Sri Lanka Birds


Indian Peafowl
( Pavo cristatus )

The Ruhuna National Park is the ideal place to watch peafowl. With the advent of the North East monsoon , peacocks that had undergone a moult during the dry season , change into their extravagant nuptial dress .This transforming marks the beginning of the breeding season . The peacock is endowed with very keen eyesight and good hearing . Inside the parks it is friendly and confiding but elsewhere it is wary and will off it taken by surprise .

( Spilornis cheels spilogaster )

The Serpent Eagle is the commonest eagle in Sri Lanka and is found throughout the country ,even at altitudes up to 2000 meters . It occurs in fair fair numbers in all our National Parks . On clear days , this eagle is often seen soaring way up in the sky . Invariably it is accompanied by its mate it and the pair keep calling with a pleasant , characteristic high pitched scream . The breeding season is from February to May .This eagle usually contains only one egg , rarely two .

Hawk – Eagle
( Spizaetus cirrhatus cirrhatus )

The Crested Hawk Eagle is mainly a bird of the lowcountry zone and does not generally live abouve 1000 meters . It is commonly found in open areas and parklands around the dry zone forests and in the vicinity af irrigation tanks . This Eagle is seen regullaly in our National Parks specially during the months of the North East Monsoon . The breeding season is in the first half of the year . The nest is large for a bird this size and usually contains only a single white eggs .

Black Winged kite
( Elanus caeruleus vociferous )

This pretty little hawk with pearl-grey . black and white plumage and a ruby- red eye , is only very slightly smaller than the House Crow . Its coloration combined with its style of flight gives it a superficial resemblance to a gull . This bird is widely distributed throughout the island right up to 2300 meters . It is a usually solitary bird and is not really numerous anywhere but it moves a good deal . However, during the months of the North –East Monsoon , This bid is found in fair numbers around Ampara and Inginiyagal, in the Gal Oya district .

Spotted Dove
( Streptopelia chinensis ceylonensis )

This dove sometimes referred to as the Ash Dove . This bird is found all over the island .The spotted dove is a ground feeder living mostly on grain , paddy , green gram and grass . Nests of this bird may be found at any time of the year .

Bustard –Quail
( Turnix suscitator leggei )

The five inch rounded bird is most at home in the scrubland , park country and grasslands of the drier districts but occurs throughout the island except in the highest hills .The family life of Bustard-Quail is remarkable . To begin with the physical attributes of the male are inferior to those of the female . She is bigger , has better colouring . She constructs her own nest to lay eggs usually four in numbers ..

Blossom –Headed Parakeet
( Psittcacula cyanocephala cyanocephala)

Built I the 3rd century AD by King Mahasena , it may have originally stood over 100 m high , but today is about 70m, a similar height to the Abhayagiri with which it is sometimes confused . It has been under reconstruction for a number of years . The Jetavanarama is made solidly of bricks . Behind it stand the ruins of the monatry it formed part of , which housed 3000 monk . One building has doorjambs over 8m high still standing , with another 3m underground . At one time , massive doors opened to reveal a large Buddha image .

Rose –Ringed Parakeet
( Psittacula krameri manillensis )

The Rose –Ringed Parakeet the most abundant in the dry zone . This bird does considerable damage to the paddy .when cultivation commence ,dozens of these birds will settle in the fields and pick up the grain that has just been sown. The breeding season lasts from January to May . It nests in tree-holes , most often in the abandoned nests of barbets and woodpeckers .

Blue –Faced Malkoha
( Rhopodytes viridiostris )

The Blue –Faced Malkoha is a mynah sized bird with a long tail . The Malkoha is a bird of the low –country dry zone . The throny scrub jungle seems to be its main habitant . The breeding season is in the first half of the year . The nest is a filmy structure of twigs somewhat like a bigger edition of a dove’s nest .. The two eggs are white and measure 31 x 24 mm .

