Sri Lanka, introduction and logistics

I have just returned from a 10 day birding trip to the wonderful island of Sri Lanka. As always I am producing a trip report on these blog pages (probably slowly as and when I get time!)

For anyone considering at trip to Sri Lanka I hope this introduction will help whet the appetite. This trip was organised by my friend AbdulRahmen Al Sirhan from Kuwait and our ground agents and guides in Sri Lanka were a company called Walk With Jith website here. There were just 3 of us on the trip, myself, AbdulRahmen and Graham Sorrie from Northumberland.


Or itinerary took us from Bandaranaike International Airport north of Colombo to the wet zone forests of Kitulgala, then north to the historical sites of Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa. From there we went south to the highland area centered on the town of Nuwara Eliya including the cloud forest and grasslands of Horton Plains. Then it was south east to the coast at Tissamaharama and Yala NP before going back west to finish with an extended stay at the wonderful wet zone forests at Sinharaja.

Accommodation and food

Being an organised tour this was all booked for us. Everywhere we stayed was well situated, comfortable and with food ranging from acceptable to bloody lovely! The best food we had was at the Hill Pride Hotel in Nuwara Elija where the chef prided himself on what he produced. The most basic place we stayed were in the tree houses at the Inn on the Tree. Staff at all the places we stayed were super helpful and friendly. The places we stayed were:

Kitulgala Rest House, Kitulgala (1 night)
Inn on the Tree, Sigiriya (2 nights)
Hill Pride Hotel, Nuwara Elija (2 nights)
The Grand Yala Hotel, Tissamaharama (2 nights)
Rock View Motel, Sinharaja (3 nights)
Flights and Travel

I flew with Emirates from Stanstead to Colombo via Dubai for the price of £519. The downside was a 7 hour wait in Dubai on the return journey. We travelled around Sri Lanka in a very comfortable and spacious small minibus. At Sinharja we swapped into a 4-wheel drive 'rustic' jeep to navigate the truly horrendous tracks up to the forest. Without this it would have been virtually impossible to bird the forest here because of the long walk involved. In Yala NP we had a day safari in one of their accredted jeeps, complete with mad (but very committed!) driver.

The roads are slow, winding and full of traffic so depite the relatively short distances between sites we had drives of up to 5 hours a few times. Tuk-tuks are ubiquitous and the drivers have no road sense at all!

Petrol, it was noted, was about half the price we pay in the UK.

Birding and Guides 

Our guides were Hetti and Indunil from Walk With Jith. They were 2 of the nicest, helpful and committed guides I've encountered and I can't recommend them or the company they work for highly enough. Nothing was too much trouble and the work they put in to find the birds was very impressive. In addition they had local contacts in many of the places we visited who were called on to take us straight to things like roosting owls, frogmouths etc!

The birding in Sri Lanka is focussed on the islands 34 endemics but there is a host of other goodies too plus many endemic subspecies which may be future 'ticks'. Into the bargain there are a wealth of mammals including the best place in Asia to see Leopard plus Asian Elephant.

The 34 endemics are well documented but this list of the endemic subspecies may prove helpful

1- Painted Francolin Francolin pictus watsoni
2- Jungle Bush Quail ssp. ceylonensis
3- Sri Lanka Frogmouth ssp. moniliger
4- Jungle Nightjar ssp. kelaarti
5- Jerdon’s Nightjar ssp. aequabilis
6- Indian Nightjar ssp. eidos
7- Alpine Swift ssp. bakeri
8- Banded Bay Cuckoo ssp. waiti
9- Fork-tailed Drono-cuckoo ssp. stewartia
10- Common Hawk-cuckoo ssp. ceceliae
11- Spotted Dove ssp. ceyonensis
12- Common Emerald Dove ssp. robinsoni
13- Orange-breasted Green Pigeon ssp. leggei
14- Yellow-foted Green Pigeon ssp. philipsi
15- Barred Buttonquail ssp. leggei
16- Red-wattled Lapwing ssp. lankae
17- Crested Serpent Eagle ssp. spilogaster
18- Changeable Hawk-Eagle ssp. ceylanensis
19- Crested Goshawk ss. Layardi
20- Sri lanka Bay Owl ssp. assimilis
21- Oriental Scops Owl ssp. leggei
22- Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl ssp. blighi
23- Brown Fish Owl ssp. zelonensis
24- Brown Wood Owl ssp. ochrogeys
25- Malabar Trogon ssp. fasciatus
26- Oriental Dollarbird ssp. irisi
27- Green Bee-eater ssp ceylonicus
28- Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker ssp. gymnopthalmos
29- Lesser Yellownape ssp. wellsi
30- Black-rumped (Lesser) Flameback ssp. jaffinense
31- White-naped Woodpecker ssp. tantus
32- Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike ssp. leggei
33- Large Cuckooshrike ssp. layardi
34- Black-hooded Oriole ssp. ceylonensis
35- Black Drongo ssp. minor
36- White bellied Drongo ssp. insularis in the north and leucopygialis in the south
37- Greater Racket-tailed Drondo ssp. ceylonicus
38- Black-naped Monarch ssp. ceylonensis
39- Indian Paradise Flycatcher ssp. ceylonensis
40- Red-vented Bulbul ssp. haemorrhousus
41- White-browed Bulbul ssp. insulae
42- Yellow-browed Bulbul ssp. guglielmi
43- Square-tailed Bulbul ssp. humii
44- Grey-breasted Prinia ssp. pectoralis
45- Jungle Prinia ssp. valida
46- Ashy Prinia ssp. brevicauda
47- Plain Prinia ssp. insularis
48- Tawny-bellied Babbler ssp. phillipsi
49- Dark-fronted Babbler ssp. siccata n&e, ssp. nigrifrons sw
50- Brown-capped Babbler ssp. fuscocapillus wet zone of sw
51- Yellow-billed Babbler ssp. taprobanus
52- Yellow-eyed Babbler ssp. nasale
53- Common Myna ssp. melanosternus
54- Indian Blackbird ssp. kinnisii
55- Indian Robin ssp. leucpterus
56- White-rumped Shama ssp. leggei
57- Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher ssp. jerdoni
58- Pied Bush Chat ssp. aratus
59- Thick-billed Flowerpecker ssp. zeylonicum
60- Pale-billed Flowerpecker ssp. cylonense
61- Purple-rumped Sunbird ssp. zelonica
62- Loten’s Sunbird ssp. lotenius
63- Black-throated Munia ssp. kelaart
64- Common Tailorbird ssp. fernandonis highland and ssp. sutorius low lands
65- Brown-capped Babbler ssp babaulti n&e SL and ssp. fuscocapillus wet zone sw SL and ssp.scortillum humid forest of sw SL (latter recognized by Clements only).
66- SL Scimitar Babbler ssp. melanurus wet llands, ssp. holdsworthi dry lands.


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