Birds of Sri Lanka
There are many Birds sanctuaries across the little island 270 km by 140 km in size. Kumana is situated in east Coast, Bundala, Kalamatiya are is in the southern coast. Sinharaja Rain Forest, Udawatta Kele, Horton Plains, Bellanwila, Muthurajawela, Minneriya, Kitulgala, Minipe , Yala and Udawalawe National Parks are other important Bird watching locations. In additions you can see Birds throughout the country in pockets of forests, lakes, lagoons and river side’s during your travel.
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 118 km. from Colombo and the Peak Wilderness 141 km. 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 Udawatta Kele Sanctuary is in the suburbs of Kandy, our picturesque and fascinating hill capital.
Sinharaja Rain Forest
One of the most important natural habitats in Sri Lanka, the Sinharaja rainforest offers a huge diversity of species both flora and fauna with a large proportion of those being indigenous to the country and some more specifically endemic to Sinharaja itself. However, a permit is required to enter the reserve. A forest guide will be provided by the Forest Department. The ticket office at Kudawa can be reached by a car but a four-wheel-drive vehicle with a high ground clearance is needed to reach the forest entrance from which point bird watching has to be done on foot. The paths are well defined but one has to be mindful of the leeches, especially during the rainy season. Sinharaja is famous for its mixed feeding bird flocks and a number of endemic Birds can be observed during the walks across the forest.
Basic accommodation is provided by the Forest Department for those interested in staying overnight but it has to be arranged prior to the visit from the head office at Jayanthipura, Battaramulla. There are also a few private guest houses, which would provide meals and accommodation. There is an entry into the reserve from Deniyaya as well.
Birds: Green-Billed Coucal, Red-Faced Malkoha, Ceylon Blue Magpie, Rufous Babbler, Ceylon Hill Mynah, Ashy-Headed Laughingthrush, White-Headed Starling, Yellow-Fronted Barbet, Spot-Winged Thrush, Scaly Thrush, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Ceylon Spur Fowl, Crimson-Backed Woodpecker, Ceylon Crested Drongo, La yard’s Parakeet, Ceylon Green Pigeon, Ceylon Lorikeet, Serendib Stops Owl, Ceylon Bay Owl, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Chestnut Backed Owlet, Ceylon Frogmouth, Legge’s Flower pecker, Scimitar Babbler, Ceylon Trogon, Black Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagles, Hawk Eagles, Crested Honey Buzzard and many more.
Within the Nuwara Eliya district and the only National Park located in the Hill Country, this boats some superb panoramic scenery, with the famous World’s End a major attraction. Endemic loris and purple monkey are among the important animal species, as well as sambur and endemic avifauna.
The park covers an area of 3,160 hectares of montane grassland fringed and interspersed with patches of dense montane cloud forests. This park and the adjoining Peak Wilderness form the most important catchment area for almost all the major rivers in the country. Three major rivers including the longest, Mahaveli (335km), Kelani and Walawe originate from the within the park itself. Kirigalpotta (2,389m) and Thotupalakanda (2,357m) being the second and the third highest mountains in the country respectively are situated within this park. This is also the highest plateau of the country, being above 5,000 feet, and the western slopes of the park support the most extensive area of montane cloud forests surviving in the country.
The park comes under the purview of the Department of Wildlife Conservation and a permit is required to enter the park. There are motorable roads as well as footpaths to different locations in the park including the popular “World’s End” as referred by locals, which is a vertical drop of 884m, and the picturesque Bakers falls etc. Most of the species of hill Birds can be easily seen here during any walk in the park which is through forested areas, grasslands and streams. A walk to the “worlds end” is also through pristine hill bird habitat. There are bungalows as well as camp sites inside the park which have to be per-booked with the DWLC.
Birds: Ceylon Warbler, Ceylon Whistling Thrush, Ceylon Wood Pigeon, Dusky Blue Flycatcher, Scaly Thrush, Spotted-winged
Thrush, Ceylon Rufus Babbler, Ceylon Blue Magpie, Ceylon Hill White Eye, Pied Bush Chat, Kashmir Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Common Buzzard Brown Baza, Yellow-Eared Bulbul, Black-Winged Kite, Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle etc.
About lkm (0.6 miles) east of Trinity College, off Wewelpitiya Road, this is one of Sri Lanka’s more accessible bird sanctuaries. It is a stretch of wilderness only a stone’s throw from the city center with towering forest giants and creepers giving shelter to bird species including Layard’s parakeet, Sri Lanka hanging parrot, yellow-fronted barbet, black capped bulbul, emerald dove, three species of kingfisher, chestnut-headed bee eater and Tickells’s blue fly catcher. It is also the home of scores of macaque monkeys, and huge, vividly painted butterflies float across the paths.
How to get there: Colombo – Kegalle – Kandy – take the road which goes up past the president’s house to reach the entrance.
Udawatta Kele is managed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation, 119 hectares in extent and protected as a forest reserve by the Forest Department. This is a very popular site among the birders in Kandy area. Vehicles are not permitted and tickets have to be obtained to enter the sanctuary. This is a tall, wet evergreen forest. The lake within the sanctuary attracts many species of Birds that feed on fish.
Birds: Indian Three-Toed Kingfisher, Stork-Billed Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Brown Fish Owl, Forest Eagle Owl, Wood Owl, Common Hill Mynah, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Green Leaf & Large-Billed Leaf Warblers, Layard’s Flycatcher, Paradise Flycatcher, Brown-Capped Babbler, Crimson-Backed Woodpecker, Yellow-Fronted Barbet, Layard’s, Black-hooded Oriole, Alexandrine & Blossom- Headed Parakeets, Ceylon Lorikeet, Indian Pitta and many more.
