Sri Lanka is a continental island of the Indian subcontinent, shaped like a teardrop falling from the southern end of India, situated between longitudes 79º 39E and 81º 53E and latitudes 5º 54N and 9º 52N. It's 437km long from north to south and only 225km at its widest. Its area of 66,000sq km is about the same size as Ireland. The south-central region is mountainous and has an elevation ranging from 900m to 2440m. This is surrounded by an upland belt of 300-900m elevation. The coastal plains hardly exceed 100m in elevation. This plain is most extensive in the north and east, and the continental shelf ends fairly close to the shoreline except in the northwest where it is continuous with that of India. Today Sri Lanka is considered one of the most bio-diverse areas in South Asia. Recent scientific evidence indicates that many of the plants species in the southwest of the country have a Deccan-Gondwana ancestry.
The drainage pattern of the country is almost entirely governed by the central highlands, with all the perennial water courses originating in the mountains and winding their way down to the plains below.
Sri Lanka's equatorial position gives its lowlands a tropical climate, with year round temperatures of 27-28ºC and a relatively constant day length. It is always the right season somewhere on the island Rainfall is largely governed by monsoonal winds, which occur during two seasons of the year. From mid-May to September, the monsoon blows from the southwest direction and brings in a greater amount of moisture than during December to February when the wind blows from the northeast. The distinct inter-monsoonal periods receive convectional rains at times cyclones. During the southwest monsoon, the position and dramatic relief of the southwestern side of the central highlands forces the moisture-laden air upwards. The rapidly cooled air condenses, causing precipitation mostly on the windward slopes of the island’s southwest. During this time the northeastern and southeastern parts of the island hardly get any rain. On the other hand, the northeast monsoon winds rise over the central highlands more gradually, and the rain shadow effect is not nearly so distinct, allowing precipitation to fall on the entire island. This has resulted in the division of the country in to two major climatic zones; the wet zone, which receives rain from both monsoons, and the dry zone, which receives rain from only one. The gradual change from the wet zone to dry zone allows an intermediate zone to exist. In addition, two small areas at the extreme northwest and southeast of the country have a very dry climate and known as arid zones.
Vegetation reflects the combined effect of topography, climate and soils. In Sri Lanka the natural vegetation is predominated by a diversity of forest types. Only a small fraction of land is under non-tree-dominated vegetation. This is mainly grassland, and coastal and fresh water wetlands.
The most extensive type of forest in the island is the dry mixed evergreen forest found in the dry zone (also called semi-evergreen forests). In the intermediate zone, the vegetation gradually changes to moist semi-evergreen forests. Although these forests have a fair proportion of deciduous species, they are essentially evergreen. In the wet zone vegetation has been largely categorised by elevation with wet-evergreen forests or rain forests in the lowlands and hills, lower montane forests on the lower slopes of mountains between 1,000m and 1,500m, and montane forests above 1500m. Also in the coastal areas mangroves and salt marshes colonise inundated bays while areas inundated by fresh water have swamp and floodplain forests.
Within each climatic zone, the presence and extent of specific habitat types determine the occurrence and prevalence of particular species of birds. Within dry zone, for example, habitats such as forests, marshes, grassland, man-made lakes, coastal mudflats etc. harbour certain species of birds, which are restricted to that specific habitat or are most often associated with it. While some species of birds occur in both zones at all elevations (e.g. Junglefowl) the distribution of many others is more limited. Many species and subspecies of birds are endemic to Sri Lanka and a significant number of these are more or less restricted to and characteristic of the rain forests of the wet zone. Some of this wet zone endemics are further restricted to the higher hills.
Avifauna of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a total list of over 430 species of birds. Of these, 233 are resident and these include the most important 26 species that are recognised as endemic to the country. Most of the resident species are shared with the Asian mainland. A further 198 species have been recorded as migrants to the country. The majority of these migrate to Sri Lanka during the northern winter and are present from about August/September to April/May. In contrast, pelagic species of seabirds like Shearwaters, Petrels, Storm-Petrels etc migrate to Sri Lankan waters from southern oceanic islands during the southern hemisphere`s winter. Of the migrants, about 100 species regularly visit the country. The rest are occasional visitors and vagrants.
When to go
Any period between October to late April or early May is best for visiting birders. This period is best because all the winter visitors to the country are present and there is a very good chance of seeing a load of wintering waders and some spectacular migrants such as Indian Pitta, Pied Thrush, Kashmir Flycatcher, Orange-headed Thrush etc. If the visitor is not so much interested in the migrants, May, June and July are also good time to arrive in the island.
There are many good birding sites but Sinharaja World Heritage Wilderness area, Bundala Ramsar site, Yala and Uda Walawe National Parks; Horton Plains are imperative for any birder. These will give all the endemics plus some other spectacular species. A 12 to 14 day tour of the island will give about 225 species, if the visitor is with the right person who knows his birdcalls and the places.
