Sri Lanka, a tropical island and rich in its bio-diversity attracts many migratory birds. Sri Lanka being located at the tip of the Indian peninsular makes it an easy destination for migratory birds of the subcontinent to "holiday" during the northern wintery months. The Island is known to have 439 species of birds recorded with 236 of them being resident and 203 being migrants (or visitors). Of the resident birds, 33 species are endemic to Sri Lanka along with 68 sub-species.
With three major climatic zones- wet to dry zone, forest to jungle, and hill country to low lands, and 30,000 natural or man-made lakes, Sri Lanka is a mini heaven for resident, migrant & vagrant bird species. Experiential traveller should have their cameras ready to capture the exotic birds in action.
Kumana National Park - Located within a 6-7 hour drive from Colombo/Airport Also known as Yala East, Kumana is a bird sanctuary due to the 'Kumana Villu' - a 200 hectare natural swamp lake that is present inside the park. Fed by the 'Kumbukkan Oya' through a narrow channel, the mangrove swamp attracts many water birds to nest in the months of May and June. Kumana offers sightings of pelicans, painted storks, spoonbills, white ibis, herons, egrets and little cormorants amongst 255 recorded bird species. The very rare black-necked stork also is known to have visited the swamp on a few occasions. Kumana is also home to some of the same wild life found in the Yala west national park, such as elephants and leopards. April to July is when tens of thousands of birds migrate to Kumana and a time for the birdwatcher to make a trip to the park! Some of the species that can be seen in Kumana are: Asian openbill, glossy ibis, purple heron, great egret, indian pond heron, black-crowned night heron, intermediate egret, little egret, spot-billed pelican, indian cormorant, little cormorant, common moorhen, watercock, purple awamphen, white-breasted waterhen, pheasant-tailed jacana, black-winged stilt, lesser whistling duck, little grebe, yellow-footed green pigeon, greater racket-tailed drongo, malabar trogon, red-faced malkoha, sirkeer malkoha, pacific golden plover, greater sand plover, lesser sand plover, grey plover, ruddy turnstone, little ringed plover, wood sandpiper, marsh sandpiper, common redshank, common sandpiper, curlew sandpiper, little stint, common snipe and pintail snipe.
Bundala National Park - Located within a 4-5 hour drive from Colombo/Airport Bundala is an important wintering ground for migratory water birds. Known to be home to 197 species of birds of which 100 are species of water birds, the most spectacular ones that visit Bundala are the Greater Flamingos. Bundala which was first designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1969 was re-designated as a national park in 1993. In 2005 the national park was named as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, making it one of four such biospheres reserves in Sri Lanka. Other birds that can be seen in Bundala are: lesser whistling duck, garganey, little cormorant, indian cormorant, grey heron, black-headed ibis, Eurasian spoonbill, Asian openbill, painted stork, medium sized waders, tringa subspecies, small waders, charadrius subspecies, black-necked stork, lesser adjutant and Eurasian coot,
Sinharaja Rain Forest - Located within a 2-3 hour drive from Colombo/Airport A UNESCO world Heritage site, Sinharaja Rain Forest Reserve is spread over 18,000 hectares of virgin rain forest, and is the largest remaining rain forest reserve in Sri Lanka. The 21km long, 7km wide (at the widest) and 3km wide at the narrowest points, Sinharaja consists of several rivers and streams. The area has a height range of 270 to 1,060m and a slope range of 100 to 350. The recorded rainfall has been in the range of 3,000 to 6,000mm. This natural beauty can be explored by trekking through the tropical lowlands where you will discover many of the over 147 recoded bird species and 45 recorded reptile species of which 21 are endemic. Of the bird species, 95 percent of the 23 endemic species are found in Sinharaja. Watching the mixed species of flocks of birds and their formations are one interesting experience Sinharaja can offer to the avid birdwatcher. Some of the birds that have been sighted in Sinharaja are: the white-eye, the scaly thrush, the wood pigeon, the dusky blue flycatcher, the yellow-eared bulbul, the red-faced malkoha, the Sri Lanka blue magpie, the Ashy-headed babbler and the white-headed starling.
Kalpitiya peninsular - Located within a 3 to 4 hour drive from Colombo/Airport Located on the West coast of the island, Kalpitiya offers one of the best views of the rarely seen pelagic. Due to the close proximity to the edge of the continental shelf and located parallel to the peninsula, Pelagics such as lesser noddy, brown noddy, brown-winged turns, wedge-tailed, flesh-footed and Persian shearwaters frequently visit the nutrient rich waters in Kalpitiya. The season for some of the migratory birds to descend on Sri Lanka is April during the South-west Monsoon. However on a stormy day, the pelagic can be observed from the shore as they drift from deeper waters towards the beach.
The Pelagics that can be seen in the Kalpitiya area are: Lesser noddy, brown noddy, flesh-footed and Persian shearwater, wedge-tailed shearwater, pomarine skua, Arctic skua, bridled tern, red-billed and white-tailed tropicbird, caspian, large-crested, lesser-crested, common, little and gull-billed terns.
Kalametiya - Located within a 3 to 4 hour drive from Colombo/Airport Kalametiya's flood plain, reed beds and mangrove forests around the lagoon make it the ideal home for a wide range of Sri Lanka's indigenous bird life. Kalametiya also attracts many species of migrant birds such as garganey and pintail duck, redshanks, godwits and snipe. The designated sanctuary of Kalametiya includes the Lunama and Kalamatiya lagoons, Karukalli Saltern and the surrounding marshy areas. Known to be home to 151 species of birds of which 54 are migratory, there are 4 nationally threatened birds - Indian reef heron, glossy ibis, Sri Lankan jungle fowl and black-capped purple kingfisher "living" in the Sanctuary. In addition, 38 species of reptiles, 41 species of fish, 20 species of mammals, and a large number of flora have been recorded.
Kitulgala - Located within a 2 hour drive from Colombo/Airport With a secondary rain forest with Kelani River as the feeder, bird species spotted in Kitulgala include the Ceylon blue magpie, oriental dwarf kingfisher, lanyards parakeet and the red faced malkoha. Kitulgala is also known to be home to many of the country's endemic bird species such as Sri Lanka orange-billed babbler and chestnut-backed owlet as well as a variety of butterflies. The hilly areas are known to have sightings of the mountain hawk eagle, crested treeswift and the layard's parakeet while the more open areas are better known for the sightings of Sri Lanka spurfowl, green-billed coucal and the spot-winged thrush. Some of the bird species that are known to site Kitulgala are: black eagle, rufous-bellied eagle, Ceylon spurfowl, Ceylon junglefowl, Ceylon green-pigeon, Ceylon hanging-parrot, layard's parakeet, green-billed coucal, serendib scops-owl, chestnut-backed owlet, brown hawk-owl, Ceylon frogmouth, black-backed dwarf kingfisher, Ceylon swallow, Ceylon grey hornbill, yellow-fronted barbet, black-capped bulbul, gold-fronted leafbird, spot-winged ground-thrush, legge's flowerpecker, brown-capped babbler, Ceylon rufous babbler, Ceylon hill-myna and Ceylon crested drongo.
Muthurajawela – Located within a 45 min drive from Colombo/Airport Muthurajawela marsh was declared a sanctuary in 1996 for the abundance of bio diversity it offers. Located in the southern part of Negombo and stretching from the Negombo lagoon up to the Kelani river bordering Colombo, the marsh is home to 102 species of bird life. It is also known to be home to 192 varieties of flora as well as 209 types of fauna. Popular for early morning bird watching, many visitors have sighted the egrets and the herons in addition to the endangered slender Loris, a nocturnal species. Udawattakale – Located within a 3 hour drive from Colombo/Airport Located in the heart of the Kandy city, Udawattakale offers wilderness of towering forests and creepers that gives shelter to bird species. Udawattakale, used by the Royalty in ancient times is home to many species of flora and fauna but is better known for birdwatching with over 80 species of birds being recorded. Some of the birds that can be spotted within the udawattakale sanctuary are: The layard's parakeet, yellow-fronted barbet, brown capped babbler, the three-toed king fisher (considered rare), Sri Lankan myna, golden fronted leafbird, blue-winged leafbird, spotted dove, emerald dove, tickell's blue flycatcher, crimson-fronted barbet, brown headed barbet and the black-backed kingfisher. The red faced malkoha and the Kashmir flycatcher known as endangered bird species can also be spotted in Udawattakele.
Thalangama – located within a 30 Min drive from Colombo/Airport Located in close proximity to the city of Colombo, Thalangama is a popular destination for bird watching. Though November is considered the best time to spot a variety of birds, the rest of the year still gives you a glimpse in to the array of bird life that visit this area. Many birdwatchers have observed as many as 30 - 70 species within a day or less with the most common sightings being that of great coucal, yellow billed babler, rose ringed parrot, purple swamp hen, red vented bulbul and the Asian spoonbill, An early morning visit to the area could also give you an opportunity to see the nocturnal bird – the black-crowned night heron as well as little green heron. The area is also known to be visited by water birds such as the painted stork and common moorhen.