If you live in Panama, or happen that you visits Panama City in october, then watch the skies... you may be missing one of the greatest spectacle this land has to offer! The southward migration of millions of raptors passing right by the city (enlarge the photo and try to count the dots).
Each year, almost all the populations of Turkey Vultures, Broad-winged Hawks and Swainson's Hawks, fly from their breeding grounds in North America, to their wintering grounds in South America. In their migration route, the isthmus of Panama is a kind of bottle neck where huge kettles forms, looking like an aerial highway of birds.
This is a diurnal migration, since these birds needs the ascending thermal currents to gain height. Once at the top of the thermal, they simply glide to the base of the next current and so on. In this way (gliding), they save a lot of energy during the travel, that can be as long as 14000 miles (22400 km) in the case of the Swainson Hawk.
The three species mentioned above form the bulk of the living mass flying through Panama, but many other species of raptors migrates through Panama too. Just check at HawkCount.org the number of species and, more important, the number of individuals counted this month only at the Ancon Hill hawkwatch site in Panama City... IMPRESSIVE!
Sometimes, the number of birds is so high, that the domestic flights in Panama City have been suspended. Thanks God this plane was flying much higher than the birds in that moment.
So, if you want to see a real river of raptors, come to Panama and enjoy!
No doubt these photos were taken in Panama!