Birding Tour Sri Lanka: Island Endemics and Wintering Specialties 2019

Duration: 14 days

Sri Lanka is a picturesque continental island situated at the southern tip of India and has actually been connected to India for much of its geological past through episodes of lower sea level. Despite these land-bridge connections, faunal exchange between the rainforests found in Southern India and Sri Lanka has been minimal. This lack of exchange of species is probably due to the inability of rainforest organisms to disperse though the interceding areas of dry lowlands. These dry lowlands are still dry today and receive only one major rainy season, whereas Sri Lanka’s ‘wet zone’ experiences two annual monsoons. This long insularity of Sri Lankan biota in a moist tropical environment has led to the emergence of a bewildering variety of endemic biodiversity. This is why southwestern Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats of southern India are jointly regarded as one of the globe’s 34 biodiversity hotspots. Furthermore, Sri Lanka is the westernmost representative of Indo-Malayan flora, and its abundant birdlife also shows many such affinities.

Sri Lanka is home to 34 currently recognized IOC endemic species with some of the most impressive ones including the rare Sri Lanka Spurfowl, gaudy Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, and Layard’s Parakeet, the shy, thicket-dwelling Red-faced Malkoha, the tiny Chestnut-backed Owlet, the common Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Yellow-eared Bulbul, the spectacular Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, the cute Sri Lanka White-eye, and the tricky, but worth-the-effort trio of Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush and Sri Lanka and Spot-winged Thrushes. We will also look for the relatively recently discovered (2001), Endangered (IUCN), range-restricted, endemic Serendib Scops Owl, which we will hopefully find on its day roost, as we will hope to do with the shy and secretive Sri Lanka Bay Owl too.

This tour is also timed to coincide with the presence of several overwintering species in the country that are difficult to find at their breeding grounds; these include the boldly-patterned and highly-skulking Pied Thrush, the pretty Kashmir Flycatcher, and the simply stunning Indian Pitta. There are also plenty of other exciting species possible, such as Lesser Adjutant, Indian Blue Robin, Indian Peafowl, Legge’s Hawk-Eagle, Orange Minivet, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Forest Wagtail, Malabar Trogon, and Sri Lanka Frogmouth (surprisingly not a Sri Lankan endemic, given its English name; it also occurs in southern India in the Western Ghats).

This tour also offers plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities with Asian Elephant, the Sri Lankan endemic subspecies of Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya), and Blue Whale all being possible, along with a range of monkeys, squirrels, and deer. The itinerary covers a variety of habitat types, including lowland, monsoon and cloud forests, grasslands, lagoons, coastal mudflats, fresh and brackish waterbodies, imposing riverine woodland, and forest, and will include a pelagic trip off Sri Lanka’s southwest coast into the sparkling Indian Ocean.

You could combine this tour with our exciting set of Indian bird and wildlife tours that follow on from this tour, such as our very popular Birding Tour India: The North – Tigers and Birds January/February 2019 that runs directly after this one (28th January – 13th February 2019), our Birding Tour India: The Northwest – Lions and Desert Birding in Gujarat 2019 (14th – 27th February 2019), and our Birding Tour India: The Northeast – Birds and Mammals of Eaglenest, Nameri and Kaziranga 2019, which visits the mountains of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh (2nd – 15th March 2019).

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