Endemic birds of Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Endemic birds of Sri Lanka

18 October, 2020

Currently there are 33 identified species of endemic birds in Sri Lanka, out of which most are found in the wet zone. November to April are considered the best months of the year to spot most of these endemics. The Kithulgala and Sinharaja forest reserves in the low lands are among the top spots to view a majority of these endemics. Horton Plains National Park in the hills is the best place to catch the endemics that enjoy their life at altitude.


Black-capped Bulbul - Pycnonotus melanicterus

This is a fairly common bulbul with olive green upperparts, brown tail with broad white tips to outer tail feathers, yellow throat and underparts with olive tinge on breast and flanks. It has brown flight feathers and a yellow under wing. Male has red iris while that of the female is brown. Occurs in pairs or small parties in open forests and woodlands of lowlands and hills, up to at least 1300 metres.


Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush - Garrulax cinereifrons

This is another bird that lives in flocks and is also associated with the feeding flocks of Sinharaja. Looks much neater than the rufous babbler. It is confined to the deep forests of the wet zone and adjacent hills. It ascends to at least 1600 metres. It is a noisy bird, constantly chattering and squeaking. These calls can easily be mistaken for those of the rufous babbler.


Brown-capped Babbler - Pellorneum fuscocapillus

This babbler is of sober colours; brown upper parts with darker brown cap and nape; face, supercilium and under parts are cinnamon or pale rusty. A forest loving bird that lives in pairs and is found throughout the island. It ascends the hills to at least 1600 meters. Both sexes alike spend much time on the ground turning over leaves looking for insects. Heard more often than seen.


Legge’s Flowerpecker - Dicaeusm vincens

A very attractive bird when looked at closely. Can be easily differentiated from the rather similar purple rumped sunbird by its short, stout bill. Males have dark blue grey upper parts with white tips outer tail feathers (less apparent in the female), white throat and upper breast. Rest of the under parts are yellow, paling it white on under tail coverts. Females are generally paler with grey olive upperparts. This scarce bird is confined to the rain forests of the south western part of the wet zone and the adjacent hills up to about 1000 metres. Lives either solitarily, in pairs or in small family parties.


Chestnut backed Owlet - Glaucidium castanonotum

This is a handsome little owl with a chestnut back. A rather rare owlet of the wet zone forests that does not ascend higher hills. Lives in pairs and often can be heard and hence, located during day time. Does not hesitate to come into well wooded human habitations, sometimes even nesting in them. Kitulgala, Dombagaskanda and Sinharaja are some of the locations it could be seen.


Ceylon Hill-Myna - Gracula ptilogenys

A sleek black bird with a pair of yellow wattles on the nape and a white wing patch. Very pale grey eye and black based orange-red bill. This can be easily distinguished from the southern hill myna (the only other Sri Lankan bird with which this can be confused) by the presence of only a single pair of wattles. This myna inhabits the forests and well wooded country of the wet zone, ascending the hills to at least 2,000 metres. Lives in pairs or small parties.


Ceylon Green pigeon - Treron pompadora

This handsome but smaller pigeon is by far the most familiar of the green pigeons, occurring almost throughout the entire low country and ascending the hills to about 1,000 metres or sometimes even higher. It occurs in forest, well wooded cultivation and also home gardens. This is an arboreal pigeon, lives in small flocks and moves about a good deal. Kitulgala, Sinharaja and Udawalawe are some of the places where this bird can be seen easily.


White-faced Starling - Sturnia albofrontata

A scarce slenderly built starling with white forehead, face, throat, and under tail coverts. The white of the head merges streakily into the greenish grey black of the back, wings and tail while the white throat shades into the smokey grey of the breast and underparts which are streaked with white. It is confined to the tall forests of the wet zone and adjacent areas, ascending to about 1,500 meters. Strictly arboreal, frequenting tops of tall trees. Lives in pairs or small flocks. Also seen in the Sinharaja feeding flocks.


Ceylon Scaly Thrush - Zoothera imbricata

This is a rare shy forest dwelling ground thrush, olive brown above and with rufous buff under parts. The scaly pattern of the body, the large and long bill and chunky appearance make identification easy. Found between the lower hills and up to 1700 metres. Spends most of its time on the ground, turning over dead leaves and looking for insect food. Sexes alike.


Dusky-blue Flycatcher - Eumyias sordidus

This is another hill country endemic of dull blue great coloration. A conspicuous brighter blue forehead makes it easily identifiable. This flycatcher is confined to the hills above 650 metres but is not common bellow 1,000 metres. An inhabitant of forests and well wooded estates and gardens where plenty of shady trees provide the seclusion it likes; in such places it is a familiar bird and not shy at all.

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