Bundala National Park
This NP is a Ramsar Site and is situated in the dry zone and borders the Indian Ocean. This comprises of dry semi-evergreen forest, scrub jungle and shallow water holes. The beaches in this are important sites for nesting Turtles. Birds likely to be seen: Little Grebe, Little Cormorant, Indian Shag, Great Cormorant, Indian Darter, Spot-billed Pelican, Night Heron, Little Green Heron, Indian Pond Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Median Egret, Large Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Painted Stork, Openbill, White-necked Stork, White Ibis, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Hawk-Eagle, Little Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Large Sand Plover, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Red-wattled Lapwing, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Pintail Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Brown-headed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern , Large-Crested Tern, Lesser-Crested Tern, Little Tern, Saunders's Tern, Whiskered Tern, White-winged Black Tern
Horton Plains National Park
A highland plateau comprising of montane forest and grassland. Famous among the birders for the highland endemics like the Dull-blue Flycatcher, SL Wood Pigeon, Bush Warbler, Yellow-eared Bulbul and the most elusive crepuscular Whistling Thrush also called Arrenga.. Other birds of interest are the Pied Bush Chat, Grey Tit, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Spot-winged Thrush.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
The Sinharaja Man and Biosphere Reserve, which was declared a World Heritage site in 1988, is arguably the best site in Sri Lanka for it harbours 21 out of the 26 endemics. This is one of the hot spots for biodiversity. This reserve contains some of the few remaining sizeable tracts of undisturbed lowland rain forest. Much of the bird watching is done in the area where once selective logging was carried out. Be prepared for leeches in this forest. Birds likely to be seen: Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Layard's Parakeet, Red-faced Malkoha, Green-billed Coucal, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Crimson-fronted Barbet (Ceylon Small Barbet); Black-crested Bulbul (Black-capped Bulbul); Spot-winged Thrush, Brown-capped Babbler, Orange-billed Babbler (Ceylon Rufous Babbler); Ashy-headed Laughing-Thrush, Legge's Flowerpecker, Sri Lanka White-eye (Ceylon Hill White-eye); Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, White-faced Starling Sturnus senex, Sri Lanka Myna (Ceylon Hill-Myna); Black-throated Munia. (Ceylon Hill Munia); Malabar Trogon, Black Bulbul, Dark-fronted Babbler, Indian Scimitar Babbler, Greater Raquet-tailed Drongo, Green Imperial Pigeon, Ceylon Frogmouth, Crested Honey Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Shikra, Black Eagle, Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, Mountain Hawk-Eagle.
Uda Walawe National Park
This is another dry zone area which is the catchment of a very large man made reservoir. A mixture of abandoned Teak plantation, grassland, scrub jungle and some riverine frests. This is also a very famous site for Elephants. Birds likely to be seen: Apart from seeing most of the waterbirds in the Bundala NP it is very likely that the following also be seen. Spot-billed Pelican, Lesser Adjutant, Black-winged Kite, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-headed Fishing Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Hawk-Eagle,Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, Blue-faced Malkoha, Red-faced Malkoha, Sirkeer, Little Green Bee-eater, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Crimson-breasted Barbet, Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Yellow-fronted Pied Woodpecker
Ornithological Tour Leader (Sri Lanka Tourism (SLTDA) Approved Tourist Guide & Lecturer)
84, Amunugama South, Gunnepana, Sri Lanka
Number of Species
National Bird: Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl Gallus lafayetti
Number of bird species: 436
Number of endemics: 33
Sri Lanka Spurfowl Galloperdix bicalcarata Sri Lanka Junglefowl Gallus lafayetii Crimson Flameback Chrysocolaptes stricklandi Yellow-fronted Barbet Megalaima flavifrons Crimson-fronted Barbet Megalaima rubricapilla Sri Lanka Grey-Hornbill Ocyceros gingalensis Red-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus Green-billed Coucal Centropus chlororhynchus Sri Lanka Hanging-Parrot Loriculus beryllinus Layard's Parakeet Psittacula calthropae Serendib Scops Owl Otus thilohoffmanni Chestnut-backed Owlet Glaucidium castanonotum Sri Lanka Wood-Pigeon Columba torringtoni Sri Lanka Green Pigeon Treron pompadora Sri Lanka Blue Magpie Urocissa ornata Sri Lanka Crested Drongo Dicrurus lophorinus Sri Lanka Woodshrike Tephrodornis affinis Sri Lanka Whistling-Thrush Myophonus blighi Spot-winged Thrush Zoothera spiloptera Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush Zoothera imbricate Dull-blue Flycatcher Eumyias sordida White-faced Starling Sturnus senex Sri Lanka Myna Gracula ptilogenys Sri Lanka Swallow Hirundo hyperythra Yellow-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus penicillatus Black-capped Yellow Bulbul Pycnontus melanicterus Sri Lanka White-eye Zosterops Sri Lankaensis Sri Lanka Bush-Warbler Bradypterus palliseri Ashy-headed Laughingthrush Garrulax cinereifrons Brown-capped Babbler Pellorneum fuscocapillum Sri Lanka Scimitar-Babbler Pomatorhinus [schisticeps] melanurus Orange-billed Babbler Turdoides rufescens Legge's Flowerpecker Dicaeum vincens
Some authorities consider the Sri Lanka Stilt Himantopus ceylonensis to be an endemic too - but most do not. As for the Black-throated Munia Lonchura kelaarti the jury is still out until vocalisation can be fully studied.
Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder
* Birds of Sri Lanka
By Deepal Warakagoda, Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp and Richard Grimmett |
224 pages | 104 colour plates | colour photos | 350 colour distribution maps | Softcover |Christopher Helm | 2012
See Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 9780713688535Buy this book from NHBS.com
* Field Guides & Bird Song
For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering Asia as a whole - please see the Asia page of Fatbirder
A Field Guide to Birds of the Indian Subcontinent
Krys Kazmierczak, Ber van Perlo (Illustrator) Hardcover - 336 pages (30 May, 2000) The Pica Press
ISBN: 1873403798Buy this book from NHBS.com
A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka
John Harrison and Tim Worfolk | Paperback | Jan 2011 | Oxford University Press
See Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 9780199585670Buy this book from NHBS.com
A Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka
G.M. Henry, Thilo W. Hoffmann (Editor); Deepal Warakagoda (Editor); Upali Ekanayake (Editor) Hardcover - 534 pages (May 1998) OUP India
ISBN: 0195638131Buy this book from NHBS.com
A Photographic Guide to Birds of India
[Including Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Pakistan, Bangladesh & Bhutan] Bikram Grewal, Bill Harvey and Otto Pfister 512 pages, 850 col photos, 800 maps. Christopher Helm
ISBN: 0713664037Buy this book from NHBS.com
A Photographic Guide to Birds of India and Nepal
Bikram Grewal | Paperback | New Holland | 2008
ISBN: 9781845379827Buy this book from NHBS.com
A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka
Silva Wijeyeratne, Deepal Warakagoda and TSU De Zylva. Describes, in detail, 252 species (New Holland NaturalHistory). 144 pages, 300 col photos, col map.
ISBN: 1859745113Buy this book from NHBS.com
A Selection of the Birds of Sri Lanka
J Banks and J Banks 34 pages, 15 col plates, 1 map. Lake House Investments 1980
ISBN: 9555520542Buy this book from NHBS.com
Bird Sounds of Sri Lanka
D Warakagoda - Drongo 2000
ISBN: 156502Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birding in Sri Lanka Video
Barbets, Babblers and Bulbuls - Malcolm Rymer Running time: 60 minutes. Malcolm Rymer 1999 ISBN: 105746 Available direct from the filmmaker
Birds of the Indian Subcontinent
By Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp & Tim Inskipp | Christopher Helm | Softcover | 2012 | Edition: 2 | 528 Pages | 226 Colour Plates | Colour Distribution Maps | Black & White Illustrations
ISBN: 9781408127636Buy this book from NHBS.com
Checklist of the Birds of Sri Lanka
Wijeyeratne, Gehan de Silva’Warakagoda, Deepal’Perera, Lester - Sri Lanka Natural History Soc 2001
ISBN: 126091Buy this book from NHBS.com
DVD - Birding Sri Lanka
The film gives an overview of the island, its topography, climate habitats, visiting a number of contrasting areas throughout the island. There are useful references for those contemplating a trip - Buy direct from the filmmaker: http://www.wildlifevideos.net/birding_sri_lanka-2011.html
Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka
Sarath Kotagama, Dept of Zoology, University of Colombo, Colombo 03. + 94 1 email@example.com
Guides & Tour Operators
A Baur & Co
A. Baur & Co. Ltd. founded in 1897 has more than 100 years of expertise in Sri Lanka. Baurs bird-watching tours are guided by professional Ornithological Guides. In addition, all other aspects of travel such as accommodation, transport services and tours are arranged in the most professional manner to satisfy the needs of each individual…
This wonderful lush island has excellent birding with all the endemics possible in a short trip along with plenty of other species to swell your life list!
Bird & Wildlife Team
Our expert team comprises four professional tour leaders and several talented part-time tour leaders, who have years of experience in observing and studying the birdlife and other wildlife of Sri Lanka, and have also been actively involved in wildlife conservation…
Sri Lanka is a picturesque island and has 33 endemic bird species. It is the western-most representative of Indo-Malayan Flora and its abundant birdlife shows many such affinities. We cover a variety of habitat types, including lowland, monsoon and cloud forests, grasslands, coastal mudflats, imposing riverine woodland and forest.
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
Birding Sri Lanka
Chaminda Jayaweera has had extensive experience of more than twenty years as a tour guide. His specialty is birdwatching tours. He is also well versed in mammals, dragonflies and butterflies and an enthusiastic wildlife photographer too.
Birdwing Nature Holidays
Best value Birding and Natural History Holidays in Sri Lanka with Amila Salgado…
Guide - Nandana
Nandana is an independent certified Sri Lanka Tourist Board guide. He has 25 years experience in wildlife, conservation and guiding and is able to arrange birdwatching, wildlife, culture or photography tours or a mixture of any of them. E-mail: Nandanactgl@yahoo.com or phone 00 94 779669367
High Elms Travel
Birdwatching or Ornithological Tours - 425 species of birds found in Sri Lanka of which 26 are endemics. You can record at least 18 endemic on our 15 day programme. Also visit The Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a World Heritage Site, Bundala National Park, a Ramsar Wetland and many more important bird sites…
Jetwing Eco Holidays
Jetwing Eco Holidays tours combine a heady mix of fun filled and exciting experiences of nature, people and culture. The itineraries are selected to offer the most attractive and fascinating attractions of the country. The tours cover a broad spectrum of special interest requirements ranging from Bird watching…
Jude Ranjan Fernando – Independent Guide
0094312255943 - I am driver guide authorized by Sri Lanka tourist board
Lanka Expedition - Birding With Senarath
Senarath was the assistance director in finance of the Mahawali authority of ministry of agriculture in Sri Lanka. His lifelong passion into bird watching made him retire prematurely from the administrative post in which capacity he would able to travel the length and breadth of Sri Lanka. He got himself trained into tourist guiding at the Tourism Training center of Sri Lanka Tourist Board and now shares his passion taking private tours to the island's hot spots…
Red Dot Tours
…Ritigala is a refuge area for many threatened species. You could see spot-winged thrush, jungle fowl, grey hornbill, and mammals including sloth bears, elephant and lizards. Ritigala is a wet-zone forest found in the dry zone and 110 documented trees are found here. Also visit Namal Uyana and Pink Quartz Mountain. Leave for Kandy in late afternoon and your base in the cool of the hills, 3,200 feet above sea level, Hunas Falls Hotel…
Rockjumper Birding Tours
This small, friendly island nation provides one of the most enjoyable and rewarding birding tours imaginable. With plenty of endemics, most of which are extremely easy to locate, comfortable lodges and abundant wildlife, it makes perfect sense that Sri Lanka has become such a popular destination. Our tour also targets the countries’ big game, including Leopard and Sloth Bear.
