Birdwatching in Metropolitan National Park: A Birding Adventure within Panama City!
If you’re all about the birds, and really even if you were not previously, you will definitely fall in love with this place! When visiting Panama City you just cannot miss a stop to the Metropolitan National Park. Metro Park is one of three parks that make up Panama’s Biological Corridor along the east shore of the Panama Canal, together with the Soberania National Park and Camino de Cruces, which are important to protect the water levels of the Panama Canal.
Nevertheless, the Metro Park’s true beauty and importance lies in its uniqueness. It is the largest tropical forest park found within the city limits of a city in all of Latin America, just 10 minutes from Panama City; over 232 hectares of protected tropical dry forest lying within an urban area, offering great views of the city and the canal from its “look out” points and, above all, giving a safe haven to hundreds of bird species found in the density of its jungle.
Panama’s “Metro Park”:
The protected area that makes up the Metropolitan National Park today was originated in the First Soil Management Plan for the Panama Canal Area in 1971, yet it officially became the Metropolitan National Park until July 5th 1985 by Presidential decree.
The Metro Park is located in the Ancon district in Panama City, between Ascanio Villalaz Avenue, Amistad Road and the Curundu River, and only 20 minutes from the city center making it easily accessible, even during a short visit to the city! (For cruise ship passengers who’re looking for an awesome spot within the city limits to enjoy Panama’s natural beauty, definitely a great option!)
Its 232 hectares of tropical dry forest, one of the last ones to remain on the Pacific Coast throughout Central America, the Metropolitan National Park is home to 284 species of trees, 45 species of mammals, over 254 species of birds, as well as other species of reptiles and amphibians. Having such biodiversity within arm’s reach of a city is uncommon and makes the Metro Park a perfect destination for nature lovers and, of course, bird lovers!
The park has a library, a museum and a gift shop. It’s open from 6am to 5pm, although paying a visit early when it’s cooler is highly recommended to get to see more wildlife. Entrance fee is $2.00 but you can also book a Birdwatching Tour that includes your entrance fee and guided tour through the park’s trails in the company of a knowledgeable guide to give you the best insights of the area and help you spot the most wildlife and bird species in the park.
Panama Metro Park offers its visitors 5 hiking trails, ranging from 1 to 1.5 hours approx., great for wildlife observation and for a good cardio workout too! These trails are great viewpoints of Panama City and the Panama Canal, but above all the Metropolitan National Park is a preferred spot for bird observation and these trails provide the perfect setting for this activity.
- Momotides Trail (0.7 km): This is the “express” trail, perfect if you’re short on time or cannot participate in any major physical effort; it’s a flat stroll that allows visitors to pack the most punch into their short visit to the Metro Park. It was named after the Blue Crowned Motmot that frequents this trail, yet there are other critters that will make their appearance for excellent wildlife viewing close to the city.
- Caobos Trail (1.1 km): If you’re not intimidated by a good sweat, this trail is a “challenger”. It’s more demanding terrain offers an exuberant flora and fauna and gives its visitors a rewarding view of Panama City and the Bay area. This trail also boasts a natural bird migration path between Panama and the US, a project developed between Panama and Cleveland’s Metroparks.
- Roble Trail (25-minute hike approx.): This trail is found the Visitor’s Center and the starting point of the next trail, the Cieneguita Trail. It was named after the big Roble tree found behind the Bonsai Garden in the park. Not one of the park’s major trails, it’s about a 25-minute hike.
- Mono Titi Road (1.1 km): This trail starts behind the building known as “the Castle”, the remnants of a U.S. workshop during World War II to repair airplanes, very interesting! The Mono Titi Road is the widest of all the Metro Park’s trails, used at a time by cars but now it’s prohibited as part of the park’s conservation laws. Named after the most popular critter in the park, the Geoffroyi’s Tamarin, this trail offers visitors a wide easy terrain and panoramic views of Panama City and the surrounding parks.
- La Cieneguita Trail (1.1 km): It’s the longest trail with the best views, an approx. 2-hour hike. This true nature lovers sidetrack immerses you in the quieter and less traveled paths within the park; although it connects at times with the Mono Titi Road, the Cieneguita Trail provides for the best wildlife and, of course, bird-watching opportunities. If you traverse it in silence you will be mesmerized by the amount of life that takes place around you and above your head! Keep your eyes open and listen carefully for a fantastic show of nature.
And, of course,...
With a record of about 267 bird species, and counting, Panama’s Metropolitan National Park is refuge to all kinds of birds:
- The endemic national Yellow-green Tyrannulet
- Blue-crowned Motmots
- Various Wrens
- Lance Tailed Manakins
- Various Greenlets
- Several varieties of Flycatchers
- Collared Aracari
- Lots of Tanagers
And many, many more!
The amount of so many extraordinary birds found at this park, and within an urban area such as Panama City, makes the Metro Park one of the most interesting birding destinations within Central America and THE WORLD!