There is 55 acre forest with a variety of trees, some 100 years or more in age, around the Kandalama tank including medicinal plants and a rich and varied bird life. Kandalama offers one of the best bird watching opportunities in the north central province.
The diversity in habitat and the tank provides the visitors the opportunity to observe more than 145 species, which is almost one third of total number of bird life in Sri Lanka. This population consists of the arboreal, terrestrial and aquatic Birds. One can also observe many waders and raptors too.
Knuckles Wilderness Bird Sanctuary
Lying 25km east of the city of Kandy, the Knuckles mountain range exists as a unique ecosystem separate from the rest of the central hills. Covering a distance of about 12 miles Knuckles extends roughly from the northwest to the southwest of Sri Lanka. Over 120 bird species recorded here include many endemic ones including the yellow-fronted barbet, dusky-blue flycatcher, ceylon lorikeet, ceylon grackle, yellow-eared bulbul and Layard’s parakeet.
This very scenic forest reserve with its high cliffs and ridges is approximately 21,000 hectares in extent and is under the purview of the Forest Department. It is threatened by the plantation of Cardamoms and encroachments. Knuckles region is a good place to see raptors as well as forest Birds. One that can be recommended for observation of Birds is the road from “Loolwatta” passing “Corbett’s Gap” to an ancient village called “Meemure”. A bungalow managed by the Forest Department and few privately owned bungalows are available for overnight stay.
Birds: Mountain Hawk Eagle, Black Eagle, Crested Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Shahin Falcon, Rufus-Bellied Hawk Eagle, Crested Honey Buzzard, Blue Magpie, Ceylon Whistling Thrush, Ceylon Scimitar Babbler, Dusky B Flycatcher, Ceylon Wood Pigeon, Ceylon Hill White Eye, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Spotted-Winged Thrush etc.
Kithulgala Forest Reserve
The Kithulgala forest is a secondary rain forest situated beside the Kelani River, one of our longest rivers. There is a tributary flowing through the forest to this river. The forest reserve has a high biodiversity. Though it is mostly secondary forest, it’s faunal and floral diversity is very similar to a primary forest. Wild boar, Toque Macaque, Purple faced leaf monkey, and Barking deer are some of the interesting mammal species. Among the interesting bird species Red faced Malkoha, Ceylon Blue Magpie, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Frog Mouth and Layard’s Parakeet are outstanding.
The forest lies along the Kelani River opposite the Kitulgala Rest House. The river has to be crossed to enter the forest. A dugout canoe stabilised with an outrigger is available at a fee for crossing the river. Besides, the same can be reached by birders on the footpath that extends through the village. Anyway, this forest which is about 1,155 hectares in extent is protected as a Forest Reserve which comes under the purview of the Forest Department. There are many places to stay overnight along the Avissawella-Hatton main road including the Rest House. These have to be booked beforehand.
Birds: Green-Billed Coucal, Ceylon Lorikeet, Layard’s Parakeet, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Chestnut-Backed Owlet, Ceylon Blue Magpie, Ceylon Jungle & Ceylon Spur Fowl, Ceylon Frogmouth, Ceylon Crested Drongo, Broad-Billed Roller, Spotted-Winged Thrush, Yellow-Fronted Barbet, Black-Naped Monarch, Common Hill Mynah, Crested Serpent Eagle, Hawk Eagle, Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle etc.
Minneriya – Giritale National Park
This area was declared as a sanctuary in 1938 and upgraded to a national park in 1997. The park is 8,885 hectares in extent and the core of the park holds one of the country’s most diverse ecosystems comprising intermediate forests, savannahs etc. The tank supports a wide variety of waterfowls. The vegetation consists of dry mixed evergreen forests, abandoned chena cultivation lands, grasslands and wetlands. The park is famous for elephants that can be sighted gathering on the dried exposed lake shore during the dry season.
Openbill Stork, Painted Stork, White-Necked Stork, Great Stone Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Crested Serpent & Crested Hawk Eagles, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Blue-Tailed Bee-Eater, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle, Golden Plover, Spoonbill, White Ibis, Stork-Billed Kingfisher, White-Rumped Shama.
Situated surrounding a Buddhist monastery, this tropical rain forest is rich in fauna and flora and is a good birding venue in the western province, close to Colombo. There are close to 150 species of Birds recorded including several endemics such as Legge’s Flowerpecker, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Spot-winged Thrush and the endangered Green-billed Coucal. Some of the other Birds recorded here include Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Large Cuckooshrike and Indian Blue Robin. Some of the reptiles recorded here are Earless Lizard and Humped-nosed Lizard. You can also see a wide diversity of butterflies which includes Yamfly, Malayan, Tawny Rajah and Cingalese Bushbrown. You could also see many fish species such as Giant Danio, Smooth-breasted Snakehead, Horadandiya and the rare Jonklaas’s Loach.
Kalmateiya Bird Sanctuary
The Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest Bird Sanctuaries . The sanctuary is a wetland with two salty lagoons, mangrove swamps and open areas with pockets of scrub jungles. A mature mangrove swamp, home to a variety of water Birds. The best time to see Birds is from November to March. You can also see herds of Elephants.