Sri Lanka Trekking Nature Holidays
Trekking Sri Lanka Is a small, family managed Tour organization run by experienced trekking guide Deen. We are in the hill country of Sri Lanka; Our holidays are adventure and nature where you see wild life and birds and real srilanka…
Upali Ekanayake - Ornithological Tour Leader
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Walk with Jith
Walk With Jith specializes in Bird watching and nature tours in Sri Lanka.You will have the rare opportunity to share birding experiences with local village people, visit their homes,and immerse yourself in their lives and culture…
Wildlife Safari Tours - You will come back to them, searching, again & again - and in time will grow within you an intimacy, a love for the jungle which offers sanctuary to fast dwindling and very precious wildlife…
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2006 [01 January] - Birdwing
…an early walk to look for Chestnut–backed Owlet which we found and had great views of. The Pitta put in another appearance and many other species provided a show as the sun warmed the air. Orange Minivets, Sri Lanka Green Pigeons, Loten's and Purple-rumped Sunbirds all glistened in the strong sunlight and we had not moved more than a few hundred yards from the restaurant…
2006 [01 January] - Rosemary Royle
These notes are intended to help anyone planning a birding holiday to Sri Lanka by discussing various practical aspects of the trip. The bird species and where to see them are well covered in many other trip reports (many thanks to the authors – we used these extensively as planning aids) so these notes concentrate on topics which have not been addressed extensively elsewhere…
2006 [11 November] - David Shackelford
Arriving from the Southern Indian city of Kochi, we began our explorations of Sri Lanka on the outskirts of the capital city of Colombo, overall a very organized metropolis with tidy infrastructure, efficient transportation, and friendly local people. Travelling on windy roads through rubber tree and teak plantations, we eventually found ourselves inside dense montane forest at the edge of the Kelani River. Getting an early start the following morning, we boarded the local ferry service, comprising of an admittedly older man and his dugout canoe who took us across the white-water rapids. The forest was alive with activity and in a short amount of time we had begun knocking out the endemics of the island, including the reticent Green-billed Coucal, beautiful Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Hanging-Parrot, Loten’s Sunbird, and phenomenal views of the tiny Chestnut-backed Owlet…
2007 [01 January] - Ron Johns
The view of long sandy beaches and coconut palms greeted us as we made our approach to the capital Colombo. We touched down at 1340 local time and were soon in the queue for Immigration. After collecting our luggage we entered the Arrivals Hall where Deepal, our local specialist birding guide, was waiting for us – without doubt, we had the best birder in Sri Lanka accompanying the tour…
2007 [10 October] - Bo & Maggie Crombet-Beolens
This was the first trip that Maggie and I had taken by ourselves for some years, ever since I began to organise trips for the disabled birders association. We were looking forward to being able to please ourselves, go at our own pace and not make any of the numerous small compromises we all make when we travel as a group…
2007 [12 December] - Ashley Banwell
This trip was from 16th - 28th December and the aim was to see Serindib Scops Owl and to try and see some new and future splits as well as some winter visitors to the region. We were successful with seeing Serindib Scops Owl at its day roost. Other good birds were Ceylon Wood Pigeon, Indian Pitta, Pied Ground Thrush, Slaty-legged Crake, Ceylon Scaly Thrush, Ceylon Spurfowl, White-naped woodpecker, Kashmir Flycatcher and Ceylon Frogmouth. Despite 4 nights looking we managed to dip Ceylon Bay Owl! Another rare winter visitor we saw was Isabelline Wheatear at Bundala…
2007 [12 December] - David Shackelford
…Birds were no less impressive and we were bombarded by a plethora of endemics such as the retiring Spot-winged Thrush, eye-level scope views of the scarce White-faced Starling, Sri Lanka Myna, secretive Sri Lanka Spurfowl calling at less than twenty meters, amazing views of Layard’s Parakeet, and of course we all enjoyed multiple views of the exquisitely colorful Sri Lanka Blue-Magpie, perhaps Sri Lanka’s most vibrant endemic…
2007 [12 December] - Mark Finn
…The first sector of river gave us views of White-throated Kingfishers, Common Sandpipers, Lesser Sandplovers and recently arrived Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. At the river-end a single Sri Lanka Stilt our first endemic of the tour. After turning round we headed upriver observing Purple and Purple-rumped Sunbirds, Red-vented Bulbul and White-bellied Drongos perched in dead tree tops….
