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Birdwatching in Sri Lanka

Birdwatching in Sri Lanka

Bird Watching in Sri Lanka, what to look for!

So it’s December! And we’re twitching to tilt our Sri Lanka Blog to resemble more a bird blog than anything else. More so because our Ayu in the Wild Naturalists are logging in their incredible trip reports. The 33 endemics are out there in numbers and the migrants have winged their way to our island to buff up the species count.

 

Here’s what to look for to spot these 8 out of 33 endemic birds of Sri Lanka!

 

  1. Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill

Its call will betray its presence for sure. Quite grotesque looking but we love these endemics, especially their brilliant partnership whilst nesting. The female confines herself in a tree cavity during nesting season, admirably plastered with the male’s and the female’s beaks leaving a narrow hole for the male to send through food. Can be seen spotted close to Sigiriya on day 2 of Ayu in the Wild Holiday’s 14-day birding tour across Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill

 

  1. Sri Lanka Green Pigeon 

The sight of a flock numbering hundreds close to the last remaining water holes during the dry season is incredible. On day 4 on tour, deep inside the thick foliage you are likely to hear the beautiful courtship song of the male which our Guides will pick up for you.

Sri Lanka Green Pigeon

  1. Greater Crimson – backed Flame back

Out bird watching in Yala National Park on day 8 with Ayu in the Wild Holidays, this shy bird although not rare is definitely a worthy sight. Usually seen snooping around trees for its daily fix of worms and beetles by using its powerful beak to generate sounds resembling the vibrations of a jack hammer and confusing its prey.

Greater Crimson – backed Flame back

  1. Brown capped Babbler

Spotted hanging around in small flocks this tiny endemic with the demure call is extremely active making bird photography a challenge to say the least!

  1. Sri Lanka Blue Magpie

The gorgeous blue and chestnut plumage and the fact that they hang around in pairs or more allows for guaranteed sightings of this exotic bird in the Sinharaja rainforest on day 10 with Ayu in the Wild Holidays. This stunning endemic is not illusive or shy in the least.

Sri Lanka Blue Magpie

  1. Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler

Even though the bird is not rare or threatened a keen eye and sensitivity to different calls of birds is required to track this bird. Its unusual nest made with moss, ferns and grass roots is quite a sight as well!

Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler

  1. Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot

The bird that sleeps like a bat is seen around Sri Lanka from Hill country to mid country backyards. Always seen devouring juicy fruits before anybody else has a chance to pluck them. Incredibly interesting treks around Kitulgala on our birding tours yields quite a few chances to spot this bird.

Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot

 


Contact us at Ayu in the Wild holidays for your Bird watching tour this season!

Birdwatching in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Bird Watching Tour – the Endemics

This 14 day bird watching tour in Sri Lanka with time to explore areas off beat and bird watching at night, is perfect for those looking for a more private birding experience with experienced and flexible Naturalists. This tour of the island’s avian fauna and natural history covers all climatic zones of the island, and offers a chance to spot over 250 species and a richer experience of diverse species habitats and elevations.


Yellow-eared Bulbul

Birding Tour Itinerary

Day 1  
Anuradhapura: On arrival, you will be met at the Airport and transferred to Anuradhapura (depends on time of arrival). Afternoon  – An introduction to the Birds and birding sites of Sri Lanka and some leisurely birding to spot Lesser Whistling-Ducks, Brahminy Kites, Pheasant-tailed Jacana  and more around the hotel and lakes in Anuradhapura. *Or option to take a moonlight tour of the Sacred City.
Overnight: In a heritage hotel set within the Sacred City in Anuradhapura. (Meals: dinner)

Day 2
Sigiriya/Habarana: Morning –  birding around the lakes of Anuradhapura will get us up close with Spot-billed Pelicans, Little and Indian Cormorants, the Kingfishers and even the Indian Pitta. After breakfast, we transfer to Sigiriya/Habarana where in the afternoon we explore the surrounding forests of Sigiriya for the Ceylon Grey Hornbill and a selection of Woodpeckers. *Option to visit Dambulla Cave Temple
Overnight: In a 3-4 star Hotel in Sigiriya/Habarana. (Meals: breakfast, dinner)

