It’s no longer an idle boast when Panamanians say their country is the best spot for bird watching in Central America.
On May 5, birders from around the world participated in a vast species-counting competition, Global Big Day. The annual event challenges teams of bird enthusiasts to spot as many different kinds of birds as they can find in 24 hours.
More than 29,000 people in 170 countries participated this year and Panama earned the top honors in Central America. A total of 750 species were identified in Panama, compared to a paltry 685 in Costa Rica. It was also the best performance ever in the annual event for Panama, which had posted a previous best of 609 species in 2015, according to the Panama Tourism Authority.
All kidding aside, the competition provides a vivid reminder that Panama is a lush paradise, a diverse ecological wonderland that is one of the wonders of the world. (For proof, visit the biomuseum on Amador Causeway.)
“This achievement promotes us as a competitive destination for bird watching and with the Panama campaign internationally,” Authority marketing director Enrique Sánchez said in the release.
Overall, Panama ranked sixth in the world on Global Big Day, ahead of Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Colombia was ranked first, ahead of Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and Venezuela.
Tourism guides, scientists, academics, members of indigenous communities, volunteers, NGOs and representatives of tourism companies participated in this year’s Big Day, said Rosabel Miró, executive director of the Audubon Society of Panama.
Panama distinguished itself “by reporting two species of birds that were not reported by any other country in the world: the pelagic bird Petrel Parkinson and the Dacnis Emeraldino, both observed in the province of Darién by the Vice President of Audubon Panama, Jan Axel Cubilla,” according to the Tourism Authority. The rare Yellow-billed Pipit was also spotted by a community group from the Comarca Ngöbe Buglé, in the area of Cerro Algodón.
The information collected can be used as a tool for conservation planning and promotion, to diversify the country’s tourist offering with more bird tourism routes, Miró said.
Panama has a long and storied history in bird-watching circles, veteran guide Venicio Wilson said in the release.
“We were among the first countries that published books and guides of birds and we are pioneers in the region in training bird guides in the Caribbean because it is a country with a lot of experience in this activity,” he said.