2008 [01 January] - Doreen Ang
Am just back from a 10-day Endemic Tour to Sri Lanka. Mr Deepal Warakagoda (aka Mr Serendib) was kind enough to lead me and together with Lim Kim Seng, we had great birding. This was my 14th overseas birding trip in the past 2 years across 8 countries and so far hands down, has got to be the best in terms of guide, results, accommodation and synergy. For birders who have been to Sri Lanka, imagine what it's like to enjoy good, long views of the Serendib Scops-owl, Indian Scops-owl, Spot-bellied Eagle-owl, Brown Fish-owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet and a Sri Lanka Frogmouth in BROAD DAYLIGHT…
2008 [02 February] - Birdwing
Four birders from England undertook a 15-day birding holiday in Sri Lanka from 31 Jan – 14 February, 2008, of which ground arrangements and bird guiding were done by me. We bagged a whopping 252 species of birds including all 33 endemics currently recognised, additional 42 endemic to South Asia and 9 of the 15 resident nocturnal birds of which 7 were Owls. Special birding highlight was seeing a pair of the newly rediscovered breeding resident; Marshall’s Iora at Lunugamwehera…
2008 [03 March] - Craig Robson & Upali Ekanayake
…his year we fared much better with Ceylon Spurfowl, with most of us getting onto at least one bird of a pair that were following a large bird-wave at Sinharaja. Unfortunately however, Ceylon Whistling-thrush was a leader only this time, and Ceylon Scaly Thrush a no-show…
2009 [01 January] - Glen Valentine
…We bumped into Yellow-fronted Barbet, Ashy Woodswallow and a magnificent Rufous-bellied Eagle on the way, which set us in good spirits. The forest edge bordering our hotel on the banks of the beautiful Kelani River was alive with birds and we found mouth-watering species such as Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Legge’s Flowerpecker, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, immaculate Loten’s Sunbird, Dark-fronted Babbler, noisy Orange-billed Babbler and Black-crested (capped) Bulbul within minutes of arrival…
2009 [01 January] - Keith Valentine
…We wasted no time at all and began our explorations into the heart of the country; our first destination being Sri Lanka’s most famous of all forest reserves, the jewel in the crown, Sinharaja National Park…
2009 [12 December] - Stephen Lowe
I arranged this trip with Amila Salgado of Birdwing Nature Holidays, whose blog; Gallicissa had impressed me greatly when trawling the internet for suitable guides. The idea was for the family to experience something completely different from our usual Christmas in Florida, given the opportunity to meet our eldest daughter somewhere in Asia. She had been travelling in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam over the previous fortnight, following the end of her Spring term in Auckland NZ, during her third university year exchange with Edinburgh University…
2010 [01 January] - Brian & Isabel Eady
If you are a dawn to dusk birder wanting a high count of species, then this report is not for you, however if you want to get away from the atrocious weather at home, need to find some sunshine with a bit of birding included, see 27 of the 33 endemics in two days birding, then please read on…
2010 [03 March] - Derek & Gillian Marsh
This was a return trip to Sri Lanka for us to catch up on the six endemics we missed in 2006. Back then we only did an eight-day tour, but this time we went for fourteen days. We managed to see all the six endemics we missed before: Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Serendib Scops-Owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush and Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler…
2010 [03 March] -John van der Woude
On this well-guided private trip we saw all 27 endemics of the Western Ghats of South India and all 33 endemics of Sri Lanka. In South India we were guided by Jijo Mathew of Kalypso (www.birdskerala.com, contact mr. Thomas Zacharias) with Prasad as driver, and in Sri Lanka we were guided and driven by Sunil de Awis of Baur's…
2010 [11 November] - David Bryant
The itinerary followed a well-trodden path with Amila and Camillus (driver) dealing with all the practicalities. Amila specialises in the mainly forest-dwelling endemics and 'night birds' and this was reflected in us seeing all 33 endemics plus 10 ‘night-birds’. The accommodation ranged across eco-lodges at the forest boundary to hotels on the edge of town, from clean-basic to very spruce, with mostly excellent Sri Lankan food. Western-type food was available if required. It was pretty well what we would have chosen ourselves as independent travellers, but was better located, and invariably set within good birding gardens or with birding views during meals (hard to track down from Lonely Planet!)…
2011 [04 April] - Paul A Brown - Wet Zone
it was about time that we visit Sri Lanka ourselves to see where our relatives had served. As always with our world trips, we look for cheap deals and we found a two week package through Mercury Direct to Hotel Serendib, Bentota on the south west coast, south of Colombo for £889…
2011 [07 July] - Michael Grunwell
…After lunch and a rest Ranjith found a big flock just outside the park gate, this flock provided the elusive brown-capped babbler plus lots of laughing thrush. We then had superb views of spot-winged thrush followed by my only sighting of spurfowl…
2011 [10 October] - John & Thomas Yates
2011 [11 November] - Erik Forsyth
Sri Lanka is an island paradise where verdant tropical rainforest host a staggering bounty of beautiful and endemic birds. We wasted no time at all and began our explorations into the heart of the country; our first destination being Sri Lanka’s most famous of all forest reserves, the jewel in the crown, Sinharaja National Park….
