Birding in Ceylon

Sri Lanka is a birder’s paradise. Being a tropical island in the Indian Ocean, it is situated ten degrees north to equator. Thus the island boasts of diverse and favorable climatic conditions and contains many natural habitats such as forests, scrublands, grasslands, wetlands, seas and agricultural lands for our feathered friends.

What to Expect

11 Nights / 12 Days

This itinerary has been carefully designed to give you a taste of the exciting, endless possibilities and can be tailored to suit your exact preferences.

Day 1 : Route – Airport / Negombo

Drive:  30 minutes approximately

Hotel:  Thalahena Villas – Breakfast included

At the airport you will be greeted by your chauffeur guide who will take you to the fishing village of Negombo. Drive past the mini harbor of Negombo to get to the villa. The Negombo lagoon attracts birds such as ducks, egrets, herons, storks, eagles, terns, swallows, swifts, kingfishers and other resident species.

This villa is situated right near the Negombo lagoon which will open many opportunities for bird watching! 

Day 2 : Route – Negombo / Habarana

Route:  Negombo > Habarana

Drive:  4 hours approximately

Hotel:  The Other Corner – Breakfast included

After breakfast transfer to Habarana. En route, visit Anawilundawa, which is a bird sanctuary.

The exceptionality of Anawilundawa is its direct proximity to three massively dissimilar ecologies; the beach, the mangroves and the fresh water reservoirs. This distinctive setting has made it a satisfactory breeding and nesting ground for hundreds of bird species. Some birds found here are Herons, Great cormorant, White ibis, the Open-bill, Stalk, Egret, Purple swamp hen and the Pheasant tailed jacna.

Grab a cooling king coconut en route to refresh yourselves! This tree house eco resort is situated in the untouched Habarana soft jungles and the surrounding forestation also attracts many birds in the area.

Day 3 : Route – Habarana / Sigiriya / Kaudulla / Habarana

Drive:  1.5 hours approximately

Hotel:  The Other Corner – Breakfast included

After breakfast, transfer to Sigiriya and before climbing the rock fortress, witness the bird sanctuary. You might be lucky enough to see Buttonquail, Lesser Whistling Duck, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Wooly necked Stork, Pheasant tailed Jacana, Peregrine Falcon, White bellied sea Eagle, Grey headed fish Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Hawk Eagle, Orange breasted Green Pigeon, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Grey bellied Cuckoo, Drongo Cuckoo, Blue faced Malkoha, Jerdon’s Nightjar, Indian Nightjar, Brown Fish Owl, Crested Tree swift, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Crimson fronted Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Tickell´s Blue Flycatcher, White Breasted waterhen, White-breasted Kingfisher, Paradise Flycatcher, Purple Heron, Large Egret, Common Moorhen, Grey Heron, Black winged Stilt & many other species.

Afterwards, go birding in Kaudulla National Park. Birdlife International has recognized this area as an important one, where 160 of species of birds have been identified; some of them are Spot-billed pelican, Lesser adjutant, Asian spoonbill, Grey-headed fish eagle, Black-headed ibis, Painted and open-billed storks, Peacock and the Giant eagle.

In the late evening you can take a walk around your eco resort premises to see nocturnal bird species such as different kinds of owls.

Day 4 : Route – Habarana / Polonnaruwa / Minneriya / Habarana

Drive:  2.5 hours approximately

Hotel:  The Other Corner – Breakfast included

Visit Polonnaruwa ancient ruins and the bird sanctuary best viewed from bicycle. You might be able to see Pacific Golden-Plover, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Kentish Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Little Stint, Pin-tailed Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Barred Buttonquail, Asian Openbill, Lesser Adjutant, Oriental Darter & many other species.

Afterwards go birding in Minneriya National park. The Minneriya reservoir is an significant habitat for large water birds such as Painted Stork, Lesser Adjutant, and Spot-billed Pelican. Minneriya is a dormitory for many resident and migrant species. Instances of large flocks of 2000 Little Cormorants and Indian Shag have been reported here. There also are reports of sightings of Pied Cuckoo, Asian Koel, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Lesser Whistling-Duck, Indian Peafowl, Blue-faced Malkoha, Spotted Dove, Garganey, Asian Emerald Dove, Orange-breasted Green-Pigeon, Sri Lanka Green-Pigeon, Indian Cuckoo, Green Imperial-Pigeon, Greater Coucal & many other species.

