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Trip Report – March 2013

Comments: The focus of our trip to Sri Lanka was the 33 endemics so we didn’t cover the north or east of the island – we were successful with all 33 so our route was adequate for that – although, given some more time, it would have been nice to see a little more of the country. As with so many Asian countries the driving times are VERY slow so covering that extra distance would add considerably more time. Leech socks are a must on this trip – although your guide should have some but check with them before you go!

The people of Sri Lanka are incredibly friendly and the island is very clean – which was a breath of fresh air after India – we loved this country!

Chestnut-backed Owlet

Day 1: We had arrived the day before and driven straight to the Plantation Hotel in Kitugala so we headed out before breakfast to get started! Our guide took us to a private plantation for some fabulous birds – too many to list but the endemics were Chestnut-Backed Owlet, Spot-winged Thrush, Orange-billed Babbler, Black-capped Bulbul, Crimson-Fronted Barbet, Layard’s Parakeet, Sri Lanka Hanging-Parrot and Crimson-backed Goldenback. Then a great breakfast at the hotel by the river and back out to the plantation for more endemics Yellow-fronted Barbet, Legge’s Flowerpecker. Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Swallow and Sri Lanka Green Pigeon 13 endemics before lunch!!

After lunch we were paddled across the river in a very strange canoe where we walked through
Spot-winged Thrush
a small village and into a lovely park.The park was fairly quiet but on the way back we managed to add to our list of endemics with Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Drongo, Sri Lanka Hill Myna and Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill. A great start!. Night at Plantation Hotel.

Sri Lanka Junglefowl

Day 2: A leisurely breakfast and then a 3 hour drive to Singarajah Forest. Nothing much to see on the way so once we had checked into the Rock View Motel we picked up a local guide and headed in a safari jeep into the forest. The targets were Sri Lanka Spurfowl and Green billed Coucal but we were not successful in fact it was very quiet and we didn’t see much at all. Night at Rock View Motel.

Day 3: An early morning drive with the local guide high up into the Singarajah Forest gave us an opportunity to get 6 endemics – we were successful with 5 of them -White-faced Starling, Red-faced Malkoha, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and an extremely hard to find Sri Lanka Thrush – only missing Wood Pigeon. Then after lunch and a rest another outing to the forest in the afternoon gave us fantastic views of a family of Serendib Scops Owl. Night at Rock View Motel

Sri Lanka Spurfowl

Day 4: Another early morning attempt at Green-billed Coucal and Sri Lanka Spurfowl was finally successful. With the help of some local people we had great views of the Spurfowl and OK view of the Coucal which was incredibly shy.

The afternoon was spent driving to Mirissa for a relaxing evening at the Paradise Beach Club.

Day 5: Today was supposed to be a combination of pelagic birding and an almost guaranteed sighting of Blue Whale. Unfortunately it was disappointing on both fronts. We picked one of the 5% of days that there are no blue whales and, it turned out, that our bird guide didn’t know his pelagic birds at all! – despite the fact that I had discussed this with him prior to the trip! A rather frustrating morning and then the afternoon was spent driving to Tissa – thank goodness we found a wonderful wetland there which delivered a huge number of species and 4 life birds for us – both Black and Yellow Bittern, Spot-billed Pelican and Watercock. Then on to wonderful accommodation at the Hibiscus Garden Hotel.

Day 6: An early start in a safari truck and we headed into Yala National Park for the day. Not the easiest of birding because you can’t leave

Pin-tailed Snipe

the truck but we added 38 species to our Sri Lanka list and enjoyed 5 life birds – Sri Lanka Woodswallow, Marshall’s Iora, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Lesser Adjutant and, on the way home, Pin-tailed Snipe. We also managed to see a Leopard – although it was well under some shrubs and just as well we had binoculars with us. Another lovely evening at the Hibiscus Garden Hotel.

Day 7: Started out after breakfast to drive to Nurawa Eliya. Drove through some lovely plantations and stopped in Bandarawela at the Mesna Tea Centre. We were still missing the Sri Lanka Woodpigeon so went to the Surrey Bird Centre ( which also has accommodation now) and spent a couple of hours searching – but still nothing! Did get Brown Wood Owl though – although not a life bird for us.

Checked into our hotel in Nurawa Eilya and then headed out to a spot at the side of the road for great views of Sri Lanka White-eye, Dull Blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler and Yellow-eared Bulbul – but still not Woodpigeon! Night at the Grand Hotel.

Sri Lanka whistling thrush

Day 8: Today is Horton Plains which required us to leave early as it is about an hour away. Not the most exciting birding as there aren’t that many birds on the Plains ( shame you can’t say the same about the people!) and we only have 3 target birds. It is a beautiful area but the birds are few and far between – we got 2 of our targets Sri Lanka Blue Whistling Thrush and Black-throated Munia – where is the Woodpigeon?

A late afternoon walk to Victoria Park was also disappointing – mainly because there was a huge carnival in the town and the people and music were overwhelming. Night at the Grand.

Sri Lanka wood pigeon


Day 9: Decided to try Victoria Park again early before the crowds and our efforts paid off with Pied Thrush – although the Kashmir Flycatcher was nowhere to be found. As this was our last day, our guide decided to try a stretch of woodland outside town near the garbage dump for our final chance at Woodpigeon. This was the last endemic on the list and we were so excited to actually find the bird – literally at the last possible moment. So we had done it – all 33!

That meant we could relax and enjoy a visit to the Sacred Tooth Temple in Kandy on our way back down to Negambo ready to fly home. We were very glad we weren’t staying more than one night in Negambo because we were in an hotel on the beach and it was very disappointing! Still the rest of the trip had been great!


Plantation Hotel, Kitugala
Rock View Motel   Kalawala
Paradise Beach Club     Mirissa
Hibiscus Gardens Tissa
Grand Hotel Nurawa Eliya
Sunset Beach Negombo – not worth staying

Guides & Resources

Field Guide: Birds of Sri Lanka- Richard Grimmett, Deepal Warakgoda, Carol & Tim Inskipp, (a little out of date) and the more uptodate Birds of the Indian Sub-Continent (also Richard Grimmett and Carol & Tim Inskipp) – released in March 2013.

Bird Song: We used  Birdsongs of the Sri Lanka – Deepal Warakagoda and Uditha Hettige (from birdsounds.nl)

Guides: We booked through Sri Lanka Birding – Chandima. He was great with the endemics but didn’t know shorebirds or pelagics.

Lonely Planet guide for points of interest.

Bird List