2011 [12 December] - Andrew & Trish Forsyth
2012 [01 January] - David Marques
…33 doable endemic birds, Leopard & Blue Whale, these are three strong arguments to go birding in Sri Lanka! We were very lucky to see all these targets and some more and ended up with 248 bird species, many great mammals and reptiles on a largely self-guided tour. However, as most people go with organized tours, it is hard to get details on birding locations – a gap that I hopefully help to close with this trip report and the Google map attached to it…
2012 [01 January] - Toon Spanhove
…Despite our long stay, some species were “missed”: Black-necked stork, Lesser Adjutant, Sirkeer Malkoha, Jungle Bush-quail (heard only briefly), Streak-throated Woodpecker, Spot-bellied Eagle-owl (heard only), Caspian Plover, Crab Plover and even some more widespread species such as Ashy and Black Drongo, Yellow-eyed Babbler Streaked Weaver, Indian Silverbill….
2012 [12 December] - Hervé Jacob
…he quickly showed us a pair of Serendib Scops-Owl and the birds that we had not seen alone; we found that there are bigger flocks inside the reserve than outside. The following day Ranjith took us around the village and the tea plantations where we could see different birds of which Slaty-legged Crake close to his house (no entrace to pay, just fix a price with him)…
2013 [01 January] - André Weiss Pryde
…There is a small ferry crossing the river just beside the Kitulgala Rest House. However, birding in the forest here is not easy and we failed to locate the Serendib Scops Owl here…
2013 [01 January] - Owain Gabb
…Along the tracks through the scrub and in areas of open grassland, black robin, hoopoe, the endemic Ceylon junglefowl, Indian peafowl, ashy-crowned sparrowlark, Jerdon’s bushlark, a male streaked weaver, grey-bellied cuckoo and a ruddy mongoose were seen…
2013 [02 Feburary] - Greg Roberts - India & Sri Lanka
…Roadside birding here turned up excellent views of Red Spurfowl, another tricky endemic, Rufous Babbler and White-bellied Treepie. An unexpected find was Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon, a rarity in the lowlands. Best of all was a Dhole, or Asian Wild Dog, which stared at me from a distance of a few metres in a stream bed before disappearing into the scrub; Danish saw a second dog briefly, immediately after this encounter. Again, smells and sounds indicated that elephants were very close at times….
2013 [11 November] - Dave Farrow - Southern India & Sri Lanka
This years’ tour to Southern India and Sri Lanka was once again a very successful and enjoyable affair, with almost all endemics found, and an incredible 36 individual Owls of 13 species seen. We began in the Andaman Islands where we recorded all 21 endemics, with Andaman Scops and Walden’s Scops Owls, Andaman and Hume’s Hawk Owls leading the way, good looks at Andaman Crake, Andaman Woodpigeon and Andaman Cuckoo Dove, plus all others with the pre-fix ‘Andaman’ (although the Barn Owl was a heard only.)…
2014 [02 February] - Bruce Wedderburn
…As regards birding, the first priority was to see as many of the 33 endemics as possible, then to whittle away at my potential lifer list of 137 for the regular bird species occurring in Sri Lanka. During the trip Amila and Athula managed to show us all 33 endemics, with all birds being seen well and which was quite remarkable. Overall we saw a total of 264 birds with 112 lifers for the trip. So a very high success rate considering that some of the potential lifers were sea birds which we didn’t target seeing…
2014 [02 February] - David Karr
2014 [03 March] - Christopher Hall
…We start before dawn with a nice cup of tea and then stroll a short way from the lodge as birds like Oriental Magpie Robin begin to stir and start the new day with a sweet clear song, right in front of us. As the light improves more birds come into view including White-bellied Drongo and Shikra, a relative of our Sparrowhawk. We watch a bright yellow Black-hooded Oriole feed a youngster, while the same tree also produces Black Bulbul, Asian Paradise Flycatcher and Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, shortly followed by Green Imperial Pigeon, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Oriental White-eye, Forest Wagtail, Spotted Dove, Brown-headed Barbet, and the endemic Yellow-fronted Barbet….
2014 [03 March] - Inezia Tours
Visited sites (in chronological order): Kitulgala, Makandawa Rainforest Reserve, Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve, Wathurawa, Udawalawa National Park, Embilipitiya, Mirissa (whalewatch), Debarawewa Tank (roadside waterlily ponds), Weerawila Tank, Yala National Park, Surrey Estate (Bird Sanctuary), Nuwara Eliya, Horton Plains National Park, Victoria Park (in Nuwara Eliya), Kandy Lake, Temple of the Tooth (Kandy), Udawattakele Forest Reserve, Peradeniya Botanical Garden, river at Seeduwa, Anawilundaya Tank (RAMSAR site 1.5 hr north of Colombo)…
2014 [11 November] - Megan Edwards Crewe
...A pair of notoriously shy Sri Lanka Spurfowl with a chick scratched along a hillside, periodically serenading us with their loud duets. A trio of Black Bitterns posed in tall grasses alongside a tank full of lily pads. Three Crested Serpent-Eagles shared a thermal with a Black Eagle. A family of Sri Lanka Blue-Magpies dared each other to snatch bits of cheese sandwiches from our picnic shelter. Serendib Scops-Owls peered from leafy roosting spots. Gray-rumped Treeswifts perched like ornaments on a roadside tree, preening vigorously....
2014 [12 December] - Hans Matheve
...Sri Lanka Bush-Warbler (only 1 bird seen near the Arranga Pool and 1 heard along the World's End Trail - we didn't search for more), Sri Lanka Wood-Pigeon (at least 3 seen and some more heard along the World's End Trail - difficult to see with poor visibility), Sri Lanka White-eye (easily seen good numbers), Yellow-eared Bulbul (good numbers), Dull-blue Flycatcher (1 bird near the Arranga Pool), Hill Swallow (several birds seen foraging above the grasslands). A Leopard was seen crossing the road calmly only some 15m away - while on foot! - just next to the Arranga Pool....