Bay Owl
( Phodilus badius assimilis )

One of the beautiful sculptures reflecting the serenity of th Buddha ,. The Buddha image was ad important feature of the Anuradhapura age . This stature …….

Collard Scops Owl
( Otus bakkammoena bakkamoena )

The Collard Scops Owl is about the size of a mynah and is the commonest small owl in Sri Lanka . It is found all over the island right upto 1500 meters . Like most owls , this one too , nests in tree holes , occupying and disused nests of barbets and woodpeckers . Three white eggs are usually laid .

Fish Owl
( Budo zeylonensis zeylonensis )

Though essentially a forest bird , the Fish Owl id sometimes met with in cultivated areas bordering rivers and tanks . It is found all over th island right upto 1000 meters . In pairs this bird can be seen often in all our National Parks specially in Wilpattu .

Brown Wood Owl
( Strix leptogrammica indranee )
It is essentially a bird of the heavy forest and occurs throughout the island right upto 2300 meters . the Wood Owl nests in large tree cavities that may be from four to seven meters above the ground . Most of the nests we come across contain two eggs . The eggs are laid in mid January and by the end of April the young have left the nests .

Indian Crested Swift
( hemiprocne longipennis coronata )

The Crested Swift is a common bird . If is found all over the low hills in the vicinity .The bird is quite common in both Yala and Wilpattu National Parks . Like most Swifts , this one too moves about in small parties of three or four bids .

White –Breasted Kingfisher
( Halcyon smymensis fusca )

Though primarily an aquatic bird this bird is met in places far removed from water and is a frequent visitor to gardens and parks. The nesting season is usually in the months of April , May and June. Most of the nests were dug into embankments . 90 % of the food brought by the adult birds consisted of fresh water crabs but fish and frogs were also fed to the youong . In addition to aquatic creatures , this kingfisher feeds regularly on worms , insects , grasshoppers , lizards and even small mice .

Green bee – Eater
( Merops orientalis ceylonicus )

The Sri Lankan trio of bee –eaters are all predominantly green birds with sleek plumage . The Green Bee-eater is the smallest and is sparrow sized , but with a much longer tail . The nesting season is from March to June . Three to five eggs are laid in as chamber at the far end of a burrow which the adult birds excavate . The burrow is usually about a meter ion length .

Chestnut –Headed Bee –Eater
( Merops leschenaulti leschenaulti )

the Chestnut –Headed Bee –Eater is the most colorful of the three bee-eaters. It is bigger than the green bee- eater . The Bee –Eater is most partial to forested areas , but does occur often in open spaces and besides riverbanks . It has a wide distribution and is found in scattered colonies throughout the wet and dry zones and the hills , upto elevations of 1200 meters .

Indian Roller
( Corasias begalensis indica )

Most of the time is spent sitting on posts , wires and coconut stumps points searching the ground below for possible prey . Though generally silent except for an occasional croak , a sustained charter of staccato exclamations is maintained between the pair whenever they perch beside each other . The Indian Roller nests in the first half of the year and chooses a hollow in a decaying palm trunk .

Broad –Billed Roller
( Eurystomus orientalis irisi )

The Broad –Billed Roller is a very rare bird and not found in many parts of Sri Lanka . It is a forest bird and prefers to sit o dead branches of tall trees . Sometimes if you are lucky it can be found at the Sinharaja forest . The habits of this bird are not so very different to those of the Indian Roller .

Grey Hornbill
( Tockus griseus gingalensis )

The Hornbill is found wherever there are well –timbered forests in the low country districts . Grey Hornbills are seen in our National Parks . Around Anuradhapura , Dabulla , Sigiriya , and Mihintale Grey Hornbills are seen frequently . The female remains with the young for at least fortnight after they have hatched out . Sometimes she has been known to remain inside till the young birds leave the nest .