Day 3
Sigiriya/Habarana: Today we explore the birding around the dry mixed evergreen forests around Sigiriya Rock and small lakes in search of the resident and migrant species of the Peregrin Falcon,Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Ceylon Woodshrikes, Oriental Scops Owl, Jerdon’s Nightjar, Blue-faced Malkoha, Ashy and Grey-breasted Prinias and more. *Option to climb the Sigiriya Lion Rock and/or a privately guided safari to observe the behavior of Elephants in the wild
Overnight: In a 3-4 star Hotel in Sigiriya/Habarana. (Meals: breakfast, dinner)

Day 4
Kandy: Transfer to the World Heritage Site of Kandy to a unique off-beat boutique bungalow where you will spend the day searching for endemics along a tributary of Sri Lanka’s longest river the Mahaweli. One of the most bird rich hidden escapes on the island. We visit the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya to search for the beautiful Alexandrine Parakeet, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Rose-ringed and Plum-headed Parakeets *Option to take a guided visit to the Temple of the Tooth Relic.
Overnight: In a 4 star Hotel in Kandy. (Meals: breakfast, dinner)

Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler

Day 5
Nuwera Eliya: A transfer to Nuwera Eliya at the crack of dawn will leave us adequate time for some wonderful birding off beat through tea laden hills to search for Hill Country birds, before visiting the Victoria Park in our quest to spot the Kashmir Flycatcher, Pied Thrush, Forest Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Yellow-Eared Bulbul, Indian Blue Robin among others.
Overnight: In a 3-4 star Hotel or Bungalow in Nuwera Eliya. (Meals: breakfast, dinner)

Day 
Nuwera Eliya: We must reach the cloud forests of Horton Plains amidst the mist at dawn, with packed breakfasts to try our luck to tick off the Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler and Sri Lanka White-eye, among many others during a wonderful day of trekking.
Overnight: In a 3-4 star Hotel or Bungalow in Nuwera Eliya. (Meals: breakfast, dinner)

Day 7
Tissamaharama: Visiting Surrey Estate en-route to see if we could chance upon the Wood Owl, we then transfer to Bundala National Park for the Waders, Garganey, Eurasian Stone Curlew, Curlew Sandpipers, Marsh Sandpiper, Watercock, Small Pratincole, Yellow-Wattled & Red-Wattled Lapwing, Oriental Skylark, Ashy-Crowned Finch-Lark and more.  This full day of birding ends with an overnight in Tissamaharama – which will be our base for the next 2 nights as we explore two National Parks, the wetlands and paddy fields.
Overnight: In a Resort Hotel in Tissamaharama. (Meals: breakfast, dinner)

Day 8
Tissamaharama: Morning at leisure or option to explore the wetlands near  Tissamaharama  for water birds, Terns, Gulls, the the Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Yellow Bittern, Black Bittern, Brahminy Kite, Shikra, Streaked and Baya Weavers. An afternoon safari inside wildlife rich Yala National Park is our chance to observe the Painted & Black-Necked Stork,  the Plovers such as the Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Little-Ringed Plover and Kentish Plover, Great Thick-Knee, Brown Fish Owl, Rosy Starling and a host of other species that dot the Park amidst, Sambur, Leopard, Elephant, Sloth Bear, and Giant Squirrels.
Overnight: In a Resort Hotel in Tissamaharama. (Meals: breakfast, dinner)

Day 9
Udawalawe: Transfer to Udawalawe, where on a jeep safari we have a great chance to spot Raptors due to the open spaces. There’s also excellent chances to spot the Malabar Pied Hornbill and search for the Jungle Prinia, Forest Wagtail, and Blyth’s Pipit, Sirkeer Malkoha and the Changeable Hawk amidst the semi evergreen forests that are home to large herds of Asian Elephants, Spotted Deer, Grey Langur and Toque Macaque. Nature treks in the surrounding areas today or early am tomorrow yield even more avian species.
Overnight: In a tented camp on the borders of Uda Walawe. (Meals: breakfast, dinner)