2014 [12 December] - Mike Nelson
Sri Lanka is recognized as an easy birding destination as the island is quite small and easy to navigate. Roads are fairly good and the birding sites are quite accessible. There are still quite large areas of forest and the current 33 endemics and many regional (southern India and Sri Lanka) make a trip here quite appealing. Sri Lanka also has quite a rich cultural history and many historical sites are well worth visiting. With that in mind my wife and I spent twelve days touring the country. We hired a local guide who made arrangements for us and we had a local guide/driver with us the whole time...
2015 [01 January] - Deepal Warakagoda
...We had superb views of a an attractive red coloured woodpecker on coconut palms, which has been recently elevated to endemic status and now known as Lesser Sri Lanka Flameback (which is locally and aptly called the Red-backed Woodpecker).
2015 [02 February] - Christian Dortu
...The next day morning, our last birding session at Tissa with some stops going back to Colombo. Watercock, Black Bittern, Jungle Owlet and Brown Boobook are among the last birds of this trip.
2015 [02 February] - Richard Sutton
...We then drove back towards our hotel near Dambulla. This was surrounded by paddyfields and scrub. A late afternoon walk along a quiet side-road produced Asian Openbill, Black-headed Ibis, 3 Brown-headed Barbet, 2 Crimson-fronted Barbet (E), 6 Small Minivet, 1 Jerdon’s Leafbird, 1 Grey-breasted Prinia, 1 Ashy Prinia and 1 White-browed Fantail. This was getting a bit better.
2015 [02 February] - Sam Woods
...worked well with birds like Chestnutbacked Owlet, Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Whitefaced Starling, and Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Scaly Thrush.
2015 [04 April] - Chas Anderson
...Here too we enjoyed a nice diversity of waterbirds, including Pin-tailed Snipe, Wood Sandpiper, Purple Swamphen and Whiskered Terns, as well as a magnificent White-bellied Sea-eagle.
2015 [04 April] - Geoff Upton
...We were met by a driver when we arrived at Colombo in the early afternoon after an overnight flight. There followed a five-hour car journey to Kohadamodara, a tiny hamlet on the coast south of Ranna, which itself is a few miles east of Tangalle. En route we picked up the first birds – Indian pond herons, cattle egrets, house crows, Brahminy kites, white-throated kingfishers and peacocks – and my first ‘lifer’: black-headed ibis.
2015 [04 April] - Peter Ericsson
2015 [08 August] - Diederik van der Molen
We combined a family holiday (me, my wife and children 17 & 18 years old) with a birding trip.
2015 [11 November] - David Hoddinott
Sri Lanka is a remarkable sub-tropical birding island with friendly people, good infrastructure including roads and accommodations, delicious food, great national parks and a wealth of birds and mammals. There are 34 endemic bird species all of which are gettable and this is saying something, as a large part of the birding is done in forest habitat.
2015 [12 December] - Chris Townend
2015 [12 December] - Gergo Nagy
This journey was a two weeks independent birds and plants tour in Sri Lanka with a private car. Three of the team (Gergő, Ferenc and Sándor) are birdwatchers and one of the team (Kinga) is interested in plants. Beside these groups we tried to concentrate butterflies, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, too.
2015 [12 December] - Mike Hunter
What a difference 20 years makes, as there are now 33 officially recognised endemics, all but one from splits. Black-rumped Flameback is additionally expected to be split from its Southern Indian relative, which would take the total to 34.
2016 [01 January] - John Barkla
...We flew Thai Air through Bangkok to Colombo and spent the first day adjusting to the time difference and visiting the Museum. With my camera and binoculars safely locked in the hotel, we still managed to see some common birds, including Indian Cormorant, Indian Pond Heron, White-breasted Waterhen, Red-wattled Lapwing, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Brown-headed Barbet, Barn Swallow and both corvids, House Crow and Large-billed Crow...
2016 [01 January] - Sam Woods
...the tour was a complete success, with the entire set of 34 endemic bird species completed by our final morning of the tour, which included excellent looks at the toughest of these, Sri Lanka Thrush, and likewise, good looks at Sri Lanka Spurfowl...
2016 [01 January] - Wingspan Bird Tours
Our first stop was to look at a small wetland with rice fields where we found Brahminy Kite, Common Kingfisher, Spotted Dove, Hooded Oriole and some lovely Ashy-headed Woodswallows. Not long afterwards we made a stop for lunch when we noted White-bellied Drongo, Red-vented Bulbuls, Shikra and a couple of unidentified distant raptors....
2016 [03 March] - Erik Vikkelso Rasmussen
This report deals with a journey through Sri Lanka for two weeks in March 2016 by a group of four Danish birdwatchers. We have all travelled in the different parts of India a lot of times before from 2001 – 2011 and seen the most birds and some mammals there so this time we decided to visit Sri Lanka to pick up the many endemics.
2016 [03 March] - Tony Crocker
This trip was tacked to the end of an extended period of working in the Indian Ocean. I searched the net in order to locate operators based in part on those I had seen on previous short visits to Sri Lanka. I wanted to go in-country, as Sri Lanka is extremely good value but offshore operators tend to mark up outrageously. In the end, for several reasons, I chose Walk With Jith (walkwithjith.com).
