Category Archives: Research

Five Amazing Birds Found in Panama

Five Amazing Birds Found in Panama

Panama, and more specifically, Coiba National Park, is home to an exciting population of birds, some of which are hard to find anywhere else. Journey with us to view the diversity of Panama’s bird population.

Scarlet Macaw

The Scarlet Macaw gets its name from the vibrant red feathers covering a large portion of its body. They are known for having relatively long tail feathers which are usually light blue. The upper wings are yellow and the flight feathers of the wing are dark blue. Although the Scarlet Macaw is listed on the IUCN Red List as “Least Concern” worldwide, it is considered endangered in Panama and is very rarely seen on the mainland. Cobia Island is the best place to get a look at this tropical beauty!

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

Crested Eagle

The Crested Eagle is a neotropical eagle, meaning it can be found throughout the neotropical region, it can be easily spotted by the prominent crest at the top of its head. The Crested Eagle is a very large raptor and loves catching a variety of animals around Coiba Island, including fish and snakes. The Crested Eagle is listed as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List. They live at very low densities, meaning they require a considerable amount of space between each other. Consequently, Crested Eagles are seen infrequently in the wild.

Crested Eagle

Crested Eagle

Coiba Spinetail

The Coiba Spinetail, a subspecies of the rusty-backed spinetail, is an endemic species to Coiba. Although they are fairly common on Coiba, they are considered vulnerable due to their lack of range outside of the island. The Coiba Spinetail can be identified by its rusty-brown colored wings, crown, and tail. Its head is brown with grey streaks.

Coiba Spinetail and Nest

Coiba Spinetail and Nest – Photo Credit: Glenn J. Lee

Brown-Backed Dove

The Brown-Backed Dove is endemic to Panama and is most commonly found on the islands of Cebaco and Coiba. It is listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List due to its relatively small range, though the population within Panama seems to be quite healthy. Brown-Backed Doves can be identified by their brown back and wings. Its crown, nape, and throat are grey in color.

Photo Courtesy of Bird Coiba

Photo Courtesy of Bird Coiba

Scaly-Breasted Hummingbird

The Scaly-Breasted Hummingbird, also known as the Scaly-Breasted Sabrewing, is a relatively large hummingbird common in Central America and northern Columbia. It has vibrant, almost iridescent green feathers and can be found in a variety of habitats including dry forests, rain forests and mangroves. They are often seen on Coiba and the surrounding area. The Scaly-Breasted Hummingbird is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List and is not believed to be in any danger of vulnerability.

Scaly Breasted Hummingbird

Scaly Breasted Hummingbird

Weekly Wildlife Spotlight: Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Scientific Name:

Eretmochelys imbricata

Common Name:

Hawksbill – Named for its narrow head and hawk-like beak.

Population Estimate:

20,000 – 23,000 nesting females.

Where To Find Them:

Hawksbills are mostly found in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. The Hawksbill’s narrow head and beak-shaped jaws allow it to get food from crevices in coral reefs. They eat sponges, anemones, squid and shrimp.
Hawksbills are typically found around coastal reefs, rocky areas, estuaries and lagoons. They nest at intervals of 2-4 years and usually nest between 3-6 times per season. An adult female will usually lay an average of 160 eggs per nest, these eggs will incubate for a period of about 60 days.

How to Spot Them:

The Hawksbill is among the smallest in the sea turtle family. Its head is narrow, has two pairs of scales in front of its eyes and a serrated jaw. An adult Hawksbill typically weigh 100-155 pounds (46-70 kg.) and measures 2.5-3 feet (71-89 cm) in length.
The shell of the Hawksbill is elliptical in shape and its flippers each have two claws. Its shell is typically orange, brown, or yellow, while the shells of hatchlings are mostly brown with pale blotches on their scales.

IUCN Redlist Status:

Hawksbill sea turtles are listed as Endangered (in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future) in the U.S. and Critically Endangered (facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future) internationally. The greatest threat to the Hawksbill sea turtle is hunting for their prized shell, often referred to as “tortoise shell.” In some countries the shell is still used to make hair ornaments, jewelry, and other decorative items.

How We’re Helping:

Not long ago, most researchers thought hawksbills had been eliminated from the eastern Pacific Ocean. Recent discoveries and new projects have changed the conservation outlook for this endangered species and inspired hope for its recovery. Of all the sea turtle conservation issues, the protection of Hawksbills in the eastern Pacific is one of the most pressing. The current low nesting numbers indicate that the turtle species is unlikely to survive without outside action and conservation efforts.
We are working to bring more awareness to the current plight of the Hawksbill by organizing beach patrols to protect eggs and ward off poachers, tracking sightings of the turtles in our partnership with Sea Turtle Conservancy, as well as teaching the PADI Project AWARE Sea Turtle Awareness Distinct Specialty Course to those who join us in our programs and expeditions. With your help, we are striving to bring the Hawksbill back from the brink of extinction.

New Poison Dart Species Found in Panama

Researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and two Latin American Universities have confirmed the discovery of a new species of poison dart frog.

The new frog, named “Andinobates geminisae”, bears a striking resemblance to the strawberry poison dart frog (Oophaga pumilio). Researchers believe the new species may have been observed in the past, but was likely confused with Oophaga.

According to Cesar Jaramillo, a Smithsonian herpetologist, “Based on morphological characteristics of the adult and the tadpole, I thought it might be a new species of Andinobates.”

A. geminisae was found in the district of Donoso, Colón Province, Panama. The new species appears to be present solely in this geographical region, leading researchers to caution against deforestation or depletion of its natural habitat. Special conservation plans are also recommended to ensure this species’s long-term survival.

Photo taken by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute