May 15, 2010
Panama has an extraordinary wealth of birds for a country of its size. Although only about the size of the U.S. state of South Carolina, a total of 976 species has been recorded to date, exceeding the list for the continental United States and Canada combined. This remarkable diversity owes much to Panama’s location at the juncture between North and South America. Many northern species reach their southern limits here, and many species of mainly South American distribution range no farther north. As a bridge between the continents, Panama also serves as a route of passage for many migrants, and seabirds of both the Atlantic and the Pacific reach its shores. Panama’s rugged geography means that very distinct habitats can be found within a short distance, including wet and dry lowland forests, submontane, montane, and cloud forests, savannas, grasslands, wetlands, and coastal habitats such as mangroves, beaches, and mudflats. This landscape has also fostered the development of many species of very restricted range, found in Panama alone or shared only with neighboring Costa Rica or Colombia, including 12 national endemics and 107 regional endemics.