Places to Stay
Hotel Sigiriya - Sigiriya
The Sigiriya rock, which is amongst the ten wonders of the world, is home to Hotel Sigiriya. Hotel Sigiriya has a serene rustic and inviting charm in a setting of ancient glory. Its cool woodland gardens echoes of birds-songs. A stunning view of the fifth century A.D Sigiriya Rock / Fortress, the World heritage site Citadel in the sky famed for its entrancing frescoes, lion stairway, Mirror wall and water gardens dominates the hotel…
Priyankara Hotel - Tissamaharama
After a five and half hours drive from Colombo to Tissamaharama the best stop is at Priyankara Hotel. Situated in the Tissa - Kataragama road just passing the picturesque Tissa tank Priyankara Hotel has much to offer than you can wish for on your holiday. All 26 rooms are specious and tastefully decorated. They have phones, hot and cold water, are air-conditioned and the private balconies overlooking the vast acres of paddy fields which are a host to an assortment of birds and wild animals…
Ceylon Bird Club
The objective of the club widened over the years to promoting the protection of bird species and subspecies, and the conservation of their habitats, in Sri Lanka. Towards this, the club strives to find out which bird taxa are threatened, monitors their survival and habitats, and conducts surveys. The Bundala National Park, the Annaiwilundawa Sanctuary and the Vankalai Sanctuary were designated as such and/or Ramsar Sites mainly owing to the club’s proposal, information and persuasion. Other sites are presently receiving similar attention by the CBC.
Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka
The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka was established in 1976 with six founder members. Currently FOGSL has over 800 active members. The FOGSL is a non-profit organization working primarily for conservation-through birds. The Organization conducts and promotes programmes such as research projects on birds, awareness and education programmes, special for school environmental programme, exhibitions, lecturers, field excursions to increase the commitment for bird conservation in Sri Lanka…
Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society
Twenty-five centuries ago Mahinda, a Buddhist monk and son of Emperor Asoka of India told the King of Ceylon: O Great King, the birds of the air and the beasts have an equal right to live and move about in any part of the island as thou. The land belongs to the people and all other beings; thou art only the guardian of it. Acting on these words, King Devanampiyatissa established the world's first wildlife sanctuary.
Wildlife Heritage Trust
Sri Lanka's leading biodiversity exploration and research institution and natural history publisher…
National Parks & Sanctuaries
The sanctuaries at Kumana 312 km. from Colombo, Wirawila 261 km. Bundala 259 km. and Kalametiya 224 km. are all lagoon locations in Sri Lanka's extreme south eastern coast. The Giant's Tank in the north western corner of the island is a huge ancient irrigation reservoir of 3,800 hectares. The coastal sanctuaries are exotically picturesque with combinations of lagoon, swamp, river, jungle, lake and plain. Large flocks can be found here of both resident and migrant aquatic birds. The highland sanctuaries at Udawattakele 118km. from Colombo and the Peak Wilderness 141km. are quieter but equally picturesque with wooded hills and secluded streams and have the added bonus of rare flora such as our unique Wesak Orchid as well as numerous species of rare butterflies. The Udawattakele Sanctuary is in the suburbs of Kandy, our picturesque and fascinating hill capital. The Peak Wilderness is situated on the slopes of Adam's Peak (Sri Pada); Sri Lanka's sacred mountain.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Endemism is high, particularly for birds with 19 (95%) of 20 species endemic to Sri Lanka present…
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
The Sinharaja Reserve is rich in bird life with an impressive 147 species recorded to date. It is also the only locality where 18 out of 20 birds species endemic to Sri Lanka may be viewed…
Sri Lanka presently has 2 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 7,607 hectares…
Forums & Mailing Lists
Bird Nest Wildlife Forum
The Bird Nest Wildlife forum is accommodating room to naturalist to share their knowledge, skills and Experience with others forum members. The forum represents Sri Lankan & Indian subcontinent region birding & nature interest community that specifically caters to recreational naturalist in the regent, further encourage welfare & conservators of wildlife through our web site.
To post to list: FOGsrilanka@yahoogroups.com
List contact: FOGsrilankafirstname.lastname@example.org
To subscribe to list: FOGsrilankaemail@example.com
This egroup is managed by the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (fogsl). All birders are welcome to join. The main purpose is to promote Birdwatching and Bird Conservation in Sri Lanka and announce fogsl activities. Subscribers are free to post messages pertaining to news, activities, bird sighting reports, issues and announcements particularly concerning the birds of Sri Lanka. The fogsl also uses this facility to discuss and to disseminate current issues and activites, in return as feedback and data collecting channel within its membership.
Bird & Wildlife Team
BLOGS from the leaders of this tour company including trip reports…
Explore Sri Lanka by Nishantha Ganeshapriya
Sri Lanka a land like no other is a pearl in the Indian Ocean. Blend of beautiful nature creations like sunny beaches, misty hills, rain forests, valleys etc. It is a Paradise for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts because of rich bio diversity. Number of endemic bird species can be observing in Sri Lanka. Sigiriya rock fortress, which is regards as the eighth wonder of the world, is a mirror to the ancient architecture.
Gallicissa - Amila Salgado
I am a bird watching and nature Tour Guide in Sri Lanka. My blog is about my birding and natural history travel notes and other commentary…
Wild Sri Lanka
A wildlife BLOG from Sri Lanka…