Day 10
Sinharaja: The Sinharaja Rain Forest area becomes our base for the next 3 nights – a prime birding site where, 70% of Sri Lanka’s endemics out of the 33 endemics and over 150 species can be added to a guest’s bird count. We explore the surrounding area of our overnight accommodation for some lovely species including, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Orange and Small Minivets to name a few.
Overnight: In a beautiful Eco Lodge overlooking the rain forest area. (Meals: breakfast, dinner)

Small Minivet (Male)

Day 11
Sinharaja: A day of trekking in the morning and afternoon inside the World Heritage Site of the Sinharaja Man and Biosphere Reserve is our chance to look for the Ceylon Frogmouth, Malabar Trogon, Ceylon Hill-Myna, Ceylon Blue Magpie, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Ceylon Spurfowl, Ceylon Junglefowl, Red-Faced Malkoha,  Chestnut-Backed Owlet and many more, especially if you chance upon the mixed-species feeding flock.
Overnight: In a beautiful Eco Lodge overlooking the rainforest area. (Meals: breakfast, dinner)

Day 12
Sinharaja: An entire day of birding in the Sinharaja Rainforest with morning and afternoon treks adds to the highest chances of averaging a total bird count of over 250 species as part of this top bird watching tour in Sri Lanka.
Overnight: In a beautiful Eco Lodge overlooking the rain forest area. (Meals: breakfast, dinner)

Day 13
Kitulgala: Just when you thought you’ve seen it all, we transfer to the lush tract of forest in Kitulgala, where across the river lies the Kelani Valley Forest Reserve. The long drive to get here is worth the effort just in case we’ve missed our chances in the Sinharaja Rainforest, to try our luck for a glimpse of the Chestnut-backed Owlet, Green-billed Coucal, and the Serendib Scops Owl and possibly to tick off the Red-faced Malkoha and Blue-faced Malkoha, the Gold-fronted Leafbird, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher,  Spot-winged Ground-thrush, Legge’s Flowerpecker, and much more.
Overnight: In a riverside Hotel in Kitulgala. (Meals: breakfast, lunch)

Day 14
Departure:  Morning – we do our last outing to total up our bird count to over 250 species and leave after a quick lunch for drop off at the Airport. *An overnight can be arranged if required
(Meals: breakfast and a snack)


Crested Hawk Eagle

Crested Hawk Eagle

Specialist Guides

This is one of the best bird watching tours in Sri Lanka, showcasing our rich biodiversity and endemism spread across the 5 climatic zones. Hosted by Naturalists specialized in birding and experienced in field and scientific research, these resourceful and flexible Guides have a keen sense of bird behaviour and will ensure that birders have opportunities to explore off beat and at night to ensure key species are observed while guests gain deep insights into the island’s avian fauna and natural history.

Birds of Sri Lanka

Indian Roller

Enquire for Prices or shorter tours

  • Prices vary based on Deluxe or Value accommodation.
  • Accommodation noted above is for a Deluxe Tour. Most convenient accommodation for ease of bird watching will be included into any tour.
    • Minimum: 2 pax (Can be tailor made for group tours )
  • Special Discounts for birding tours led by the Nature Travel Network Tour Leaders or tours booked by it’s Contributors and affiliated photographers.

 

Sri Lanka Blue Magpie

Sri Lanka Blue Magpie

Inclusions

  • English speaking experienced Naturalist on tour.
  • Accommodation and meals as noted.
  • Entrance tickets to National Parks, safari jeeps and tickets to Sigiriya.
  • Private luxury vehicle with an English speaking Chauffeur.
  • Comprehensive bird check list for each guest. 

