have a pretty tune they sing when trying to woo ladybirds during mating season. Traditionally, Costa Rican farmers listened for this song of longing – considering it to be the first sign of rainy season.

The Blue-Gray Tanager

The Blue-Gray Tanager eating coffee in Boquete, Panama

Maybe I'm projecting here, but the Blue-Gray tanager seems like a sweet-natured, gentle bird. I rarely see them skirmishing with the other birds at the feeder. On Trinidad and Tobago, this bird is called Blue Jean.

The Great Kiskadee

The Great Kisadee is the punk of the bird world. He's boisterous and pushy and loud. Not only do Great Kiskadees raid the nests of other birds – they often take the whole nest, creating a super-nest for their own precious eggs. They are flycatchers but have been know to slum it at bird feeders (if you put bananas out unpeeled, they might deign to visit you). Bird guidebooks identify their call as "an exuberant BEE-tee-WEE" but the ornithologists are clearly mistaken, as the Kiskadee is obviously saying "KIS-ka-DEEEE". (duh).

How do I find these and many other Boquete birds?

Hire a local guide to take you on the trails. You have the best chance of spotting birds with a guide because they know where the nests are, where the bird food is and how to do bird calls that will trick the birds into visiting with you.

If you live in Boquete, put out bananas (peeled and unpeeled), papaya and pineapple and you will have avian visitors. Make sure you are a consistent host or hostess – the birds will come to rely on the spread you lay out.

Visit local gardens like El Explorador, stay at Boquete Garden Inn and enjoy breakfast with the birds or, if you are doing the canopy tour with Tree Trek or visiting Finca Lerida keep your eyes peeled: The rare Three-Wattled Bellbird has been spotted in both locations.

The Boquete Birders Group meets monthly for the Boquete Backyard Birdwalk, a two to three-hour walk through the backstreets of Boquete. The meet up point is Plaza Los Establos (at the gazebo). To find out when the next walk takes place, email Sandra Cripe: smcripe (AT) gmail (DOT) com.

Keep your eyes open and resist bird snobbery: you will often see a Turkey Vulture having a roadside snack, parrots flying from tree to tree in clusters or even the pesky Great Tailed Grackle hassling tourists in the central park. Enjoy all birds, not just the fancy ones.

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Search our blog if you're visiting Panama! From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while in our country! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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