WONDERFUL BIRDS | Sunday Observer


 Serendib scops owl

The Serendib scops owl (Otus thilohoffmanni) is the most recently discovered bird of Sri Lanka. It was originally located by its unfamiliar poo-ooo call in the Kitulgala rainforest by prominent Sri Lankan ornithologist Deepal Warakagoda. Six years later, it was finally seen by him on January 23, 2001 in Sinharaja, and formally described as a species new to science in 2004. Apart from Sinharaja and Kitulgala, it has also been found at Runakanda Reserve in Morapitiya and Eratna Gilimale.

It is the first new bird to be discovered in Sri Lanka since 1868, when the Sri Lanka whistling thrush—then Ceylon whistling thrush—(Myophonus blighi) was discovered. It is also the 24th (according to some authorities the 27th) endemic bird species for Sri Lanka.

The habitat of the Serendib scops owl is in the southern rain forests of Sri Lanka. There is an altitudinal range from 30 to 50 metres. This owl has no competition from other nocturnal birds, the territories are completely different. This species has a very small population, at the end of January 2006 only 80 of them were known to exist. The places that it is expected to be found are in five protected areas, like the Forest Reserve or the Proposed Reserve by Sri Lanka. They seem to be declining because of the loss of habitat and the degradation. The first two hours of darkness is when the owl hunts for its food.

This rare species inhabits the rainforests in the southwestern part of Sri Lanka. Like most owls, it is strictly nocturnal and hunts insects (e.g. beetles and moths) close to the ground. It begins calling at dusk, its frequency rising again some two hours before dawn.

Unlike the other two species of scops owl in Sri Lanka, Indian scops owl (Otus bakkamoena) and oriental scops owl (Otus sunia), it does not have ear tufts and its facial disc is only weakly defined. The general colour of this 16.5 cm long, short-tailed owl is reddish brown with paler underparts, spotted all over with fine black markings. The irides are tawny yellow (more orangish in male) and the feet are a pale fleshy colour. Tarsi are feathered for less than half their length. The claws and bill are a pale ivory colour.

Sri Lanka blue magpie or Ceylon magpie

The Sri Lanka blue magpie or Ceylon magpie (Urocissa ornata) is a member of the crow family living in the hill forests of Sri Lanka, where it is endemic.

This is a species of a dense wet evergreen temperate rain forest. It is declining due to loss of this habitat. Sri Lanka Blue Magpie is usually found in small groups of up to six or seven birds. It is largely carnivorous, eating small frogs, lizards, insects and other invertebrates, but will eat fruits.

The cup-shaped stick nest is in a tree or shrub and there are usually 3–5 eggs laid. The eggs are white heavily spotted with brown. Both sexes build the nest and feed the young with only the female incubating them.

The Sri Lanka blue magpie is about the same size as the European magpie at 42–47 cm. The adults are blue with chestnut head and wings, and a long white-tipped tail. The legs and bill are red. The young bird is a duller version of the adult.

The Sri Lanka blue magpie has a variety of calls including mimicry, a loud chink-chink and a rasping krak-krak-krak-krak.


Bush warbler


The Sri Lanka bush warbler has sometimes been placed in the genus Bradypterus and a 2018 study confirms that it is a sister to the clade that contains the Bradypterus and Megalurus warblers; it appears to be closely related to that genus, but differs in structure (relatively shorter-tailed and longer-billed), plumage (unmarked) and song. It is monotypic. The species is named after the collector Captain Edward Palliser (1826-1907). Edward and his brother Fred Palliser were both collectors in Sri Lanka. The species was described by Kelaart but published by Edward Blyth in 1851.

The Sri Lanka bush warbler is a bird of dense forest undergrowth, often close to water. It is found in the highlands of central Sri Lanka, usually above 1200 m. The nest is built in a shrub and two eggs are laid.

This is a medium-large warbler at 14 cm. The adult has a plain brown back, pale grey underparts, a broad tail and short wings. There is a weak supercilium, and the throat is tinged orange. The sexes are identical, as with most warblers, but young birds lack the throat colouration.

The Sri Lanka bush warbler is a skulky species which can very difficult to see. Perhaps the best site is Horton Plains National Park. It keeps low in vegetation, and, like most warblers, it is insectivorous.

Males are often only detected by the loud song, which has an explosive queet.