Map of Birding Tour with Ayu in the Wild –The Endemics

Birdwatching

Birding tour Map

Extensions to the Birding Tour with Ayu in the Wild:

  • Culture – A moonlight tour of the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, Guided trek to the Summit of the Lion Rock in Sigiriya, Guided insights to the traditional Poojah at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy
  • Other Wildlife – Whale and Dolphin watching on a Yacht guided by an Author on marine mammals
  • Local community interactions with rural farmers to observe their lives and livelihoods
Birds of Sri Lanka

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Birdwatching in Sri Lanka

Best places for bird watching in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a wonderful destination for bird watching with an incredible 33 species of endemic birds and 441 species of birds recorded on the island!

Sinharaja Rainforest

  • Our Naturalists would not miss an opportunity to linger longer in this beautiful rain forest. It is the last remaining virgin rain-forest in the island where, a day out on safari can yield 29 of the island’s 33 endemic birds. 

Singharaja forestBlue Magpie – The Bird Wave, a mixed species feeding flock can be observed between November to March inside Sinharaja

What can you see inside Sinharaja?
Some of the noteworthy species could include: the Oriental Honey Buzzard, Ceylon Spurfowl and Junglefowl, Ceylon Woodpigeon, Red-Faced Malkoha, Green-Billed Coucal, Chestnut-Winged Cuckoo, Serendib Scops-Owl, Chestnut-Backed Owlet, Ceylon Frogmouth, Malabar Trogon, many species of Eagles including; Rufous-Bellied Eagle, Shikra, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black Eagle and Mountain Hawk-Eagle; Yellow-Browed Bulbul, Himalayan Black Bulbul, Spot-Winged Ground Thrush, Ceylon Scaly Thrush, Ceylon Rufous Babbler, Ashy-Headed Laughing Thrush, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Indian Paradise Fly catcher, Ceylon Blue Magpie, White-Faced Starling, Ceylon Hill-Myna and more

Horton Plains National Park and the Kitulgala Forests 

  • If ticking off the 33 endemics of Sri Lanka is on your bucket list, then these are two must visit birding hot spots in Sri Lanka.

Birding can be wonderful along the borders of Sanctuaries and Rainforests

What can you see inside Horton Plains and Kitulgala?
Waking up before dawn can certainly reward you with sightings of the Yellow-eared Bulbul, Ceylon Scimitar-babbler, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, and Sri Lanka White-eye to name a few in the Horton Plains cloud forests, Sri Lanka’s most visited National Park. In Kitulgala, across the famed river is a lush rain forest which is home to the Chestnut-backed Owlet and Serendib Scops Owl, while you may also spot the two species of Barbets: Yellow-fronted Barbet and Ceylon Small Barbet, and Green-billed Coucal, Layard’s Parakeet, and the Ceylon Rufous Babbler.

RAMSAR Sites of Mannar and Bundala National Parks 

  • Sri Lanka Migrant hotspots where hundreds of winter migrants arrive for feeding during October until April. Mannar is a great location to photograph Flamingos, Water birds and Shorebirds and is a less frequently visited spot on the main birding routes.

 

Sri Lanka

Flamingos

What can you see inside Bundala?
A morning safari in Bundala is one of the highlights of any birding tour in Sri Lanka. Sandpipers and Plovers abound among Crocodiles and migrant shorebirds. Curlew Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers and Common sandpipers, Pacific Golden Plovers, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers mingle in the marshes and lakes with Common Redshanks, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Black Bitterns and Yellow Bitterns.

Kumana, Yala, Wilpattu and Uda Walawe National Parks and Sigiriya Sanctuary:

  • A walk around these National Parks is almost as good as a safari inside them for spotting migrants as well as endemic birds of Sri Lanka. Most of our tours with specialist Naturalists would include treks in the borders surrounding these birding hot spots.
Sri Lanka bird watching

Brown Fish Owl


Enquire about private birding tours from Ayu in the Wild Holidays. Email: info@ayuinthewild.com or WhatsApp us on +94 777 248 1100