This is a haven for many species of resident as well as migrant water Birds including many species of migrant ducks. The area is protected as a sanctuary by the Department of Wildlife Conservation and is 712 hectares in extent. The area is primarily covered with reed beds, water bodies, grass fields, marshes etc., which can be approached using the network of roads across the sanctuary. Currently permits are not required to enter the area and bird watching sites can be reached by vehicle.
Birds: Glossy Ibis, White Ibis, Painted Snipe, Large Sand Plover, Ruddy Turn Stone, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Water Cock, Ruddy-Breasted Crake, Pintail, Gargany, Black-Winged Stilt, Little Pratincole, Alpine Swift, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Wood, Common & Green Sandpipers.
Bird Watching – Colombo
Situated 11 km. from the Colombo, the Zoo has a fine collection of animals, Birds, reptiles and fish from all over the world. The aquarium is the only one of its kind in Asia and displays over 500 varieties of aquatic life. Also walk in through Aviary, Reptilium, Butterfly Park. There are daily elephant performance at 5.15 p.m.
Kanneliya Bird Sanctuary
This is a large rainforest which is 6,114 hectares in extent. Even though it offers a rich habitat for many species of Birds and is rich in biodiversity, much of the area is covered mostly by secondary forest. It is protected as a Forest Reserve and comes under the purview of the Forest Department. Inside the forest are wide paths for a distance of about 2 km to walk and watch Birds. Basic accommodation is available for overnight stay in the forest but booking has to be made at the head office of the Forest Department situated at Jayanthipura, Battaramulla.
Birds: Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Yellow-Fronted Barbet, Green-Billed Coucal, Ceylon Jungle & Spur Fowl, Ceylon Bay Owl, Chestnut-Backed Owlet, Ceylon Blue Magpie, Scimitar Babbler, Black-Capped, Yellow-Browed Bulbuls, Black Bulbuls, Spot-Winged Thrush, Crimson-Backed, Woodpecker, Lesser-Yellow-Naped Woodpecker, Brown-Capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Chestnut-Headed Bee-Eater, Black Eagle, Crested Eagle, Hawk Eagle and many more.
Peak Wilderness Bird Sanctuary
Peak Wilderness was declared as a sanctuary in 1940 and is 22,379 hectares in extent. In 2010 it was declared as a World Heritage Wilderness Area considering the biological and ecological importance of this largely intact forest which ranges from 700m 1500m. This is a very important area in Sri Lanka for the conservation of the endemics; flora and fauna. The peak wilderness also supports the last remaining remnant wet zone elephant population in the country. This forest was cut off from the lowland forests by land clearing during the turn of the last century and therefore these elephants have been isolated in this mountainous terrain. It is estimated that 30-50 animals, sufficient in number to maintain a viable population still occur in these forests.
All the footpaths to the Adam’s Peak are through this forest and many species of Birds can be seen during the season as well as off season. This mountain walk begins from a wet evergreen forest and goes all the way up to a montane cloud forest. Even though this involves a strenuous climb many species of Birds that are found at different altitudes can be observed. Though accommodation is available in and around Nallathaniya for overnight stay, there are only a very few such places available around Eratna.
Birds: LOWER ELEVATIONS: Ceylon Blue Magpie, Ceylon Rufus Babbler, Ashy-Headed Laughing thrush, La yard’s Parakeet, Ceylon Green Pigeon, Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Ceylon Crested Drongo, Ceylon Trogon, Orange Minivet, Green-Billed Coucal, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Ceylon Spur Fowl and many more.
HIGHER ELEVATIONS: – Ceylon Whistling Thrush, Yellow-Eared Bulbul, Ceylon Hill White Eye, Grey-Headed Flycatcher, Ceylon Black Bird, Dusky Blue Flycatcher, Ceylon Wood Pigeon, Scaly Thrush, Mountain Hawk Eagle and many more.
Galway’s Land Bird Sanctuary
This is a small but well-preserved patch of montane forest that offers habitat for many species of hill Birds. This national park is only 29 hectares in extent out of which 28 hectares are reserved for the bird sanctuary which is under the purview of the Department of Wildlife Conservation. A permit is required to walk into the park. Accommodation is available at many hotels in the vicinity.
Birds: Black Bird, Ceylon Warbler, Yellow-Eared Bulbul, Dusky Blue Flycatcher, Grey-Headed Flycatcher, Ceylon Hill White Eye, Kashmir Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Grey Tit and many more.
Ingiriya / Bodhinagala Bird Sanctuary
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Nugegoda – Piliyandala – Horana – 4 km from Horana junction, look out for a board stating “Dombagaskanda Forest Hermitage (Aranya)” Follow the boards to the forest. (1 1/2 hours)
449 hectares in extent and protected as a forest reserve, this park is managed by the Forest Department. Within the forest is a Buddhist place of meditation and therefore being silent and behaving decently are of paramount importance. This forest is threatened by encroachments all around. However, one is able to walk for about 1 1/2 km inside the forest and also ascend a small hillock from where the surrounding forest canopy can be observed. There are well defined paths to walk as well as cement steps to climb the hillock. Though not as rich as some of the large forests reserves in terms of the diversity of Birds, this location is popular with the Colombo birders due to its proximity to the city.
Birds: Green-Billed Coucal, Ceylon Trogon, Ceylon Crested Drongo, Indian Three-Toed Kingfisher, Yellow-Fronted Barbet, Black-Capped, Yellow-Browed & Black Bulbuls, Legge’s Flower Peckker, Black-Naped Flycatcher, Large-Billed & Green Leaf Warblers, Ceylon & Green Imperial Pigeons, Brown-Capped & Black-Fronted Babblers and many more.
