Sri Lanka, August 2002

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT


Indian Robin

by Richard Allen

Although this was a holiday, (honeymoon in fact), rather than a specific birding trip, Sri Lanka has a wealth of easily seen birds to keep a birder happy. Being mainly a Buddhist country there is no hunting, (it's a years imprisonment for killing a water monitor!), making the birds and wildlife tame and approachable.

For this trip with Kuoni we did a seven-day tour, (the cultural triangle, Kandy and the Hill country), followed by five nights at a beach resort, during which time we did a day trip to Sinharaja. A trip list of 130 species with 14 endemics was a good total.

I would certainly recommend Sri Lanka for a cultural-non-birding/birding holiday, friendly people, great food, fantastic scenery and temples, and plenty of good birds.


22nd August 2002, Colombo
23rd, Pennewalla, Sigiriya
24th, Habarana, Polnnaruwa
25th, Habarana to Kandy via Dambulla and Aluvihara
26th, Kandy
27th, Kandy to Nuwara Eliya via Devon bungalow
28th, Nuwara Eliya to Hambantota via Uda Walawe
29th, Hambantota to Bentota via Galle
30th-2nd Sept, Bentota with Sinharaja on the 1st

Trip List

1 Spot-billed Pelican, one on Topa Wewa at Polonnaruwa
2 Little Cormorant, frequent throughout
3 Great Cormorant
4 Oriental Darter
, 2 Habarana, one Polonnaruwa
5 Grey Heron
6 Purple Heron
7 Intermediate Egret
8 Little Egret
9 Great Egret
10 Cattle Egret
11 Indian Pond Heron
12 Black-crowned Night Heron,
2 Habarana, one Citadel Hotel, Candy
13 Striated Heron, one Bentota
14 Painted Stork, 70+ at waterhole, and 20 in flight, Uda Walawe
15 Asian Openbill, 10+ north of Colombo, lots at reservoir Polonnaruwa (100+)
16 Woolly-necked Stork, 12 Topa Wewa, Polonnauwa, 4 Uda Walawe
17 Black-headed Ibis, seen regularly in the paddies with many at Polonnaruwa and 20 at Uda Walawe
18 Eurasian Spoonbill, 12 Uda Walawe
19 Little Grebe, 5 Habarana
20 Lesser Duck Whistling, 30 Habarana, 20 near Hambantota
21 Oriental Honey Buzzard, one Devon waterfall on 27th Aug
22 Brahminy Kite, seen Colombo, Habarana, Kandy, Hambantota, Bentota
23 Black Kite, one Colombo 23rd Aug
24 Rufous-bellied Eagle, sub-ad and ad from Martin's, Sinharaja on 1st Sept
25 Shrika, juv Sigiriya, 3 juvs Citadel hotel, one Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy
26 Black-winged Kite, seen twice on journeys and Uda Walawe
27 Crested Serpent Eagle, one Devon waterfall
28 Black Eagle, one distant near Aluvihara, one Sinharaja
29 Changeable Hawk Eagle, one Habarana, 3 Uda Walawe
30 White-bellied Fish Eagle, ad over res Polonnaruwa, one imm Royal Bot Gardens, and one ad Citadel, Kandy, pair Uda Walawe, one near Bentota
31 Grey-headed Fish Eagle, ad and juv seen very well Habarana
32 Shaheen, one cruised past summit, Sigiriya, one high over Citadel Hotel, Kandy
33 Barred Buttonquail, lots (20-30), on trails after rain at Uda Walawe, 28th Aug
34 Sri Lankan Junglefowl, several males and one female, Sinharaja
35 Indian Peafowl, many at Uda Walawe
36 White-breasted Waterhen, seen at Habarana, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy and Bentota
37 Pheasant-tailed Jacana, lots in non-br/juv at Habarana
38 Black-winged Stilt
39 Red-wattled Lapwing, first 2 seen north of Colombo, then 8 Habarana, pair Citadel, Kandy, several Uda Walawe, 2 pair Hambantota
40 Kentish Plover, 2 Hambantota
41 Lesser Sand Plover, one Uda Walawe
42 Whimbrel, odd birds on the coast
43 Greenshank, one Uda Walawe
44 Wood Sandpiper, 2 Uda Walawe
45 Common Sandpiper, 2 Pennewalla, 3 Uda Walawe
46 Great Crested Tern, 8 feeding offshore from Bentota beach
47 Bridled Tern, steady passage south well off shore from Bentota beach
48 Spotted Dove
49 Emerald Dove, one male very close on track, Sinharaja
50 Pompadour Green Pigeon, several small flocks near Habarana, 8 H.Citadel, Kandy
51 Green Imperial Pigeon, 20+ Sinharaja
52 Sri Lankan Hanging Parrot, one in flight from Martin's, Sinharaja
53 Alexandrine Parakeet, 2 & 6 seen Uda Walawe
54 Rose-ringed Parakeet, Habarana, many small groups going to roost over Hotel Citadel, Kandy, smaller numbers elsewhere.
55 Layard's Parakeet, 2 seen in flight, H.Citadel, Kandy, good view of male and several in flight, Sinharaja
56 Blue-faced Malkoha, one seen from elephant, Habarana
57 Asian Koel, 1f Polonnaruwa, 1f, overs heard Hotel Citadel,1m Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy, 1f Uda Walawe, 3 Hambantota, Bentota beach hotel
58 Greater Coucal, Uda Walawe
59 Pied Cuckoo, one Habarana
60 Malabar Pied Hornbill, 2 pairs Uda Walawe and a group of 10 seen towards Hambantota
61 House Crow
62 Large-billed Crow
63 Malabar Trogon,
one female seen well, Sinharaja
64 Stork-billed Kingfisher, Habarana
65 White-throated Kingfisher, common and widespread
66 Common Kingfisher, Habarana, Kandy
67 Pied Kingfisher, Habarana
68 Little Green Bee-eater, regularly seen, Sigiriya, Habarana, Uda Walawe
69 Indian Roller one Pennewalla, 2 Uda Walawe
70 Coppersmith Barbet, seen at Sigiriya, Kandy
71 Brown-headed Barbet common seen at Pennewalla, Kandy, Uda Walawe

