Sri Lanka is one of the best destinations in the world for bird watching tours and holidays. It is popularly known as a true paradise for all Bird Watching enthusiasts as it is home to 430+ species of birds; 23 endemic birds and 200+ migratory birds arriving from India, Siberia, Scandinavia and Western Europe.
What Makes Sri Lanka The Perfect Bird Watching Destination
Situated in the Indian Ocean, 10 degrees north of the equator, Sri Lanka is home to diverse weather conditions and natural habitats such as forests, grasslands and wetlands, making it a haven for bird lovers from all over the world. In addition, all the way from the central highlands to the rich lowland rainforests, Sri Lanka is a rare destination that makes it possible to see every country’s endemic species in one bird watching tour – making it a ‘must-have experience’ for any Birder!
Species of Birds
Sri Lanka is home to 430+ species of birds, of which 230+ birds are breeding residents that include 30+ species that are endemic to the country – including the Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Red-faced Malkoha, Serendib Scops-owl, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and Sri Lanka Scimitar-babbler. In addition Sri Lanka is home to 60+ subspecies of birds with a species endemism of 11%, making Sri Lanka one of the finest Bird Watching Tour destinations in the world!
Most of the resident species are shared with the Asian mainland; and a further 198 species have been recorded as migrants to the country, including the Openbill, Ibis, Heron, Egrets, Pelicans, Cormorant, Water-cock, Swamphen, Waterhen, Stilts, Duck and Grebe. Other localised but equally incredible species that spend the northern winter in Sri Lanka, include the Indian Pitta, Pied Thrush, Indian Blue Robin and Kashmir Flycatcher; as well as Asia’s most spectacular more widespread birds, including the Indian Peafowl, Spot-billed Pelican, and Black-necked and Painted Storks.
When is the best time to see them?
Bird watching tours typically begin before dawn and end before noon.
During August/ September the 200+ seasonal migratory birds arrive for the Winter.
However, with December being declared as ‘National Bird Month’ by the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka, (national affiliate of Bird Life International), many activities are organised during this month for the public.
Best Places for a Bird Watching Tour
The best places for bird watching in Sri Lanka are Ritigala and Habarana.
Ritigala is home to the Black-capped Bulbul, Black Bulbul, Brown-capped Babbler, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Black-naped Flycatcher, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Black Eagle, Crested Serpent & Crested Hawk Eagle, Common Hill Mynah, Indian Pitta, and the White-rumped Shama to name a few.
Habarana – situated in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, is an area surrounded by many lakes and is an incredible habitat for birds. As such it is one of the prominent bird watching hotspots in Sri Lanka and even offers holiday-goers hot air ballooning tours for a bird’s eye view of the island’s bird life.
Bird Parks and Sanctuaries
There are many bird sanctuaries that can be visited around the island – however, the main bird sanctuary in Sri Lanka is the Kumana National Park which is known as one of the most important nesting and breeding grounds in Sri Lanka.
The second most widely popular bird watching tour destination is Bundala national Park located at the southernmost tip of the bird migratory route.
Other sanctuaries include Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary, Sinharaja Rain Forest, Nuwara Eliya, Bodhinagala Forest Reserve, Peak Wilderness Sanctuary, Kitulgala Forest Reserve, Yala National Park, Wilpattu National Park Udawatte Kele, Udawalawe, and Wasgamuwa
Rain Forests and Forest Reserves
The Sinharaja Rain Forest (UNESCO World Heritage Site) is a magnificent area of pristine tall forests and wooded hills, known as the “Kingdom of the Lion”. World-renowned as a biodiversity hotspot it is also the number one site in the country for sighting Sri Lankan endemic birds.
What you may spot: Spurfowl, the Red-faced Malkoha, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, White-faced Starling, Sri Lanka Myna, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Plum-headed Parakeets, Black-hooded Cuckooshrike, and Sri Lanka Hanging-Parrot.
Lakes, Mangroves, Rivers
Tissamaharama and the Bundala National Park (RAMSAR site) is known as a hotspot for migratory waterbirds.
What you may spot: Jungle Owlet and Jerdon’s Leafbird, the rare Watercock, Black and Yellow Bitterns, or Cotton Pygmy-Goose, and shore-birds such as the Small Pratincole, Red-necked Phalarope, Eurasian Curlew, Kentish, Little Ringed and Common Ringed Plovers, Curlew Sandpiper, and Little Stint.
Udawalawe National Park offers you a glimpse of a mix of songbirds and waterbirds.
What you may spot: Waterbirds are likely to include the Spot-billed Pelican and Painted Stork; surrounding scrub and woodland are likely to include Marshall’s Iora, Sri Lanka Woodshrike, or the Yellow-eyed Babbler.
Few Tips and Hints for Birdwatching In Sri Lanka
Remember to pack your bird watching equipment such as binoculars, your field journal or life list, birding vest, comfortable footwear for trekking and walking, a brimmed hat and perhaps a bird song app.
Keep in mind patience and silence is a given and of course, following your local Guide’s instructions.Grab your birding equipment and come to Sri Lanka for a truly memorable Bird Watching experience and let your wildest dreams take flight!
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