Labugama – Kalatuwawa Forest
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Maharagama – Kaluaggala – Turn Left – any roads can be taken to reach the borders of the forest. (1 hour)
This is a dominant wet zone evergreen rainforest which forms the catchment area of the Labugama and Kalatuwawa reservoirs that provide water to the city of Colombo. Managed by the Forest Department this forest is 2,150 hectares in extent and is the largest forest reserve close to Colombo where many wet zone endemic species can be sighted. As in other wet zone forests in the country, leeches are found here too and any excursion into the forest should be with adequate protection.
Birds: een-Billed Coucal, Indian Scimitar Babbler, Black-Fronted Babbler, Spotted-winged Thrush, Ceylon Trogon, Ceylon Crested Drongo, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Ceylon Small Barbet, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Ceylon Spur Fowl, Ceylon Green Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon, Brown-Capped Babbler, Red-Backed & Crimson-Backed Woodpeckers, Lesser Yellow-Naped Woodpecker, Black-Capped, Yellow-Browed & Black Bulbuls, La yard’s & Alexandrine Parakeets, Ceylon Lorikeet, Indian Three-Toed Kingfisher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Brown-Capped Pygmy Woodpecker etc.
Mithirigala Bird Sanctuary
Protected as a forest reserve and 512 hectares in extent, this forest also comes under the purview of the Forest Department. In this forest too is a Buddhist temple (Aranya). The earlier footpath adjacent to the forest leading to a village has now become a tarred road. During early morning, a walk on this road can be very rewarding and once walked for about 1 1/2 km there is a footpath to the left which leads to an open glade. Bird watching inside the forest hermitage area should be with the permission of the caretakers.
Birds: White-Rumped Shama, Ceylon Swallow, Ashy Swallow Shrike, Ceylon Lorikeet, Black-Capped, Yellow-Browed & Black Bulbuls, Ceylon & Green Imperial Pigeons, Alexandrine Parakeet, Brown-Capped & Black-Fronted Babblers, Black-Headed & Large Cuckoo Shrikes, Indian Three-Toed Kingfisher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Paradise Flycatcher, Black-Naped Flycatcher and many more.
Slagala Bird Sanctuary
This is a forested area wher a Buddhist place of workship is located similar to Bodhinagala . The foot path inside the forest is about 1/2 km. But the low country, tall forest is rich in bird life.
Birds: White-Rumped Shama, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Common Hill Mynah, Paradise Flycatcher, Yellow-Fronted Barbet, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Black-Naped Flycatcher, Ceylon Small Barbet, Black-Headed Cuckoo Shrike, Crimson-Backed Woodpecker and many more.
Talangama Tank & Marshe Bird Sanctuary
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Rajagiriya – Pelawatte – turn right and drivetowards Hokandara Junction – turn left about 150m before the junction on to the ITN TV station road and pass the ITN TV station — Turn right onto the tank road which will take you to the tank. (30 minutes)
This area consists of a large tank, marshes, ponds, well-wooded privet lands and a series of paddy fields with motorable roads through the area. The area can be explored on foot as well as by a vehicle. Many migrant waders and some forest Birds can be seen here, particularly, during the beginning and end of the migrant season. It is a popular site among birders due to its proximity to Colombo.
Birds: Stork-Billed, Common, Pied & White-Breasted Kingfishers, White Ibis, Lesser Whistling Teal, Common Moorhen, Brahminy Kite, Brown Shrike, Ceylon Swallow, Black Winged Stilt, Water Cock, Purple Heron, Gargeny, Common, Marsh & Wood Sandpipers, Yellow Wagtail, Indian Black Robin, Lesser Sand Plovers, Red-Wattled Lapwings, Purple Swamphen, Green Imperial Pigeon & Crested Honey Buzzard etc.
Sri Jayawardanapura Bird Sanctuary
How to get there: Colombo – Rajagiriya – 100m before the parliament, turn right on to “Japan Friendship Mawatha” – drive for about one km and you will come across some marshy areas on the left. (20 Minutes)
This area is protected as a sanctuary which comes under the purview of the Department of Wildlife Conservation and 449 hectares in extent. A walk on the footpaths along the marshes during early mornings, particularly during the migrant season, is worth for those interested in watching some local and migrant species.
It is also popular due to its close proximity to the city.
Lesser Whistling Teal, Black-Winged Stilt, Eurasian Golden Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Yellow Wagtail, Asian Openbill, Common Kingfisher, Spotted Dove, Pintail Snipe, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Black-Headed Oriole, Ashy & White Browed Prinia, White Breasted Water Hen, Purple Coot, Little Grebe, Wood & Common Sandpipers etc.
Bellanwila – Attidiya Site
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Nugegoda – Pepiliyana – drive towards Bellanwila Temple, as you pass the temple, turn to left and after 30 metres turn to right again. This road goes through the marshes. You can also go past the temple for about 200 metres and turn right towards the “Pump House” of the Water Resources Board from where a footpath of about 1/2 km extends into the marsh along the river.
This wetland which is 372 hectares in extent is protected as a sanctuary and is under the Department of Wildlife Conservation. Even though industrial wastes are released to the waterways that flow through the marsh, this, once a very rich wetland, still hosts many interesting species of Birds.