Day 5 : Route – Dambulla / Kandy

Drive:  2.5 hours

Hotel:  Galavilla & Spa – Breakfast included

After a relaxing breakfast transfer to Kandy; visit the Kandy fresh fruit and vegetable markets.  Check into the villa where many bird species have been spotted in their natural environment.

Then in the afternoon go bird watching in Udawattakele sanctuary which is known as a birder’s paradise with its plethora of bird species and its easy accessibility. You will be able to see species including the Layard’s Parakeet, Yellow-fronted Barbet or even the Crimson-backed Golden back. The forest has a host of nocturnal birds as well including the Brown Fish Owl. Brown-capped Babbler, Layard’s Parakeet, Yellow-fronted Barbet are some of the endemic bird species that can be observed here often. Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher that is very rarely seen in Sri Lanka, as well as many other places where it recorded great numbers earlier, can also be observed.

Tip: Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher is also known as Three-Toed Kingfisher and Black-Backed Kingfisher in many parts of the world.

Day 6 : Route – Kandy > Kitulgala

Drive:  2 hours approximately

Hotel:  Borderlands Eco Lodge – Breakfast included

After a leisurely morning in the Kandy city centre, transfer to Kitulgala – known best after its appearance in the movie ‘Bridge of the River Kawai’.

Go on an afternoon bird watching tour here. The rain-forests of Kitulgala have a rich ecosystem. They are home to hundreds of species of birds; including the endemic Green-bill Coucal, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Spot-winged Thrush, Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Spur fowl, Ceylon Jungle fowl and Yellow-fronted Barbet and the Serendib Scops Owl. Your naturalist will assist you in identifying the species and tell you more about them.

Situated on a hill overlooking the Kelani River, the riverfront cabins combine the best aspects of outdoor camping and travel for those who need a certain degree of comfort. Surrounded by mountains and the clear, rushing river below, this natural site is truly stunning. It is rustic and natural, perfect for those looking for a refined camping holiday.

Day 7 : Route – Kitulgala

Hotel:  Borderlands Eco Lodge – Breakfast included

Take another bird watching tour in Kithulgala forest reserve in the morning. Possible noteworthy species: Black Eagle, Rufous-Bellied Eagle, Ceylon Spur Fowl, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Ceylon Green-Pigeon, Ceylon Hanging-Parrot, Layard’s Parakeet, Green-Billed Coucal, Serendib Scops-Owl, Chestnut-Backed Owlet, Brown Hawk-Owl, Ceylon Frog Mouth, Black-Backed Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceylon Swallow, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Yellow-Fronted Barbet, Black-Capped Bulbul, Gold-Fronted Leaf Bird, Spot-Winged Ground-Thrush, Legge’s Flowerpecker, Brown-Capped Babbler, Ceylon Rufous Babbler, Ceylon Hill-Myna, Ceylon Crested Drongo.

Afternoon birding might display the following species: Serendib Scops-Owl, Chestnut-Backed Owlet, Brown Hawk-Owl, Ceylon Frog Mouth, Yellow-Fronted Barbet, Black-Naped Blue Monarch, Black-Capped Bulbul, Dark-Fronted Babbler, Ceylon Rufous Babbler, Black-Throated Munia, Ceylon Hill-Myna, Black-Hooded Oriole.

You can unwind by roasting marshmallows on the common deck with other residents as well.

Day 8 : Route – Kitulgala / Sinharaja - Kalawana entrance

Drive:  4 hours approximately

Hotel:  Jansens Bungalow – Breakfast included

After a leisurely morning, transfer to Sinharaja, the largest rainforest in the country.

Go on an afternoon bird watching tour with your naturalist birding guide. Possible noteworthy species: Ceylon Hanging-Parrot, Plum-Headed Parakeet, Ceylon Small Barbet, Yellow-Fronted Barbet, Ceylon Swallow, Forest Wagtail, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Gold-Fronted Leaf Bird, Loten’s & Purple-Rumped Sunbird

Check into the simple homestay which is created as a park bungalow with a large open verandah, with high service levels and the best location in this remote area, right in the outskirts of the rainforest where you can enjoy the vast garden and many bird watching opportunities from the property itself.