Brown-headed Barbet
Brown-headed Barbet

After the initial excitement of my first, this proved to be a common bird in the lowlands. It's distinctive call echoing around the plantations and gardens.

72 Yellow-fronted Barbet, one seen from restaurant, Aluvihara
73 Lesser Yellownape, pair Aluvihara, several Sinharaja
74 Black-rumped Woodpecker, one male golden-backed race seen from elephant, Habarana, one male red-backed race Uda Walawe, one red-backed race seen very well Sinharaja
75 White-naped Woodpecker, one male Uda Walawe
76 Rufous-winged Lark, lots Uda Walawe
77 Paddyfield Pipit, one along edge of tank, Habarana, 2 Hambamtota
78 Crested Treeswift, several Sigiriya, Aluvihara
79 Asian Palm Swift, regular, seen at Sigiriya, Habarana, Kandy, Devon waterfall
80 Brown-backed Needletail, 3 Sinharaja
81 Little Swift, 100's Sigiriya, Habarana, Devon waterfall
82 Indian Swiftlet, 2+ Sinharaja
83 Barn Swallow, 20-30 Uda Walawe
84 Red-rumped Swallow, 2 Sigiriya, Habarana, Uda Walawe
85 Common Woodshrike, one Habarana
86 Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, 2 Aluvihara
87 Small Minivet, 3 Habarana
88 Flame Minivet, pair on way too, and a pair at Sinharaja
89 Black-headed Cuckooshrike, 1m Habarana,
90 Large Cuckooshrike, 3 in trees near resthouse at Sigiriya
91 Black-headed Yellow Bulbul, several Habarana,7 Sinharaja
92 Red-vented Bulbul, common
93 Yellow-eared Bulbul, pair near golf course Nuwara Eliya, and another pair on journey

Yellow-eared Bulbul
Yellow-eared Bulbul

A Hill Country endemic this colourful bulbul was found around the golf course along with Sri Lankan White-eyes, just outside the slightly faded colonial grandeur of the Grand Hotel in Nuwara Eliya.