Crimson – Breasted Barbet
( Megalama haemocephala indica )

This bird can be seen in village gardens and cultivate areas in the drier parts of the low country . It does occur to the wet areas and in the hills to around 300 meters but mainly a dry zone bird . The nesting season is in March , April and May with a seconded brood reared around August .

Brown – Headed Barbet
( Megalaima zeylanica zeylanica )

The Brown –Headed Barbet is found all over the island upto an elevation of 1500 meters . Whenever one travels in the low country , the loud call of the Brown Headed Barbet will be heard throughout the day . It is quite common in Colombo and other big towns . The two sexes are alike and the pair move about together .

Rufous Woodpecker
( Microtemus brachyurus jerdoni )

The Rufous Woodpecker occurs in forests and well wooded parts of the low country and in the hills upto about 700 meters . This Woodpecker is frequently seen at Wilpattu and Ruhuna National Parks . The sexes differ only slightly ; the male is brighter and has crimson tips to its cheek feathers . The bird feeds chiefly on ants . The nbreeding season is usually from February to April being the favorite month .

Scaly – Bellied Green Woodpecker
( Picus myrmecophoneus )

Its is a very incommon bird with a very restricted range . It is seen most seen in upcountry areas such as Kandapola , Ragala and Hakgala . Nesting takes place in June and July . The nest hole is gouged out in an upright tree at a height of three to five meters . Two white eggs are usually laid .

Yellow – Naped Woodpecker
( Picus chlorolophus wellsi )

The Yellow – Naped Woodpecker is a rather shy bird in the trees it tends to keep to the lower branches . It even crones down to the ground to feed off fallen twigs. The breeding season is February to May .This Woodpecker also makes the usual nest hole in the in a branch or tree trunk at a height of two to six meters above the ground . Two white eggs are laid and both birds incubate the eggs and feed the young .

Red Backed Woodpecker
( Dinopium benghalense psarodes )

The Red Backed Woodpecker is a regular visitor it towns and cities . This bird is familiar in both the wet and the dry zones and in the hills upto and elevation of around 1500 meters . This bird breeds from March to May and again around 1500 meters . This bird breeds from March to May and again around August to September. The nest hole is usually high up on a dead tree or palm trunk . Three glossy white eggs ate usually laid on the bare wood .

Black –headed Oriole
( Oriolus xanthornus ceylonensis )

Among Sri Lanka’s garden birds the Black headed Oriole is undoubtedly a “ Price charming ” . Fortunately , this gorgeous bird is not rare and occurs all over the low country and in the hills up to 2000 meters . They feed mostly on fruits and wild figs but many insects and caterpillars are also taken . The breeding season is mainly in March and April but can begin even in November. The two eggs are pointed ovals of a pinkish white or cream color , marked with spots of reddish brown .

Common Drongo
( Dicrurus caerulescene insularis )

The bird twenty- four centimeters in length , is glossy blue-black on top but the underside the black fades through gray to white on the belly . This is purely a wet zone bird . The nest is a shallow cup that is always placed in the fork of a thin branch . A nesting pair of Drongos will not tolerate any predators in the vicinity , vehemently attacking any creature which may seem to trespassing .

Common Mynah
( Acrdotheres tristis melanostemus )

Mynah are adept at imitating the human voice . Mynahs get involved in savage with their own kind especially during the breeding season which lasts from about March to August . They usually nests in tree-holes . Three or four sky blue eggs are then laid on a cradle of rubbish that may consist of straw , twigs leaves and paper . \

Blue Magpie
( Kitta omata )

This bird does not occur anywhere else in the world and is undoubtedly the most spectacular of the twenty –one endemic species found in Sri Lanka . those interested in seeing this bird should visit Hakgala Gardens , Horton Plains or the Sinharaja Forests . Breeding begins in the month of January .

Wood –Shrike
( Tephrodomis pondicerianus affinis )

The Wood Shrike is a sparrow size bird. This bird’s home is in the drier parts of the low country , but it ascends the hills upto about 1000 meters .One may come upon this bird by the roadside at the edge of the jungle or in the village compounds . What appears to be a natural knot on a branch is where this bird builds her nest .

