Kerawalapitiya Sand Dunes: A paradise for birds | Sunday Observer

Kerawalapitiya Sand Dunes: A paradise for birds

22 January, 2023

Kerawalapitiya is in the district of Gampaha in the Western Province. It is adjacent to the Kerawalapitiya exit of the Katunayake expressway. Thus, this place can be easily accessed through the Katunayake expressway.

Hotspot for birds

Kerawalapitiya is a hotspot for birds. Many rare migrants and vagrant birds have been recorded here. This year, on October 17, a pair of black winged Pratincoles were spotted here. This led many ornithologists to visit Kerawalapitiya.

Sand dunes

The area consists of a large open flat land. To the north of the entrance, is the place where the large sand dunes are located. Here many birds such as harriers, falcons and wagtails are found.


Several varieties of insects such as butterflies, moths and beetles can be seen here. There is also a forested area east of the entrance. There are many species of birds such as quails, warblers and pipits in this area.

Although Kerawalapitiya was discovered by chance, its importance for the birdlife in Sri Lanka is immense.

This area was recognised as a marsh land but had dried up as sand has been disposed here due to the construction of the expressway. It creates a suitable habitat for many resident and migrant birds. The garbage also attracts insects and these insects are eaten by birds.

The trip

My trip to Kerawalapitiya was the one of the best birding sessions I have had. We left early and went through the expressway to get there. We were greeted by a few western yellow wagtails, a common sight here. Compared to our first trip, only a few people were there, giving us an advantage in spotting some birds. While looking around, we spotted a small lark landing on the ground. We identified it as an ashy-crowned sparrow lark. This was a good sighting as it was an adult female.

We did catch a glimpse of a greater thick knee, but couldn’t photograph it. However, the barn swallows, zitting cisticolas and blue tailed bee-eaters were a common sight.

I hope we could visit there again.

We were walking through the shrubs, when suddenly we saw a brown bird fly away from the ground. It surprisingly matched the Black winged pratincole, but we missed it.

We made our way towards the small lake in the middle of the area. We observed one solitary little ringed plover and that was the only bird near the lake.

When we were about to leave, I spotted two small birds flying, and one of them landed on the ground.

I got excited. I slowly made my way closer and snapped a few pictures, but it flew away soon.

We later confirmed that it was a Sykes’s/Mongolian short toed lark, a vagrant to Sri Lanka. It was a memorable day.

Tharual Rajapakse
Grade 9
St. Joseph’s College