Birds: Lesser Whistling Teal, Asian Openbill, Purple Heron, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Pallas Grass Hopper Warbler, Ashy- & White-Browed Prinia, White Ibis, Black-Headed Oriole, Purple Coot, Water Cock, Common, Pied, White-Breasted & Stork-Billed Kingfishers, Black Winged Stilt, Spot Billed Pelican, White-Breasted Water Hen, Ruddy Crake etc.
Victoria, Randenigala and Rantambe Bird Sanctuary
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Kegalle – Kandy – Tennekumbura Bridge – Go straight to reach Raja Mawatha which goes through the Sanctuary. (4 1/2 hours)
This is the catchment area for the Victoria, Randenigala and Rantambe reservoirs that were built under the accelerated Mahaweli Development Scheme. The area enjoys protection as a sanctuary which comes under the purview of the Department of Wildlife Conservation and is 42,087 hectares in extent. The forested hills and the valleys as well as the large reservoirs and rivers make this area suitable for many species of forest Birds and raptors. Accommodation is available at some private hotels and Mahaveli Bungalows.
Birds: Thick-Billed Flowerpecker, Black-Headed Cuckoo Shrike,Large Cuckoo Shrike, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Orange Minivet, Indian Pitta, Ceylon Swallow, House Swift, Forest Eagle Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Black Eagle, Rufous-Bellied Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent & Crested Hawk Eagles, Black-Winged Kite, Crested Honey Buzzard, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Rufus Woodpecker, Common lora, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Green Leaf & Large-Billed Leaf Warblers and many more.
Bundala Bird Sanctuary
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Ratnapura – Pelmadulla – Godakawela – Thimbolketiya – Embilipitiya – Turn left at Padalangala – Sisilassagama – Weligatta. Then turn right – Park Entrance is about 3 km away (6 hours)
Bundala is the first site in the country to get Ramsar status and is the most important site for resident as well as migrant water Birds outside the northern part of the country. It is managed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation. It was declared as a sanctuary in 1969 and received Ramsar status in 1990. The park consists of 6,216 hectares of dense thorny scrub, sand dunes and five shallow brackish lagoons. The road network inside the park allows the birder to visit much bird sites located within the park in a vehicle. The Bundala Saltern which is adjoining the park has a few motorable roads and is a locality where thousands of migrant waders can be observed during the season. There are no bungalows inside the park but a few campsites are available in the park. Accommodation is available at private guest houses at Weligatta and Hambantota.
Birds: Greater Flamingo, Pintail, Gargeny, Shoveller, Little Stint, Ruddy Turnstone, Common, Wood & Marsh Sandpipers, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Pratincole, Black-Winged Stilt, Caspian Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Gull-Billed Tern, Little Tern, Great Stone Plover, Little-Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Stone Curlew, Spot-Billed Pelican, Spoonbill, Broad-Billed Sandpiper, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Ruddy Crake, Black-Backed Yellow Woodpecker, Yellow-Fronted Pied Woodpecker, Hoopoe, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Marshall’s lora and many more.
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo - Negombo - Chilaw - turn right at the Chilaw Rest House and go along the coast road to reach the sandspit. Towards the end the surface of the road becomes very sandy and thus it is advisable to park vehicles well in advance if it is not four-wheel drive. (2. Hours)
This is a location on the beach next to an estuary and is very good for waders like Terns and Gulls. The main sandspit is to the right of the main land and can be reached by a very short boat ride across the river. Meals and accommodation are available at the Chilaw Rest House which is the only such place close to the site.
Birds: Sanderling, Common Tern, Little Tern, Lesser-Crested Tern, Great-Crested Tern, and Brown-Headed Gull, Heuglin’s Gull, Terek Sandpiper, Whimbrel, and Eurasian Curlew and many more. Rare species such as Oyster catcher, Sandwich Tern etc., have been recorded from this location.
Anavilundawa Bird Sanctuary
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Negombo – Chilaw – Turn left at a small Buddhist shrine. Upon turning to this road the Anavilundawa Railway Station is on the right – Proceed one km to reach the tank. (2 1/2 hours)
This sanctuary comes under the Department of Wildlife Conservation. It is 1,397 hectares in extent and primarily a complex of large tanks and adjoining forest. The largest of the tanks holds a large breeding colony of Herons and other water Birds mainly during the months of April – June. The dominant species is the Openbill, Great Cormorant, White Ibis and a host of other species occurs here. A stroll on the bund of this tank will allow one to get close to the breeding colony. During the season many species of migrants can also be seen. Meals and accommodation for those interested in staying overnight are available at the Chilaw or Puttalam Rest House and private guest houses in the area.
Birds: Openbill, Purple Coot, Common Moorhen, Lesser Whistling Teal, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Stork-Billed, Common, Pied & White-Breasted Kingfishers, Gargeny, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle, Black-Winged Stilt, Cotton Teal, Indian Shag, Spoonbill, Large, Median & Little Egrets, Black-Backed Yellow Woodpecker, Brown Fish Owl and many more.
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Negombo – Chilaw – look for a board on the left “Nawadankulama” at 105th km Post – turn right – 3km to the tank. (3 hours)
This is a very large tank which dries during the dry season exposing large area of lake shore studded with small islands of trees and shrubs. This is the southernmost location in the country where some of the species which are commonly found in the northern part of the country such as the Collared Dove, Indian Grey Partridge can be regularly sighted. It is also a location favoured by large flocks of migrant ducks. One could walk on the bund as well as drive down to the dried up tank shore. Meals & accommodation are available at the Puttalam Rest House and some private hotels.