Little Minivet
( Pericrocotus cinnamomeus cinnamomeus )

This sparrow size bird with an elegant figure is widely distributed in small numbers in the low country forests and the adjoining hills up to about 1000 meters . The Little Minivet starts nesting early in the year . Nests with young have been found in Mid January but nesting really gets going mostly in February . Two greenish white eggs marked with brown blotches are laid in a small and inconspicuous nest .

Jerdon’s Chloropsis
( Chloropsis cochinchinensis jerdoni )

The Chloropsis moves about in pairs and feed on caterpillars and other free insects , in addition to fruit and berries . It is a bird of the tree canopy and never descends to the ground . The bird is found all over the low country and ascends the hills to around 1000 meters and occasionally even higher . The breeding season is during the months of the North East Monsoon . two eggs form the usual clutch .

Scimitar Babblar
( Pomatorhinus schisticeps holdsworthi )

The best seen in Sri Lanka tea fields . There are two races of the Scimitar Babblar in Sri Lanka . They differ only in that the wet zone race has a much richer and darker color than the bird from the hills . The Scimitar Babblar breed from Frebruary to May and sometimes neat a second brood around August.

Common Babblar
( Turdoides affinis taprobanus )

Is a very familiar bird and found all over the low country. In the hills it is distributed and becomes rare above 1500 meters. The breeding season usually from February to May, but sporadic nesting takes place throughout the year . Sometimes the nest is built in the crown of a coconut palm . Three or four glossy eggs from the clutch but clutches of five to six eggs have been reported now and then .

Oranage –Breasted Blue Flycatcher
( Muscicapa tickelliae jerdoni )

The sparrow size bird have to be located by ear . You will hear the sweet little song in the forested areas both in the wet and dry zones and in the hills up to 1500 meters. This bird nests during the period March to May .

Duskey –Blue Flycatcher
( Muscicapa sordida )

One of Sri Lanka’s endemic species, the Duskey Blue Flycatcher resides only in the well wooded areas if the hill zone about 1000 meters . Favorites haunts are beside forest paths , jungle streams and ravines , in which places it hunts insects . Nuwara Eliya , Hakgala , Horton Plains , Ambawela and Ohiya are places where this bird can be seen .Nests can be found in these areas in the months of April and May . The two eggs are if a pinkish color speckled with red .

Paradise Flycatcher
( Terpsiphone paradisi ceylonensis )

Ranking among the finest bird in the world is the Paradise Flycatcher . This bird is active in the neighborhood of human habitations . The nest is a deep cup composed of fine fibres . Sri Lanka has two races of this Flycatcher , one is the resident bird and the migrant bird come from India . Both races are common in the low country during the North-East monsoon . At the end of monsoon around March April our birds pair off for breeding and the migrant birds begin their return flight to India .

( Bradypterus palliseri )

This is one of our endemic species and lives above 1500 meters . The most likely place to find this bird would be on the Horton Plains . Though it can also be seen in the hills around Nuwara Eliya. The Ceylon Warbler is just over fifteen centimeters in length .

White –Browed Prinia
( Prinia subflava insularies )

The White Browed Prinia has a rather sober , earthly –brown color and a distinctive white eye brow. Both sexes look exactly alike . This bird is found all over the island right upto 1700 meters. The nest of this bird is found in most months and is invariably built in a tall grass tussock . This bird’s eggs ate among the most beautiful . A nest usually contains four or five ofthese exquisite gems .

Tailor – Bird
( Orthotomus sutorius sutorius )

Sri Lanka is fortunate to have within its shores a bird that is world –renowned . The bird feeds exclusively on insects and worms . This bird is very common and occurs throughout the island . The nest of this bird can be found during any month of the year , through the main breeding season is from February to June . The usual clutch is three eggs but sometimes there may be four .

