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 Post subject: Ten Common Birds to be seen in Sri Lanka
 Post Posted: Sat Nov 05, 2005 4:04 am 
Ten Common Birds to be seen in Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka is fortunate in having a rich diversity of avifauna, in fact one of the richest in any comparable area of South Asia. A tropical climate, isolation from the mainland and a diversity of habitats are the main factors behind such abundance. Indeed, the island boasts over 400 bird species. There are 227 residents of which 26 are endemic. In addition to the endemics, 95 migrants, 24 pelagic (sea birds), and 75 incidental species have been recorded in the island. Of the many migrant birds, the waders (stints, sandpipers, plovers, terns, etc) are the most remarkable, some of them travelling annually from their breeding grounds as far away as the Arctic tundra. The most flamboyant of the visitors, however, is the greater flamingo, which flies in from the Rann of Kutch, India.

Sri Lanka is an excellent bird watching destination because a great variety of birds can be viewed within a relatively short space of time. Indeed, due to the island’s small size birdwatchers can visit virtually all of the good sites in a fortnight. Furthermore, the visitor on a limited schedule can combine sites of endemic species with sites of general wildlife interest as well as archaeological sites. In order to obtain a good coverage of the endemic species, a visit to a lowlands rainforest/jungle site such as Sinharaja, Kitulgala, or Bodhinagala, will need to be combined with a visit to a montane site such as Horton Plains or Hakgala. For the shorebird enthusiast, Bundala, Hambantota and Kalametiya are good sites in the south. If you are limited by time, there is the Bellanwila Attidya sanctuary, a marshy site on the outskirts of Colombo, which is good for observing water birds.


Ten Common Birds to be seen in Sri Lanka

Black-Headad or Black-Hooded Oriole
(Oriolus xanthornus)
The black-headed oriole is one of the most conspicuously beautiful common birds to be found in Sri Lanka. There are few well-wooded gardens that it does not visit periodically, though it is much more plentiful in some areas than others. Generally, it is not at all shy. It arrives in pairs, which keep in touch with one another by their loud limpid calls as they dive - a brilliant flash of yellow-gold - from tree to tree. They live chiefly upon small fruits and berries as well as upon insects and spiders.

White-Throated or White-Breasted Kingfisher
(Halcyon smy rnensis)
The gorgeous kingfisher is found far away from water just as frequently as near it. Although it catches small fish, crabs and frogs in the usual kingfisher manner
when such prey is easily available, it commonly frequents gardens, paddy-fields and open country, where it feeds upon small lizards, worms, beetles, and insects. Generally it prefers to sit on a perch overhanging water, watching for movement, suddenly diving down and catching some unsuspecting creature. Its cry is a loud cackling call, generally uttered on the wing. It also has a song, which it often broadcasts from the top of a high pole.

Yellow-Billed Babbler
(Turdoides affinis)
From their habit of associating in small family parties, often of six or seven birds, babblers are commonly called “seven sisters” or “seven brothers.” They are found almost everywhere, but are particularly fond of visiting gardens and picking beneath trees and shrubs, seeking for small grubs, insects and snails. Although rather dull in their plumage, they are cheerful, noisy, useful birds with an interesting community life that repays close study. The young are often adopted by the whole troop and are fed by several members in addition to their parents. Another interesting aspect of their communal life is that a squirrel often accompanies them.

Red-Backed Woodpecker
(Dinopium benghalense psarodes)
The commonest of nine woodpeckers, the red-backed is a frequent visitor to gardens in the residential areas of Colombo, but is equally abundant in the more remote jungles and well-wooded districts. Generally its presence is advertised by its loud trilling call. It is then seen hopping up or down the trunk of a nearby tree or palm. Usually it starts at the bottom and hops its way up, examining the trunk for ants, beetles, grubs and other insects. Then, having finished one tree it flies to the next, with a typical jerky, undulatory flight, the noise of its rapid wing beats being audible at some distance.

Red-Vented Bulbul
(Pycnonotus cafer) Bulbuls, with their cheery voices and pleasing ways, are among the favourites of bird-lovers. One of the commonest of our birds, this bulbul is a resident in almost all gardens. The cock is rather pugnacious and drives away others of its species, so it is generally met with in pairs - a large garden frequently being divided up into the territory of several pairs. Feeding largely upon small berries and fruits as well as insects, it may be seen both in low trees and bushes. It is only occasionally found on the ground, probably due to its short legs.

Greater Coucal
(Centropus sinensis)
The coucal is the villain of the garden. It is related to the cuckoos, but builds its own nest. Being omnivorous, it spends the day searching the shrubberies, flowerbeds and thickets for anything edible it can find. It robs the eggs and young of many small birds. However, it also does good by destroying pests, from snails, to grubs and wireworms. In the open it runs rapidly, but it prefers to creep through dense thickets, from the middle of which its loud resounding call “Kook-Kook-Kook” issues frequently. Its flight is ungainly, and it indulges in long glides with set wings when passing to some distant tree.

Oriental Magpie-Robin
(Copsychus saularis)
The magpie-robin is an attractive bird in its bright black and white plumage as it hops about looking for grubs and insects or flits from bush to bush, uttering its cheerful call-notes and alarm cries. The cock has a pleasing little song, especially during the nesting season. It is varied and full and is heard most often in the early mornings and evenings. The magpie-robin has the habit of cocking its tail and then flicking it up as it settles after a short flight or run.

Paradise Flycatcher
(Terpsisphone pardisi)

Both types of paradise flycatcher may be seen in gardens, forests, and well-wooded country during the north-east monsoon. The birds with long brown tails are the males of the local species, whereas the birds with the long white tails are winter migrants from India. Generally they frequent bushy trees or low shady undergrowth, sallying forth from some convenient perch to hunt for flies and other insects, or darting across the open, the cocks with their long tails streaming out behind them - hence the popular Sinhalese name redi-hora or “cotton thief” for the white cocks and gin-hora or “fire thief” for the red.


Purple-Rumped Sunbird
(Nectarinia zeylonica)
All three of Sri Lanka’s sunbirds, but especially the purple-rumped, are frequent visitors to gardens with copious flowers. This is because they live upon the nectar of various flowers as well as upon small insects and spiders. Hovering in front of a brilliant flower, or settled, flicking their wings, they are delightful little birds to watch. Although in no way related to the hummingbirds of the Americas, some of their habits are similar, so they are sometimes miscalled “hummingbirds” in Sri Lanka. The males are very pugnacious and continually chase one another as well as other sunbirds.

(Orthotomus sutorius)
The tailor-bird is reputed for the remarkable ability to stitch together the edge of a leaf or leaves to form a pocket in which to build its nest. Having selected a leaf, the hen makes a number of punctures along the edge. She then selects a strand of cotton or cobweb and passes it through the punctures so that the edges can be drawn together. Remarkably, she even ties a knot to prevent slippage. Being unobtrusive in its habits, its presence in a garden would often be overlooked were it not for the loud, persistent call “tuwick, tuwick, tuwick” that issues from the depths of the bushes. Like all warblers, it is a beneficial bird, spending its time hunting for grubs and insects.

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