Trip report: Sri Lanka (Jan 2018) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Ken BehrensThis was a set departure tour.

The Indian Subcontinent is rich, both in human culture and history and in biological treasures. Sri Lanka is a large island at the southern tip of this region, lying a short distance from the Indian mainland. It contains a rich selection of the birds, mammals, and other wildlife of the subcontinent, which thrive in a selection of delightful protected areas; enough to thoroughly recommend it as a destination for a travelling birder. But even more alluringly, Sri Lanka is home to dozens of endemic birds – 33 given current Clements taxonomy, though this number is sure to continue to climb as distinctive subspecies are split as full species. Sri Lanka has decent infrastructure, excellent food, good lodges, and wonderfully kind and hospitable people. This short and sweet tour is equally attractive to those eager for their first taste of the Indian subcontinent, or to those who have travelled it extensively, and want to see the island’s endemic birds.

As on all of our tours in recent years, we “cleaned up” on the endemics, enjoying great views of all 33 of them. This set of endemics includes a bunch of delightful birds, such as Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Serendib Scops-Owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Hanging-Parrot, Red-faced Malkoha, Crimson-backed Woodpecker, Green-billed Coucal, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka and throated (Legge’s) Flowerpecker.

Although the endemics are the always the focus, we enjoyed excellent birding overall, tallying 257 species. At the end of the trip, all the participants and guides voted for the top sightings of the trip. The full results are in the trip report. Two of the top eight were mammals, and only two were endemic birds – a testament to the diverse nature of this tour.

To the surprise of some, who don’t expect many big mammals on this relatively small and heavily inhabited island, Sri Lanka is excellent for mammals, and we tallied 21 species. Most of these were in three well-protected and well-visited “safari” parks in the southeast, where we enjoyed the likes of Asian Elephant, Asian Water Buffalo, Spotted Deer, Ruddy Mongoose, and a single beautiful Leopard. But the rainforest also holds mammals, including most of the island’s endemics. These include the playful Layard’s Palm-Squirrel and handsome Purple-faced Langur.

Click here to read the full report in PDF format (9.5 MB file)