Birds: Collared Dove, Indian Grey Partridge, Pintail, Gargeny, Osprey, Black-Tailed Godwit, Wood Sandpiper, Little Grebe, Cotton Teal, Common Coot, Brown Fish Owl, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Crested Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black-Backed Yellow Woodpecker, Golden-Backed Woodpecker, Pied Kingfisher, Orange-Breasted Green Pigeon, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Blue-Faced Malkoha, Indian Pitta, and Crested Tree Swift.
Wilpattu National Park
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Negombo – Chilaw – Puttalam – Tabbowa – turn left at the Wilpattu Name Board few Kilometres before the Nochchiyagama town. (4 hours)
131,693 hectares in extent Wilpattu is the largest national park in the country,. The main topographical feature in Wilpattu is the concentration of “Villus” or lakes within the park. These water bodies though looking similar to lakes are formed by flat basin like depressions with the surface containing pure rain water.
The park is unique as there are a number of these with large sandy lake shores (Villus) which provide the animals with a continuous water supply during the dry season. Two of these “Villus” are salty due to a characteristic of t e soil. A permit is needed to be purchased at the entrance and a game guard is also provided. Except at a few locations, visitors are not permitted to get off their vehicles. This is a very scenic park. There are bungalows in the park which have to be booked in advance through the Department of Wildlife Conservation. There are a few privately owned bungalows also outside the park.
Birds: Brown-Capped Babbler, White-Rumped Shama, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Pintail Snipe, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Black-Tailed Godwit, Great Stone Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Ceylon Green Pigeon, Orange-Breasted Green Pigeon, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Racket-Tailed Drongo, Forest Eagle Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Black-Backed Yellow Woodpecker, Rufus Woodpecker, Golden-Backed Woodpecker, Hoopoe, Common Kestrel, Crested Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle, Ceylon Frog Mouth etc.
Mannar and Vankalai Bird Sanctuary
This is one of the most important areas located in the north of the country for the migrating waterfowl. 4,800 hectares inextent, this important habitat was protected and declared as a sanctuary in 2008 upon a proposal presented to the Department of Wildlife Conservation after a four year study conducted by the members of the Ceylon Bird Club. During the study the members discovered that the Indian Spot-Billed Duck, a species which was considered a very rare migrant with a history of only a handful of records breeding in this area.
This is an arid locality with seasonal water bodies, marshes, lakes, mudflats, thorny scrub, salt marshes, swamps, mangroves, coastal lagoons and sea grass beds. Some of the migrant water fowl species which are commonly seen here are seldom seen in the south of the country. This good spotting scope is of immense value to the avid birder who wants to study many species of waders found at the causeway as well as the many water bodies in Mannar. There are no hotels yet for overnight stay. The overnight accommodation available is mostly the rooms of the houses rented out by the owners.
Birds: Indian Spot-Billed Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Avocet, Common Teal,Northern Shoveller, Pintail, Gargeny, Greater Flamingo, Crab Plover,Oystercatcher, Red Knot, Great Knot, Ruff, Indian Grey Partridge, Lesser Crested Tern, Great Crested Tern, Caspian Tern, White-Winged Black Tern,Little Tern, Great Black-Headed Gull, Heuglin’s Gull, Brown Headed Gull, Common Coot, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Kentish Plover, Black Drongo, Rufous Rumped Shrike, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Long-tailed Shrike, Montague’s Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Golden-Backed Woodpecker and many more.
As indicated by the name this is a very large expanse of water most of which dries up during the non-rainy season. The tank and part of the adjacent forest which is 4,330 hectares in extent are protected as a sanctuary that comes under the Department of Wildlife Conservation. Being atop the blind which is by the road, Birds can easily be watched or else boating round the tank. There are no suitable places around the sanctuary to stay other than Mannar.
Birds: Openbill, Common Coot, Pheasant-Tailed Jacana, Cotton Teal, Rufous-Rumped Shrike, Black Drongo, Collared Dove, Pintail, Cinnamon Bittern, Gargeny, Kestrel, Great Cormorant, Striated Weaver, Baya Weaver, Spot-Billed Pelican, Purple Coot etc.
Jaffna Peninsula Bird Sanctuary
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Kurunegala – Dambulla – Mihintale – Medawachchiya – Vavuniya – Kilinochchi – Elephant Pass – Jaffna. (8-9 hours)
The Jaffna Peninsula with its numerous water bodies has always been a haven for migrant waterfowl. The many water bodies that teem with migrant waterfowl become dried-up grasslands during the non-migrant season. It is this grass that the “upending” ducks feed on so voraciously during their stay here. Kayts, Manalkadu at Point Pedro as well as the Avranghal Plains and the Kaithardy Bridge are some of the more important localities which should be visited by a bird-keen visitor to the peninsula. There are many places which provide meals and accommodation in Jaffna.
Birds: Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveller, Common Teal, Pintail, Gargeny, Great Black-Headed Gull, Heuglin’s Gull, Greater Flamingo, Whimbrel, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Black-Tailed Godwit, Grey Francolin, Golden-Backed Woodpecker, Indian Grey Partridge, Collared Dove, Black Drongo, Eurasian Curlew, Terek Sandpiper, Black Kite, Osprey etc.
Chundikulam Bird Sanctuary
This used to be one of the most popular bird sanctuaries in the north of the country. It is 11,149 hectares in extent and comes under the purview of the Department of Wildlife Conservation. It is primarily the lagoon and the surrounding area. This area was not accessible during the past three decades due to the armed conflict and currently the armed forces are engaged in clearing the landmines.
Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Common Teal, Pintail, Gargeny, Shoveller, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Black-Tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Common, Wood & Marsh Sandpipers, Terek Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Black-Winged Stilts, Brown-Headed Gull, Gull-Billed Tern, Ruff and many more.
Udawalawa National Park
It is famed worldwide for its large population of elephants. This is one of the popular national parks in the island and provides diverse habitat for many species of Birds. It lies both in the Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces and includes the Udawalawa reservoir and most of its catchment area as well. The park covers an area of 30,821 hectares and is supported by not only the large reservoir but one of the country’s major rivers which flow through the same. The ecosystem of the park is predominantly forest with large scattered areas of grasslands and thorny shrubs while tall forests exist mostly close to the river. There are bungalows for overnight stay inside the park and camping sites which have to be per-booked through the Colombo office of the Department of Wildlife Conservation. There are also many privately owned bungalows and guest houses around the park.
Birds: Large Prinia, White-Browed Prinia, Ashy Prinia, Franklins Prinia, Yellow-Eyed Babbler, White-Throated Babbler, White-Rumped Shama, Brown-Capped Babbler, Black-Fronted Babbler, Common & Marshall’s lora, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Blue-Faced Malkoha, White-Necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant Stork, Blyth’s Pipit, Crested Honey Buzzard, Crested Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black-Winged Kite, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle, Sirkeer, Hoopoe, Velvet-Fronted Nuthatch, Pied Flycatcher Shrike, Black-Capped Bulbul, Barred Bustard Quail, Indian Pea Fowl, Alpine Swift, House Swift, Great Stone Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Orange-Headed Ground Thrush, Forest Eagle Owl, Brown Wood Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Barn Owl, Little Scops Owl, Stork-Billed Kingfisher, Indian Pitta, Common Kingfisher, Openbill, Painted Stork, Spoonbill, Rosy Starling, Ceylon Jungle Fowl and many more.
Sigiriya Bird Sanctuary
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Warakapola – Turn Left – Kurunegala – Dambulla – Kimbissa – Turn Right – Sigiriya. (4 hours)
This is an area surrounding a very famous and regularly visited cultural site in the country. The sanctuary covers an area of 5,099 hectares of forest and water bodies around the Sigiriya rock. There are motorable roads around the site and towards Pidurangala. Many hotels and guest houses are available for meals and accommodation.
Birds: Shahin Falcon, Little Scops Owl, Indian & Long-Tailed Night-Jar, Forest Eagle Owl, Openbill, Ceylon & Orange – Breasted Green Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Orange-Headed Ground Thrush, Indian Blue Chat, Brown-Capped Babbler, White-Rumped Shama, Black-Capped Bulbul, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Brown Flycatcher, La yard’s Flycatcher, Orange Minivet, Small Minivet, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Crested Serpent & Crested Hawk Eagle, Blue-Faced Malkoha etc.
Lunugamavehera National Park
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Ratnapura – Pelmadulla – Godakawela – Sankapala – Turn left at the Udawalawa Junction and proceed along the national park – Tanamalwila – Turn right – Look for the park board – entrance is a few km from Tanamalwila Junction. (5 hours)
This is the immediate catchment area of the Lunugamvehera reservoir and is 23,498 hectares in extent, 14% being the reservoir. This park links the Yala protected area complex at its east and Udawalawa National Park at its west and was declared in 1995. The vegetation includes dry forests, open thorny scrub and grasslands. The large tank, small water bodies and waterways make this location very good for Birds. There are two bungalows for visitors interested in staying overnight inside the park and they have to be booked in advance from the DWLC head office in Colombo.
Birds: Chestnut-Headed Bee-Eater, Blue-Faced Malkoha, Spot Billed Pelican, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Painted Stork, White-necked Stork, and Marshall’s lora, Jungle Owlet Barred Bustard Quail, Indian Peafowl, Crested Honey Buzzard, Crested Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Indian Roller, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle, Indian Pitta and many More.
Yala National Park
HOW TO GET THERE
1) Colombo – Galle – Matara – Tangalle – Tissamaharama – Kirinda – Yala .
2) Colombo – Ratnapura – Pelmadulla – Kahawatta – Udawalawa Junction – Embilipitiya – Weligatta Junction – Turn right towards Bundala National Park – Kirinda – Yala. (5 ½ – 6 hours)
Yala or Ruhunu National Park is one of the best and most popular parks in the country due to its diversity and density of mammals. It consists of five blocks covering an area of 97,881 hectares. Block I which was established in 1938 covers an area of 14,101 hectares and it is widely used by tourists due to its very extensive network of roads. Block II was established in 1954, Block III in 1967, Block IV in 1969 and Block V in 1973. The vegetation of the park is primarily semi arid thorny scrub interspersed with riverine forests and fairly dense pockets of forests.
There are many places to stay just outside the park in Palatupana as well as a number of bungalows inside the park. These bungalows, as with the case of all national park bungalows, and camp sites have to be booked beforehand from the head office of the DWLC. A cook and a caretaker are provided and the visitors are required to take all the rations needed. As with almost all national parks, excluding the Horton Plains National Park, a permit and a guide should be obtained at the park.
Birds: Black-Necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant Stork, White-Necked Stork, Openbill, Hoopoe, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Orange-Breasted Green Pigeon, Rosy Starling, European Bee-Eater, Orange-Headed Ground Thrush, Blue-Faced Malkoha, Red-Backed, Black-Backed Yellow, Yellow-Fronted Pied and Brown-Capped Pygmy Woodpeckers, Indian Pitta, Lesser Whistling Teal etc.
