Situated off of the southern coast of India, Sri Lanka is a large tropical island. Due to its pearl shape, the island country is often referred to as the ‘pearl of the Indian Ocean’. This destination offers one of the best ways to experience the culturally rich Indian subcontinent.
Sri Lanka boasts flourishing flora and fauna. Due to favorable and diverse climatic conditions, avifauna thrives on this island. Sri Lanka has different locations exhibiting various exotic birds, making it a paradise for avid bird watchers.
In Sri Lanka, the total number of bird species amounts to over 430. Out of these, 233 are breeding residents, including 33 species that are recognized as endemic to the country. An additional 200 bird species are migratory birds, visiting Sri Lanka as they move away from Siberia, Scandinavia, and Western Europe.
There are suitable habitats for birds like forests, scrublands, grasslands, sea, wetlands, and agricultural lands in this small island country. A healthy population of birds thrives in these natural habitats, guaranteeing the sightings of Sri Lanka’s colorful birds. You can witness bird species of parrots, parakeets, fowls, malkoha, owl, hornbill, magpie, bulbul, starling, flycatcher, swallow, and many more.
Check out the 4 best birding places that showcase the vibrant avifauna of Sri Lanka:
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
The name ‘Sinharaja’ translates to lion kingdom. Sinharaja is one of the most important biodiversity spots in Sri Lanka. It is located approximately three hours away from Sir Lanka’s capital city, Colombo. According to IUCN, this reserve is the country’s last viable region of primary tropical rainforest. Here, more than 60% of the trees are endemic and many are even considered rare.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve garnered international recognition and was soon declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. Also known to be a national park, it is visited by locals as well as tourists due to its rich flora and fauna.
This tropical evergreen forest has 154 species of birds including 20 species of endemic birds. Moreover, you can also find mixed feeding foraging flocks, a term used for a flock of insectivore birds of different species that join each other and move together while foraging.
The most notable species of birds to admire at Sinharaja forest reserve are orange billed babbler, crested drongo, green billed coucal, Sri Lanka white-faced starling, wood pigeon, blue magpie, jungle fowl, and the elusive red-faced malkoha. Other endemic species such as Layard’s parakeet, Ceylon lorikeet, hanging parrot, ashy-headed laughing thrush, and more can be seen in the Sinharaja’s tropical forest.
Horton Plains National Park
The Horton’s National Park in Ohiya is a highland plateau set at an elevation of 7500 ft above sea level. Horton’s National Park along with the Knuckles Conservation Forest and the Peak Wilderness are protected areas of Sri Lanka’s highland which were declared as a world heritage site in 2006.
Horton plains are situated in the southern plateau of Sri Lanka’s central highlands and have a rich biodiversity. Among the distinctive mammals such as Sambar deer, Sri Lankan leopard, toque macaque, and the endangered red slender loris, Horton Plains is an important birding site as well.
This national park is one of the most beautiful birding spots as it is surrounded by towering mountains, clear streams, and colorful blooms.
The plains contain 21 endemic bird species such as Sri Lanka bush warbler, spurfowl, dull blue flycatcher, white-eye, and the junglefowl, Sri Lanka’s national bird. You can also enjoy sightings of a variety of migratory birds in Horton Plains like Crested serpent eagle, alpine swift, black-winged kite, and mountain hawk-eagle.
Bundala National Park
The Bundala National Park is located in the Southern Province near Hambantota. It was declared as a national park of Sri Lanka in 1993. Bundala also became the first-ever wetland in the country to be classified as a Ramsar site in 1991.
The landscape of this national park consists of thorny scrubland marshes, waterways, and dunes. Additionally, the wealth of brackish water lagoons in the park makes it an appealing destination for migratory birds.
Bundala boasts around 200 bird species out of which 150 are endemic while the rest are migratory. One of the most famous highlights are the flocks of over 1,000 greater flamingos who travel from India’s Raan of Kutch to Bundala. Other migratory birds include petite blue-tailed bee-eaters, brown flycatchers, barn swallows, waterfowl, and many more. Endemic birds such as Brown-capped babbler, Ceylon wood shrike, and junglefowl can also be seen in the park.
Aside from pink flamingos, there are many migratory aquatic and resident water birds in Bundala namely painted stork, ibis, terns, herons, egret, cormorant, and more.
Kitulgala Forest Reserve
The Kitulgala Forest Reserve is a secondary lowland rainforest that is gradually moving towards higher elevations. It is located near the serene village of Kitulgala and is home to the famous Kelani River. It is one of the wettest places in Sri Lanka as it receives two monsoons each year.
Also known as the Makandawa forest reserve, this region is slowly exploding with a rich ecosystem and is considered a hidden treasure spot in Sri Lanka.
In addition to scenic waterfalls, this forest reserve has diverse flora and fauna. It is the top place to spot the lowland bird species. There are 54 rare endemic species of birds in the reserve like chestnut-backed owlet, green-bill coucal, grey hornbill, yellow fronted barbet, Ceylon rufous babbler, Sri Lanka crested drongo, and many more. The newly discovered species of Serendip Scops owl was also discovered here along with the common hill myna.
The rainforest is also visited by numerous migratory birds like the crested goshawk, Basra reed warbler, and the mountain hawk-eagle.
When is the best time to spot birds in Sri Lanka?
Birding in Sri Lanka can be done all year round. However, if you are on the lookout for migratory birds, both terrestrial and aquatic species arrive in September or October and stay until April. On the other hand, Endemic birds can be spotted until July.
During your trip, keep these birding spots of Sri Lanka in mind to experience the country’s avifauna to the fullest.
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