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  • Photograph of Sri Lanka Blue Magpie

    Two striking endemic Sri Lanka Blue Magpies by Chris Townend.

    SRI LANKA


    Best Wildlife in Sri Lanka

    Mammals
    'Pygmy' Blue Whale, Asian Elephant, Leopard, Asian Water Buffalo, (Tufted) Grey Langur, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey (endemic), Toque Macaque (endemic), Sambar, Chital, Brown (Short-tailed), Indian Grey, Ruddy and Stripe-necked Mongooses, Sri Lanka (Grizzled) Giant Squirrel (endemic), Travancore Flying Squirrel, Indian Flying Fox, and Fulvous, Greater Short-nosed and Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bats. Also a chance of Grey Slender and Red Slender Lorises, Fishing, Jungle and Rusty-spotted Cats, Sloth Bear (especially in June), and Asian Palm, Small Indian and Sri Lankan Brown Palm Civets, and an outside chance of Indian Pangolin, Sri Lanka Spotted Chevrotain, Indian Crested Porcupine, Indian Gerbil, Sperm, Dwarf Sperm, False Killer and Bryde's Whales, and Bottlenose, Risso's, (Long-snouted) Spinner, Spotted and Striped Dolphins.

    Birds

    Endemics
    SL Spurfowl, SL Junglefowl, SL Wood Pigeon, SL Green Pigeon, SL Hanging Parrot, SL (Layard's) Parakeet, Green-billed Coucal, Red-faced Malkoha, Serendib Scops Owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet, SL Grey Hornbill, Crimson-fronted (SL) and Yellow-fronted Barbets, Crimson-backed Flameback, SL Woodshrike, SL Drongo, SL Blue Magpie, Black-capped (Black-crested) and Yellow-eared Bulbuls, SL (Red-rumped) Swallow, SL Whistling Thrush, SL (Scaly) and Spot-winged Thrushes, Dull-blue Flycatcher, SL Bush Warbler, SL (Indian) Scimitar Babbler, Brown-capped and Orange-billed Babblers, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, SL White-eye, SL Hill Myna, White-faced Starling and Legge's Flowerpecker.

    Species shared only with Southern India
    Legge's (Crested) Hawk Eagle, Blue-faced Malkoha, SL Frogmouth, Jerdon’s Nightjar, Indian Swiftlet, Malabar Trogon, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Orange (Scarlet) Minivet, Jerdon’s (Rufous-winged) Bush Lark, Hill (Pacific) Swallow, Square-tailed (Black), White-browed and Yellow-browed Bulbuls, Indian Blackbird, Indian (White-browed) Scimitar Babbler, Dark-fronted and Yellow-billed Babblers, Southern (Common) Hill Myna, Jerdon’s (Blue-winged) Leafbird, Long-billed (Loten’s) Sunbird and Black-throated Munia.

    Other Specialities
    Indian Pitta (mostly Nov-Mar), Pied Thrush (mostly Nov-Mar), Indian Blue Robin (mostly Nov-Mar) and Kashmir Flycatcher (mostly Nov-Mar).

    Others
    Indian Peafowl, Barred Buttonquail, Spot-billed Pelican, Oriental Darter, Indian Pond Heron, Yellow Bittern, Black-necked and Painted Storks, Lesser Adjutant, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black Eagle, Great and Indian Thick-knees, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Small Pratincole, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Plum-headed Parakeet, Chestnut-winged (mostly Nov-Mar) and Grey-bellied (mostly Nov-Mar) Cuckoos, Sirkeer Malkoha, Crested Treeswift, Alpine Swift, Brown-backed Needletail, (Black-backed) Dwarf, Pied, Stork-billed and White-throated Kingfishers, Blue-tailed, Chestnut-headed and Green Bee-eaters, Indian Roller, Hoopoe, Brown-headed and Coppersmith Barbets, woodpeckers including White-naped, Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, Ashy Woodswallow, Common and Marshall's Ioras, Black-headed and Large Cuckooshrikes, Small Minivet, White-bellied Drongo, Indian Jungle Crow, White-browed Fantail, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Ashy Prinia, warblers including Green, Common Tailorbird, White-rumped Shama, Indian Robin, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Brahminy Starling, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Forest Wagtail (mostly Nov-Mar), Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Purple-rumped Sunbird and Tricoloured Munia. Also a chance of Greater Flamingo, Black and Cinnamon Bitterns, Watercock, Brown Fish Owl, Brown Wood Owl and Black-capped Kingfisher.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    Mugger Crocodile, Land Monitor, some very large Water Monitors, Manta Ray, flying fish, numerous coral reef fish (off Ahangama for example), and Green, Leatherback and Olive Ridley Turtles (all three mostly Apr-Jun).

    Invertebrates
    Over 240 species of butterfly (42 of which are endemic) including Common Birdwing, the very large Blue Mormon and Sri Lanka Tree Nymph.

    Other Natural Wonders of Sri Lanka

    'World's End' A sheer 1050 m (3445 ft) drop at the edge of the escarpment in Horton Plains NP near Nuwara Eliya.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Sri Lanka

    Best Times for Wildlife in Sri Lanka

    November to March is the best time, when Blue Whales (mostly from December) and some of the most spectacular birds which spend the northern winter on the island are usually present, including Forest Wagtail, Indian Pitta, Pied Thrush, Indian Blue Robin and Kashmir Flycatcher. The monsoon usually lasts from May until September-October.

    Recommended Books etc. for Sri Lanka

    Bradt Travel Guide: Sri Lankan Wildlife by G de Silva Wijeyeratne. Bradt, 2007.

    Birds of Sri Lanka by D Warakagoda et al. Helm, 2012.

    A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka by J Harrison and T Worfolk. OUP, 2011 (Second Edition).

    Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by R Grimmett, and C and T Inskipp. Helm, 2012.

    A Field Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by K Kazmierczak. Helm, 2008.

    Pocket Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by R Grimmett, and C and T Inskipp. Helm, 1999.

    Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide Volumes 1 and 2 by P C Rasmussen and J C Anderton. Lynx Edicions and Smithsonian Institution, 2012.

    Indian Mammals: A Field Guide by V Menon. Hachette, 2014.

    Field Guide to the Mammals of the Indian Subcontinent by K K Gurung and R Singh. Helm, 1998.


    Apps etc.

    eGuide to Birds of the Indian Subcontinent.

    Where to watch birds in Asia by N Wheatley. Helm, 1996.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Asia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Sri Lanka

    Many trip reports, some for Sri Lanka, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Sri Lanka. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Sri Lanka' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Sri Lanka

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Sri Lanka

    Some Organized Tours to Sri Lanka

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Sri Lanka include the following.