Kumana – Yala East National Park
HOW TO GET THERE
1) Colombo – Ratnapura – Pelmadulla – Godakawela – Thimbolketiya – Udawalawa – Tanamalwila – Wellawaya – Moneragala – Pottuvil – Panama – Okanda (Park Office)
2) Colombo – Ratnapura – Pelmadulla – Balangoda – Haldummulla – Beragala – Koslanda – Wellawaya – Moneragala – Pottuvil – Panama – Okanda (Park Office) ( 7-8 hours)
The water bodies and mangroves of Kumana provide particularly a very important habitat for Birds. Block II of the park was established in 1969 and Block I in 1970. The. Total extent of the park is 18,149 hectares with Block I consisting of 17,863 hectares and Block II consisting only 265.3 hectares. The main feature, this park is renowned for is the 200-hectare mangrove swamp which teems with nesting Birds in May-June. It is surrounded by plains and jungle.
There are large saline lagoons along the coast, often surrounded by extensive plains. The vegetation is mostly semi-arid thorny scrub with large areas of dense forest. DWLC is in the process of rebuilding the bungalows in this park. The camp sites have to be pre-booked. There are many places to stay overnight in Arugambay/Pottuvil.
Birds: Lesser Whistling Teal, Spot-Billed Pelican, Openbill, Purple Coot, Pheasant-Tailed Jacana, Common Coot, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Black-Winged Stilt, Yellow-Wattled Lapwing, Jungle Owlet, Black-Necked, White-Necked & Painted Storks, Pintail, Garganey, Common Red Shank, Greenshank, Wood, Common & Green Sandpipers etc.
Wasgamuwa National Park
The accelerated Mahaweli Development Project resulted in the clearing vast areas of the forest and thus depriving many species of wildlife of its homelands. This park was established to conserve the biodiversity of the area. It was declared as a National Park in 1984 and the total area of the park is 33,766 hectares. The vegetation is tropical dry mixed evergreen forest with large open plains. The dense forest cover, the hilly ridges such as the “Sudukanda” range and well developed riverine forests make this park an important locality for avifauna.
There are campsites and bungalows inside the park which have to be booked beforehand From the DWLC office in Colombo.
Birds: Red-Faced Malkoha, Blue-Faced Malkoha, Red-Winged Crested Cuckoo, Ceylon Trogon, Indian Cuckoo, Drongo Cuckoo, Indian Pitta, White-Necked & Painted Stork, Striated & Baya Weavers, Crested Serpent & Crested Hawk Eagles, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle, Forest Eagle Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Little Scops Owl, Paradise Flycatcher, Thick-Billed Flowerpecker.
Gal Oya National Park
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Ratnapura – Pelmadulla – Godakawela – Udawalawa – Tanamalwila – Wellawaya – Moneragala – Inginiyagala.
This National Park was established in 1954 mainly to protect the catchment area of the Senanayake Samudra Reservoir and handed over to the Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1965. It is 25,900 hectares in extent. Approximately 45% of the park is covered with forests, 33% with savannah, 9% grasslands and the balance with water bodies. The park does not have any bungalows within its premises but the Department offers one bungalow which is situated outside the park at Ekgal Aru.
There are camp sites inside the park at Kossapola and “Makara”. The latter being on the sandy banks of the Gal Oya overlooking the reservoir is one of the most scenic places to camp. The savannah forest areas can be approached from the Bibile-Ampara road with a turnoff at Karandugala to reach the Nilgala Wildlife beat office.
Birds Painted Partridge, Jungle Bush Quail, Yellow-Legged Green Pigeon, Ceylon Frogmouth, Brown Fish Owl, Southern Sirkeer, Scaly-Bellied Woodpecker, Brown-Capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Ceylon Spur Fowl, Southern Sirkeer, Racket-Tailed Drongo, Crested Serpent & Crested Hawk Eagles, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle, Forest Eagle Owl, Fish Owl, Little Scops Owl, Paradise Flycatcher, and Thick-Billed Flowerpecker.
Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Warakapola – turn to the left on to Kurunegala Road – Kurunegala Dambulla – Habarana – turn to left on to the Anuradhapura Road – drive about 20 km and look for a road to the left with the name board to reach the beginning of the footpath.
This is a unique isolated mountain forest located in the dry zone but it holds many species of flora and fauna found in the wet zone. It is granted the highest protection by the Department of Wildlife Conservation as a Strict Nature Reserve. This extends over 1,528 hectares.
Birds: 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 White-Rumped Shama.
Kaudulla National Park
HOW TO GET THERE
Colombo – Warakapola – turn to the left on to Kurunegala Road – Kurunegala – Dambulla – Habarana – drive straight about 12 km and look for a road to the left to reach the park entrance.
This national park which is 6,900 hectares in extent and the Kaudulla Minneriya Jungle Corridor which is 8,777 hectares in extent are protected by the Department of Wildlife Conservation. The visitors are mostly those interested in observing elephants that gather on the lake shore to feed and drink at the reservoir. Anyway, the park is rich in bird life too.
Birds: Openbill Stork, Painted Stork, Great Stone Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Crested Serpent & Crested Hawk Eagles, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle, Great Thick-knee, Spoonbill, White Ibis, Stork-Billed Kingfisher.
Bird Watching in Sri Lanka Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world watch Birds. Sri Lanka is truly a paradise for Bird Watching in Sri Lanka, especially around the bird sanctuaries and wetland reserves in the south east of the island.