5 Bird Watching Hotspots in Sri Lanka

If you are in search of bird watching places in Sri Lanka, reading through to the very end of this article is necessary. We will be covering five main spots that an avid bird watcher can visit to spot the flying marvels in Sri Lanka as well as migrants from neighbouring regions.

04 out of these 05 birds watching places are located in Southern and South-Eastern Sri Lanka so if you’re headed in that direction, add these charming places to your itinerary.

1. Anawilundawa

purple heron as seen in anawilundawa bird sancturay
A Purple heron (Ardea purpurea) wading through Anawilundawa wetlands | Photo credit:  Sumudu Soyza

The first National Park on the list is unheard by many, even though it is a location protected by the Wildlife Department of Sri Lanka. Located between Negombo and Puttalam coastline, the Anawilundawa Wetland Sanctuary is a spot where three distinctive eco-systems meet. It is one of the six RAMSAR sites in the country. The sanctuary spreads to 1397ha and contains 6 man-made tanks as well as 3 peripheral tanks creating an integrated irrigation system.

Fringed by freshwater lakes and mangroves, which bring about variants of migratory birds and species as well as local species, the sanctuary boasts of over 150 inhabitants of various types.

The species are seen all year round, however, if you are looking forward to seeing migratory birds, the period between October to April is best suited.

Egret, ibis, pheasant tailed-jacana, stalk, purple swamphen and cormorant are some of the species you can spot during your visit. Apart from these, toque monkey, fishing cat, rusty spotted cat, Indian otter as well as various butterfly species also can be seen in the sanctuary.

How to get there?

The sanctuary is located some 20 km to the north from beach town Chilaw. Direct drive from Colombo would take at least 02 1/2 hours. If you’re headed to Kalpitiya or Wilpattu from Colombo,  you can easily make a quick detour to the sanctuary as it is only 2.5 km from the main road.  [ Google Maps Location ]

2. Bundala NP

pelicons by the lake in bundala
Photo credit: Uditha De Silva

Next on the list is a birder’s paradise, Bundala National Park located in the Southern Province. It was declared a National Park of Sri Lanka, in 1993 and was the first RAMSAR site in Sri Lanka. In the year of 2005, UNESCO named it as a biosphere reserve. The wealth of brackish water lagoons have lead many migratory birds from across the ocean to visit this national park.

During the season between November to January, Greater Flamingos can be spotted here. (Recent numbers suggest that close to 1000 plus birds have been seen at Bundala at a given time). Including the flamingos, the Bundala National Park hosts approximately 197 species of birds.

Some of the other birds seen at the park include cormorants, grey herons, waterfowls, painted storks, Eurasian spoonbills and black-necked storks.

Get your bird watching gear and head out to the park. You will have to decide whether you want to visit the park during the morning half or the evening half and get your tours arranged accordingly. Depending on the tour guides you use, the tour package will be inclusive of the national park fee. The fee is usually around LKR 5000.00

How to get there?

Bundala is located pretty close to the wildlife hotspot Yala NP. The park is just 15 km to the east from Hambantota and 16 km to the west from Tissamaharama. [ Google Maps Location ]

3. Kalametiya

kalametiya sanctuary overlloking the lake
Kalametiya sanctuary is located close to the beach and comprised of many lagoons | Photo Credit: Wendy Prechner

Comparable to attractions of its kind, Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary is less visited by bird watchers, thus making it a laid back and one might say peaceful venue to observe bird species. It is located between the two towns Tangalle and Hambantota. Visitors are given through the Hungama village.

The reserve initially consisted of 2500ha; however, in 1946 due to the opposition of the local residents some parts were abolished. In 1984, however, the substantially decreased region was again declared as a sanctuary. The first time Kalametiya was first documented as a wildlife sanctuary was in the year 1938.

Similar to Bundala National Park, or any other bird sanctuary in Sri Lanka, Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary has a blend of aquatic and bird life. The area surrounding consists of lagoons, scrub jungles, mangrove swamps and open grassy areas.

It has become a haven for weaver birds and in the sanctuary, there are over 150 species of birds including 54 migratory birds.

Apart from this, one can also spot close to 20 species of mammals, 41 species of fish and 38 species of reptiles.

The best times to visit are during the morning hours (around 6.00am) and evening hours (3.00pm).

How to get there?

The sanctuary is located just 21km east of the beach town Tangalle. If you’re visiting Yala/Kumana area from southern beaches, you can make a short detour to this place. As it is just 3.5 km off the Tangalle – Hambantota main road.[ Google Maps Location ]

4. Sinharaja Forest Reserve

sri Lanka green pigeon as seen in sinharaja
Sri Lankan Green Pigeon (Treron Pompadora) | Photo Credit: Antoine Dusart

A biodiversity hotspot and a national park in Sri Lanka, Sinharaja Forest Reserve is known among local and international travel enthusiasts for its rich flora and fauna. UNESCO also recognises Sinharaja as a World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve.

Located approximately three hours away from the capital city, Sinharaja Forest Reserve is home to various bird species including 20 endemic birds. Some of the species spotted here include green-billed coucal, Sri Lanka wood pigeon, Sri Lanka white-headed starling, ashy-headed babbler, Sri Lanka blue magpie, Sri Lanka broad-billed roller, the elusive red-faced malkoha and jungle fowl.

How to get there?

Sinharaja is not along the way to any of the most visited attractions in the Island, hence you’ll have to allocate extra days to your itinerary to visit the place. There are 3 entrances to the forest reserve and the most used one is the Kudawa entrance [ Google Maps Location ]. The nearest big town is Ratnapura (52.5 km).

For opening hours and ticket prices check out lonely planet’s guide to Sinharaja.

5. Kumana Bird Sanctuary

green bee eater (Merops orientalis)) as seen in kumana
The Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) | Photo Credit: Kelvin Marshall

Renowned for being home to large flocks of birds, Kumana National Park is located in the South Eastern coast of Sri Lanka. The bird sanctuary located inside the Kumana National Park is popular among bird watching places in Sri Lanka. It was declared in 1938, as a prominent bird breeding and nesting ground in the country.

According to records, approximately 255 species of birds have been spotted in the national park. Best time to visit would be from April to July, as thousands of birds migrate to the swamps in this sanctuary. Some of these birds are rare and a visit to the sanctuary is a must if you are an avid bird watcher.

Eurasian spoonbills, black-necked storks, waterfowls, pintail snipes, purple swamphen, little egret, black-crowned night heron, wood sandpiper, yellow-footed green pigeon are amongst the visitors and one can spot many more with the correct bird watching gear.

How to get there?

Kumana is also called as Yala-East because it marks the eastern corner of the Yala Strict nature reserve. Although this is less visited than the famous Yala. Therefore it is less crowded as well. Also, it is just 27 km to the south-west from Arugambay. [ Google Maps Location ]

These spending habitats located in Sri Lanka provide a safe haven for all types of bird species and we recommend a visit to these top 5 places if you are a bird watching enthusiast. Let us know your experiences and other bird watching places in the comments.

The photos used herein have been used with permission. Do not reuse without the author's consent.

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