94 Yellow-browed Bulbul, 3 Sinharaja
95 Black Bulbul, 2 seen in flight in hill country, 2 Sinharaja
96 Common Iora, seen Sigiriya one female, Habarana
97 Jerdon's Leafbird, male Habarana, male Uda Walawe
98 Black-hooded Oriole, common Habarana, Kandy, Bentota
99 Oriental Magpie Robin, Habarana, Kandy
100 Pied Bushchat
101 Black-backed Robin,
3m, 1f around base of Sigiriya, Habarana, Uda Walawe
102 Spot-winged Thrush, one seen very well in the rain along stream, between HQ and Martin's
103 Brown-capped Babbler, one H.Citadel, Kandy
104 Indian Scimitar-babbler
105 Dark-fronted Babbler,
2 in bird flock Sinharaja
106 Orange-billed Babbler, 30+ leaders of the bird flocks, Sinharaja
107 Yellow-billed Babbler, flocks seen at Habarana,Aluvihara, Kandy, Bentota beach hotel
108 Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, one seen briefly Sinharaja
109 Grey-breasted Prinia, one Devon bungalow
110 Plain Prinia, one seen between Habarana and Polonnaruwa
111 Ashy Prinia, common in scrubby grass, Uda Walawe
112 Common Tailorbird, one Devon bungalow, Bentota beach hotel
113 Black-naped Monarch, one male Sinharaja
114 Asian Paradise-flycatcher, 2 seen from coach near Habarana
115 White-browed Fantail, 2 Sigiriya
116 Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, one Nuwara Eliya
117 Great Tit, 2 Aluvihara, Devon bungalow, Nuwara Eliya
118 Pale-billed Flowerpecker regular, seen at Pennewalla, Habarana, Sinharaja
119 Thick-billed Flowerpecker, 1+ Uda Walawe
120 White-throated Flowerpecker, one male seen well, others briefly, a nest in view from Martin's, Sinharaja
121 Purple-rumped Sunbird common, seen at Pennewalla, Sigiriya, Habarana, Kandy, Sinharaja, Bentota
122 Long-billed Sunbird, pair Aluvihara, pair H.Citadel, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy, Devon bungalow, Nuwara Eliya , Uda Walawe, Bentota
123 Purple Sunbird, eclipse male and female, Uda Walawe, the only ones seen
124 Oriental White-eye, 4 Aluvihara, 6 Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy, Devon bungalow
125 Sri Lankan White-eye, 10 around golf course, Nuwara Eliya
126 White-rumped Munia, one Habarana, 12 H.Citadel, Kandy
127 Scaly-breasted Munia, 2 around base of Sigiriya. One Habarana, 3 H.Citadel, Kandy
128 House Sparrow
129 Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, 2 crested, pos split, Sinharaja
130 White-bellied Drongo, 2 white-vented race Aluvihara, 2 white-bellied Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy,one white-bellied Devon bungalow
131 White-faced Starling, one seen extremely well low down and close, another seen high, Sinharaja

White-faced Starling
White-faced Starling

A day trip to the rainforest at Sinharaja with Amila from Jetwing Eco proved a fantastic experience for me, if less so for Sally who came down with the travel bug that had been going around our group. The endemic starling is usually a canopy bird so we were very lucky to get some great eye-level views. Other highlights were Spot-winged Thrush, Legge's Flowerpecker and Malabar Trogon.

132 Sri Lankan Myna, 15+ scoped from Martin's, Sinharaja
133 Hill Myna, pair and 5 seen from Hotel Citadel, Kandy, one Devon bungalow
134 Common Myna

end of report