Sourthern Magpie –Robin
( Copsychus saularis ceylonensis )

The Magpie Robin is one of our commonest birds and is resident in almost every spacious garden , even at elevations around two thousands meters. It feeds mostly in worms and baby lizards . This bird breeds practically throughout the year avoiding the rainy months . It nests in tree cavities .

Pied Bush Chat
( Saxicola caprata atrata )

This bird is confined to the up country grasslands and bare hillsides above 1200 meters . It is common around Nuwara Eliya . The nest is deep cup of dry grass and rootlets , and is located in a cavity on a hill slope. Three eggs are usually laid and they are bluish green speckled with reddish brown .

Black Robin
( Saxicoloides fulicata leucoptera )

The Black Robin if found all over the island upto around 1500 meters . It avoids heavy forests and prefers chenas , low scrub and open country around tanks and fields . This bird has the habit of nesting in the most unlikely places . Two or three eggs are laid and each individual egg has different shapes and sizes .

Grey Tit
( Parus major mahrattarum )

The Gray Tit is the only member of the Tit family found in Sri Lanka . This bird is occurs in all three climatic zones . It is very commonly seen in the hill zone ascending the hills upto elevations around 2300 meters . Grey Tits always move about in pairs or small parties . Breeding takes place in the first half of the year . The nest is made up of fibres and fluff and placed in a tree hole . Five or six eggs form the usual clutch .

Small Flowerpecker
( Dicaeum erythrorhynchos ceylonensis )

Ceylon Small Flowerpecker is the smallest bird in Sri Lanka . Moves about in pairs and occurs throughout the island right upto 2000 meters . Invariably breeds in February and March and builds its nest fairly high up on trees . Two glossy white eggs are laid .

Small White –Eye
( Zosterops palpebrosa palpebrosa )

The White Eye is and yellowish –green bird just over ten centimeters in length . It moves in small parties . Though very small in size it is a brave bird that never seems to get unduly ruffle .The nest is small , almost a miniature of the hammock type nests . This nest is often built in Colombo gardens . Usually two eggs are laid –they are pale blue in color .

Hill White –Eye
( Zosterops ceylonesis )

The Hill White Eye is an endemic species found only in Sri Lanka . In and around
Horton Plains , Hakgala , Nuwara Eliya and other hill stations above 1500 meters it is undoubtedly the commonest bird . These birds move about in small about flocks except
When breeding and they are welcome visitors to up country gardens. The nesting season is from March to May and again in August –September . The two eggs are unmarked and blue in colors .

Spotted Munia
( Lonchura ounctulata punctulata )

The Spotted Munia is about twelve centimeters in length and both sexes look exactly alike . Breeding takes place in most months but mainly during the periods February to May and again in August to September . Four to six white eggs are laid and they are in oval shape . Long after the breeding season is over the nest used by the adult birds as a bedroom .

White –bellied Sea Eagle
( Haliaeetus leucogaster )

Photographed in Sri –Lanka by Jurgen Lierman , Belgium

This bird is most frequently seen by the seacoast of Sri Lanka , but it is also to be found up to be found up the major waterways for some distance . It goes further up such waterways and river in open country . Their main food is fish , sometimes dead , but mostly caught live . The White bellied Sea Eagle is a noisy bird , especially early morning and evening . The White Bellied Sea Eagle spends most of its day soaring , or perched on rocks or trees at the water’s at the water’s edge from which it hunts .
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Dr.T.S.U.De Zylva

Dr . .T.S.U.De Zylva ( upen to his frieds ) is perhaps the world’s foremost authority on Sri Lankan avifauna . In addition , he is undoubtedly Sri Lanka’s most successful wildlife photographer . His portfolio includes 3 documentry films , as well as a host of still photographs , and his work has been published in ‘Animals ’ (UK ), “Dias Tier ” (West Germany ) and several other nature periodicals around the world .

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