Three-toed Kingfisher

Sri Lanka is an island nation off the southeastern edge of the Indian sub-continent that boasts a rich cultural heritage and remarkable biodiversity. In fact, it is one of only 25 biodiversity hot spots in the world. Twenty-seven percent of its plants and 22 percent of its animals are endemic, which makes any trip to Sri Lanka one that will potentially bring you face to face with creatures and plants you can find nowhere else on the planet. In all of Asia, this country boasts the highest density of endemic species.

For serious bird watchers, the allure of Sri Lanka is clear. With 26 endemic species — seven more species have been proposed as deserving endemic classification — and almost 500 different species overall. A bird-watching trip to Sri Lanka is literally something you can't have anywhere else on Earth. If you love birds and are looking to take a trip to one of the world's most remarkable places, book a flight and a hotel. The Uga Escapes Hotel is a great and eco-friendly choice. Set aside enough time to visit these five places where some of Sri Lanka's rarest and most impressive birds can be found:

Yellow-fronted Barbet (Megalaima flavifrons)  @ Sinharaja Forest Reserve.
Photo Credit: Gaurika Wijeratne
1. Sinharaja World Heritage Wilderness Area

Filled with tropical rainforest, this wilderness area boasts many rare and endemic trees, mammals, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and butterflies. Located along the southwestern edge of the island, the Sinharaja World Heritage Wilderness Area is a great place to explore flora and fauna, in general, but because it boasts as many as 19 of the bird species native to the island, it's a particular treasure to the bird watcher. Some of the more notable species include:

  • Green-billed coucal
  • Sri Lanka blue magpie
  • Ashy-headed babbler
  • Sri Lanka broad-billed roller
  • Red-faced malkoha

2. Yala National Park

An area of lowland dry scrub set along the southeastern Sri Lankan coastline, this beautiful park is considered the country's premiere national park and is one of the best spots to spot animals in all of Asia. One of its most popular inhabitants, the Sri Lankan leopard is only found here, and sightings are common. This park is where the serious birder can probably score the largest number of bird sightings. Because of the large combination of variable habitat ranging from scrub and marine to freshwater and woodland, Yala has over 220 different species of bird, and lucky bird watchers have seen as many as 100 in a single day.

Kandy - White-throated Kingfisher
Photo Credit: Drriss & Marrionn

3. Udawalawe National Park

This park is most famous for its elephants, which are easily seen across its impressively wide grasslands, and while other mammals can be found as well, it's the raptors in the park that attract bird watchers from all over the world. From the changeable hawk eagle and serpent eagle to the grey-headed fish eagle, this park can supply the patient birder with many opportunities to see these birds of prey in action.

4. Horton Plains

The highest plateau on the entire island, Horton Plains boasts cloud forests that, like every park and area on this list, are filled with a myriad of endemic animals and plants that are well-adapted to the cooler climate in this part of the island, where temperatures can fall below freezing overnight.

For bird watchers, the interest is in the native species seen nowhere else, of course, and the Sri Lankan bush warbler and whistling thrush are easiest seen here. While it isn't a bird, the dwarf lizard is worth keeping an eye out for here, because it gives birth to live young — an adaptation it developed because of the effects of cold temperatures on its eggs.

Ceylon Blue Magpie
Photo Credit: Koshy Koshy
5. Bundala National Park

Located just about an hour from Yala, Bundala National Park has almost 200 species of bird that call the place home — at least for some parts of the year. Migratory water birds, in particular, flock to the place when on the move, and in Bundala, the most impressive migratory bird is probably the greater flamingo, which travels in large flocks — as many as 1,000 have been spotted at one time. Designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1969, this park is also a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Birds you are likely to see here include:
  • Lesser whistling duck
  • Indian cormorant
  • Black-headed ibis
  • Grey heron
  • Eurasian spoonbill
Bird watching in Sri Lanka is one of the many pleasures the remarkable place affords those lucky enough to visit. If you ever find yourself there, be sure to tour these five places with a pair of binoculars, a bird identification book, and a sense of wonder.

Here are 10 More Reasons Why You Should Visit Sri Lanka

Annalise Wall is a tour guide with a passion for adventure sports. Her favourite sport is skiing, but when the summer comes she loves to go paragliding.

Main photo credit: Shanaka Aravinda

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