The Keel-billed Toucan is one of the wonderful birds found throughout tropical regions in Central and South America.

Toucan experience the wonder of a cruise

Despite the delightful hummingbirds and the skulking antbirds, the highlight family of any trip to this region has to be the toucans.

As I write this, we are on a cruise ship heading north in the Gulf of Mexico. Our cruise left Vancouver on September 26 and will arrive in Fort Lauderdale in a couple of days. Along the way we have had port days in San Francisco, Cabo San Lucas, (Mexico), Puntarenas, (Costa Rica), Panama City, Cartagena, (Colombia) and Aruba. We had a short birding day in Cabo, and longer days in Costa Rica and Panama.

Our most interesting day was in Panama, a place we had never been before. Panama is a small country but they have 975 bird species, as many as all of Canada and the U.S.A. combined.

During our five-hour birding trip we saw over 60 species, 21 of which were new to me. One of the more interesting groups of birds here are the antbirds. This is a large family of smallish, insect-eating birds that are found throughout tropical regions of Central and South America. They are generally found in rainforest regions and have a tendency to stay hidden in the dense foliage.

Most of them don’t actually eat ants, but they do feed in association with army-ant columns. These columns of ants can include many thousands of ants and as they march across the jungle floor they disturb insects and other small creatures. It is these that become food for the antbirds. Any time you find and army-ant column in the rainforest, you will find birds.

On our trip we saw five species from this large and varied group: Red-throated Ant-tanager, Checker-throated Antwren, Dot-winged Antbird, Western Slaty-Antshrike and Fasciated Antshrike. A couple days earlier, while in Costa Rica, we saw three others: Chestnut-backed Antbird, Black-hooded Antshrike and Slaty Antwren.

Hummingbirds are also common in Panama. We visited one rainforest lodge that had several feeders along the deck.  Six species of all sizes and colours were buzzing all around us: Little Hermit (less than 10 cm long), Long-billed Hermit (15-16 cm long), White-vented Plumeleteer, White-necked Jacobin, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.

Despite the delightful hummingbirds and the skulking antbirds, the highlight family of any trip to this region has to be the toucans. In Panama we saw the Keel-billed Toucan (pictured here). That any bird can fly with such a massive bill extended in front of it seems to defy the laws of gravity; the overall length of this bird is 45-50 cm, and about one quarter of that is bill.

In the last couple of years we have been fortunate to have had the chance to do some birding in Peru, Costa Rica and now Panama. The bird diversity in Central and South America is unmatched anywhere in the world. It would take many more visits to even scratch the surface when it comes to learning the tropical birds. But I hope to get the chance to try.


Just Posted

Judgment reserved in Nakusp school sex trial

Trial concluded today with lawyer’s summations

Former teacher acquitted on two of four sex charges

Judge found no evidence to support sexual assault charges against Shanny McIvor

New Denver emergency ward to remain 24/7

Interior Health says it’s postponing changes to operating hours.

New Glade ferry enters testing phase

The Glade II will be able to carry heavier loads and will emit less greenhouse gases.

Smiles all around as province announces emergency ward funding

$2.1 million to go to much-needed upgrades

B.C. cougar kitten rescued after mother struck by vehicle

Conservation Officers find home for young kitten found dehydrated and frostbitten near Williams Lake

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

B.C. woman who forged husband’s will gets house arrest

Princeton Judge says Odelle Simmons did not benefit from her crime

Women’s movement has come a long way since march on Washington: Activists

Vancouver one of several cities hosting event on anniversary of historic Women’s March on Washington

Liberals’ 2-year infrastructure plan set to take 5: documents

Government says 793 projects totalling $1.8 billion in federal funds have been granted extensions

Workers shouldn’t be used as ‘pawns’ in minimum wage fight: Wynne

Comments from Kathleen Wynne after demonstrators rallied outside Tim Hortons locations across Canada

John ‘Chick’ Webster, believed to be oldest living former NHL player, dies

Webster died Thursday at his home in Mattawa, Ont., where he had resided since 1969

Most Read