A Bird Watching Paradise: 10 Best Hotspots for Watching Birds in Sri Lanka

As a bird watcher, what will you discover in Sri Lanka?

A Bird Watching Paradise: 10 Best Hotspots for Watching Birds in Sri Lanka

A Bird Watching Paradise

10 Best Hotspots for Watching Birds in Sri Lanka

When you are thinking about bird watching, Sri Lanka is one of the greatest sites in the world to see birds and is a true paradise for all bird watchers. The birds you see at a given place will determine the habitat type or available habitats. Ecosystems in national parks such as Ruhuna (Yala) and Bundala include wetlands, lakes, dry scrub, grassland, and rivers. A single day of birding may provide more than a hundred distinct species. Sinharaja’s rainforest may contain fewer species, but they are more likely to be unique. If you come across a friendly mixed feeding group, you could see a half-dozen endemics and a dozen other species. The following places are some of the great places to go birding.

01. Uda Walawe National Park

The dry zone brush, grassland, and lakes of the Uda Walawe National Park are well-known. The Udawalawe National Park, located 230 kilometers south of Colombo, was established in 1972 as the country’s sixth national park. Uda Walawe National Park straddles the Sabaragamuwa and Uva provinces and spans 30 821 hectares of land, has an average temperature of around 29 degrees Celsius. The park was established to provide a haven for wildlife displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River, which is now a component of the park and a vital water supply for the animals that live there. The park receives 1500mm of rain every year, with most of it falling between October and January and March to May.

  • Highlights: Little Cormorant, Spot-billed Pelican, Indian Pond Heron, Intermediate Egret, Painted Stork, Woolly-necked Stork Indian Peafowl, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Black-winged Stilt, Whiskered Tern, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Grey-headed Fish-eagle, Crested Serpent-eagle Spotted Dove, Little Swift, Crested Treeswift, Common Kingfisher, Green Imperial-pigeon Black-capped Kingfisher, Little Green Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Coppersmith Barbet, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Jerdon’s Bush Lark, Brown Shrike, Black-rumped Flameback, Small Minivet, Yellow-eyed Babbler, White-browed Fantail, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Zitting Cisticola, Oriental Magpie-robin, Common Tailorbird, Indian Robin, Grey-headed Wagtail.
Uda Walawe National Park
Uda Walawe National Park

02. Talangama Lake 

The wet zone in Talangama Lake’s suburbs, on Colombo’s outskirts, is a beautiful wetland with great potential as an urban nature reserve.

This wetland includes an artificial irrigation reservoir, lush green paddy fields, canals, ponds, and marshes, making it a unique and ideal habitat for a variety of wildlife and plants to thrive. Thalangama Lake is home to over 100 species of wetlands and common garden birds.

  • Highlights: Lesser Whistling-duck, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Oriental White-eye, Indian Pygmy Woodpecker, Black-rumped Flameback, Asian Palm-swift, Intermediate Egret, Yellow Bittern, Indian Shag, Little Cormorant, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Little Grebe, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Indian Pond Heron, Purple Heron, White-browed Bulbul, Ashy Woodswallow, Brahminy Kite, Pintail Snipe, Black-winged Stilt, Black-headed Ibis, White-breasted Waterhen, Rose-ringed Parakeet.

03. Morapitiya Rainforest

Morapitiya is a lesser-known and less frequently visited birding destination. It is surrounded by the more well-known Sinharaja and Biosphere Reserves. Once, Morapitiya was a part of Sinharaja. A few species, such as the Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, live only in the high-quality rainforest.

  • Highlights: Lesser Hill-myna, Square-tailed Black Bulbul, White-bellied Drongo, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Ceylon Small Barbet, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Green Imperial Pigeon, White-breasted Waterhen, Ceylon Hangingparrot, Brown-headed Barbet, Greater Coucal, Black-headed Oriole, Yellow-billed Babbler, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Black-rumped Flameback, Brown-capped Babbler, Asian Paradise Flycatcher.

04. Anawilundawa

Many people are unaware of the first national park on the list, even though it is a region protected by the Wildlife Department of Sri Lanka. The Anawilundawa Wetland Sanctuary, located between the Negombo and Puttalam coastlines, is a meeting place for three unique ecosystems. It is one of the country’s six RAMSAR locations. There are nine tanks, and six are artificial cascading tanks. Pinkattiya, Maradansola, Anawilundawa, Mayyawa, Surawila, and Vellawali are among them. Because of its unique biological system has become a popular breeding site for several hundred bird species.

Anawilundawa is a popular destination for birdwatchers and naturalists who want to see uncommon species in their natural habitat.

  • Highlights: Pied Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Black Bittern, Yellow Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Blue-faced Malkoha, Brown Fish Owl, Chestnut-winged Cockoo.

05. Horton Plains National Park

Ohiya’s Horton Plains National Park is a picturesque highland plateau at an elevation of 2100–2300m (6,900–7,500ft) above sea level. The Highlands of Sri Lanka, along with Horton Plains National Park, Peak Wilderness Protected Area, and Knuckles Conservation Forest, was designated as a World Heritage site in 2006. It is accessible via Ginigathena (185.4 km) or the A5 Road (228.5 km), which connects Peradeniya with Chenkalady in the east via Gampola and Nuwara Eliya.

