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The Glorious Birds of Sri Lanka

A strange thing happened in Sri Lanka. I never expected it. Maybe I was cocky. Complacent; nonchalantly believing it would never happen to me. I guess my guard was down.

I was helpless really. Unprepared for the onslaught that befell me. Before I realised what was going on, my eyes had been opened and I was turned. Changed forever!

I had become a birder...

I’ve been fascinated by wildlife since I was a child watching The Really Wild Show, Wildlife on One and just about any nature documentary I could feast my eyes upon.

Travelling has been a big part of my adult life and my reason to travel number 1 is to see the animals that grace the different parts of the world. I love it so much! But seeing interesting bird behaviour can be fleeting. Rare to see, rarer still to photograph - up high in the canopy or whizzing out of sight as soon as I reach for my camera. Frustrating!

That is, until Sri Lanka!

It's a tropical island with mountains, rainforests, palm-fringed beaches, savannas and seasonal monsoon rains - a real variety of environments, all of which host fruit bearing trees and bushes, so it's no surprise that exotic bird life is everywhere too. Spectacular and joyfully easy to see.

These are some of my favourite sightings from our 10 weeks on the island:

Little green bee-eaters are fairly common here - often seen whizzing around above the grass catching insects. This one was completely unperturbed by our presence.

The striking Indian roller bird
A pair of malabar pied hornbills

There are 500 or so recorded bird species here in SL and the malabar pied hornbill is right up there among my favourites. Spectacular looking, the casque that sits atop its huge beak allows their shrieking call to resonate through the jungle.

When they breed, the male helps to seal the female into a hole in a tree, then is relied upon to deliver berries through the small opening. The female and the chicks stay in the sealed hole until the chicks are ready to fly.

Asian paradise fly catcher

This paradise fly catcher was the crown jewel of my bird spotting experience in Sri Lanka. I watched him darting and diving through tree branches - gloriously flamboyant tail feathers waving behind like a gymnastic rhythmic ribbon routine. So beautiful...and I was so happy to capture a photo.


Amazingly, we watched this serpent eagle swoop down, catch and eat this tubby frog in front of us while having our own breakfast on our hotel room balcony, which I personally think was better than frog but maybe the eagle would disagree. A bit gruesome but super interesting to see.

From the same balcony we watched toque macaques and a common kingfisher enjoying the spoils of the stream. It was a great start to the day!


There are 7 types of kingfisher on this wonderful island. We saw 3 of them - the common kingfisher that we also see in the UK, the white-throated and the pied (black and white).


Finally, notable mention to the barbets, the hoopoes, the peacocks & hens, the storks, the jungle fowl (SL's national bird), the eagles and all the other glorious birds of Sri Lanka. They gave me so much pleasure to see and ultimately made a birder of me.

A most unexpected turn of events!

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About Me

I enjoy writing and love to travel. So I’ve convinced my lovely girlfriend to put our ‘sensible’ lives on hold while we enjoy one more year of what my dad may describe as slightly reckless abandon. I.e. no work and definitely no pension contribution. Sorry Dad: I’ll try again next year. 

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