The weather in the plains fluctuates significantly throughout the day, with temperatures as high as 27 degrees Celsius during the day and as low as 5 degrees Celsius in the evenings and at night, with dense mist development and consistent rainfall throughout the year.

This protected region, located in the southern plateau of Sri Lanka’s central highlands, was previously known as “Maha-Eliya Tenna” (the vast open plains) before being renamed “Horton Plains” after the British Governor of Ceylon, Sir Robert Wilmot Horton (1831–1837). It is rich in biodiversity, with numerous species that are indigenous to the area. Horton Plains National Park opened in 1988.

  • Highlights: Yellow-eared Bulbul, Dusky-Blue Flycatcher, Ceylon Wood Pigeon, Crimson-backed Flameback, Superfowl, Ceylon Junglefowl, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Orange-billed Babbler, Ceylon Bush Warbler, Ceylon Whistling Thrush.
Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains National Park

06. Bundala National Park

The next stop on the list is Bundala National Park, located in the Southern Province. It was the first RAMSAR site in Sri Lanka and was proclaimed a National Park in 1993. UNESCO designated it a biosphere reserve in 2005. Many migrating birds from across the seas have visited this national park due to its abundance of brackish water lagoons.

Greater Flamingos may be seen here from November to January each year. (Recent data indicates that nearly 1000 birds have been spotted in Bundala at any given time.) Bundala National Park is home to over 197 bird species, including flamingos.

  • Highlights: Greater Flamingos, Ceylon Jungle Fowls, Great Egrets, Asian Open Bills, Black-winged Stilts, Yellow-Wattled Lapwings, Painted Storks, Plovers, Sand Pipers, Turnes, Ducks, Rosy Starlings, Bharahuramy Mynas.
Bundala National Park
Bundala National Park

07. Sinharaja Forest Reserve

Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a biodiversity hotspot and national park in Sri Lanka, is well-known for its rich flora and animals among local and international visitors. UNESCO also designates Sinharaja as a World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve.

  • Highlights: Yellow-Eared Bulbul, Ceylon White-Eye, Ceylon Scaly Thrush, Ceylon Wood Pigeon, Dusky Blue Flycatcher

08. Kumana National Park 

Kumana National Park, located on Sri Lanka’s south-eastern coast, is well-known for its enormous flocks of birds. This Park bird sanctuary is a renowned spot for bird viewing in Sri Lanka. It was designated as a significant bird breeding and nesting area in the country in 1938.

According to data, approximately 255 bird species have been observed in the national park. The best months to visit are April through July when hundreds of birds migrate to the marshes of this refuge. Some of these birds are uncommon, so seeing the sanctuary is a must if you enjoy bird watching.

  • Highlights: Waterfowl, Pintail snipes, Purple Swamphens, Tiny Egrets, Black-Crowned Night Herons, Wood Sandpipers, Yellow-Footed Green Pigeons.

09. Victoria Park–Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is a popular highland resort that serves as an excellent and pleasant location for visiting various Montane sights, such as Victoria Park and the Hakgala Botanical Garden. The rolling hills and valleys are blanketed in a green carpet of the world’s best high-growth tea plants. The scent of new tea leaves from tea manufacturers pervades the gentle air.

  • Highlights: Ceylon White Eye, CeylonBush Wabler, Ceylon Wood Pigeon, Dull Blue Flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin, Canary Flycatcher, Black Bird, Black Bird, Yellow Earned Bulbul, Pied Thrush, Canary Fly Catcher, Indian Pitta, Green Sandpiper.

10. Udawattakele Sanctuary

Udawttakele forest reserve is a historic forest reserve located on a hill crest in Kandy. The Forest Department has declared 104 hectares of this forest as a sanctuary and a forest reserve. This is a damp, towering evergreen forest. Many birds that feed on the fish flock to the sanctuary’s lake.

  • Highlights: Indian Three-toed Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Brown Fish Owl, Forest Eagle Owl, Wood Owl, Common Hill Myna, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Green Leaf, Large-billed Leaf warblers, Layard’s Flycatcher, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Paradise Flycatcher, Crimson-backed Woodpecker, The Brown-capped Babbler

Other key birdwatching areas:

  1. Bellanwila Attidiya Sanctuary
  2. Muthurajawela Marshes
  3. Kitulgala or Kelani Valley Forest Reserve
  4. Bodhinagala or Ingiriya Forest Reserve
  5. Gilimale Forest Reserve
  6. Peak Wilderness Sanctuary
  7. Uda Walawe National Park
  8. Kalametiya Sanctuary
  9. Karagan Lewaya
  10. Hambantota Maha Lewaya
  11. Embilikala Kalapuwa
  12. Ruhunu National Park (Yala West)
  13. Hakgala
  14. Knuckles Range: Corbett’s Gap

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