Day 9 : Route – Sinharaja – Kalawana

Hotel:  Jansens Bungalow – Breakfast included

Morning and afternoon bird watching tour in Sinharaja World Heritage Wilderness Area.

Possible noteworthy species: Crested Goshawk, Besra Sparrowhawk, Rufous-Bellied Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Ceylon Spur Fowl, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Ceylon Wood Pigeon, Red-Faced Malkoha, Green-Billed Coucal, Chestnut-Winged Cuckoo, Serendib Scops-Owl, Chestnut-Backed Owlet, Ceylon Frog Mouth, Malabar Trogon, Yellow-Browed Bulbul, Himalayan Black Bulbul, Spot-Winged Ground Thrush, Ceylon Scaly Thrush, Ceylon Rufous Babbler, Ashy-Headed Laughing Thrush, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Ceylon Blue Magpie, White-Faced Starling And Ceylon Hill-Myna.

Day 10 : Route – Sinharaja / Udawalawe / Yala

Drive:  4 hours approximately

Hotel:  Back of Beyond Lodge – Breakfast included


After a leisurely breakfast transfer to the wildlife capital of the island, Yala!

En route go on a birding safari at Udawalawe National Park. A variety of water birds visit the reservoir, including cormorants, the spot-billed pelican, Asian openbill, painted stork, black-headed ibis and Eurasian spoonbill. White wagtail and black-capped kingfisher are infrequent migrants. Endemics such as red-faced malkoha, Sri Lanka spurfowl,  Sri Lanka grey hornbill, brown-capped babbler, and Sri Lanka junglefowl are some of the breeding resident birds.

The open park attracts birds of prey such as white-bellied sea eagle, grey-headed fish eagle, booted eagle, changeable hawk-eagle and crested serpent-eagle. Terrestrial land birds are in plenty, and include Indian peafowl, Malabar pied hornbill, Indian roller and pied cuckoo. 158 of the 249 resident species in the island exist in Udawalawe, where they are gifted with abundant habitat and food. Of these the Sri  Lanka Gray Narnbill Sri Lanka Spur fowl, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Sri Lanka brown-capped BS, and Sri Lanka Jungle fowl are endemic!

Check into the simple Safari Lodge which is created as a park bungalow with a large open verandah, for dining and lounging, with a small enclosed ‘safe area’ for sleeping. However, unlike the green painted, brick, cement and asbestos park bungalows they have been inspired by the traditional clay wall and thatch roofed homes of the dry zone to give character to the bungalows and thus blend into the environment, inviting many birds to drop in for a visit.

Day 11 : Route – Yala / Bundala / Yala

Drive:  2 hours approximately

Hotel:  Back of Beyond Lodge – Breakfast included

Safari time in a rumbling 4×4 jeep at Bundala! Bundala National Park is a lovely maze of ponds, banks and waterways that sparkle like gold in the fading evening sun. This paradise provides a home to scores of colorful birds stretching from tiny little bee-eaters to surreal open-billed stalks.

Possible noteworthy species: Greater Flamingo, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Watercock, Eurasian Stone Curlew, Great Thick-Knee, Small Pratincole, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Little-Ringed, Kentish, Mongolian & Greater Sand Plover, Marsh, Wood, Terek & Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Brown-Headed Gull, Caspian, Great-Crested, Lesser-Crested, Gull-Billed, Whiskered, White-Winged, Saunders & Little Tern, Oriental Skylark, Brahminy Starling And Rosy Starling.

Don’t forget to sample the local curd and yoghurt famous with authentic treacle honey!

Go on a birding safari in the afternoon at Yala National Park which is the country’s most famous national park. Forming a total area of 1268 sq km of scrub, light forest, grassy plains and brackish lagoons, it’s very rich in wildlife and you’re virtually certain to encounter many animals and birds here.

Possible noteworthy species: Spot-Billed Pelican, Black-Crowned Night-Heron, Yellow Bittern, Black Bittern, Lesser Whistling-Duck, Cotton Teal, Oriental Darter, Purple Heron, Brahminy Kite, Watercock, Pied Crested Cuckoo, Indian Scops-Owl, Brown Fish-Owl, Stork-Billed Kingfisher, White-Naped Flameback, Indian Reed-Warbler, Baya Weaver, Painted & Black-Necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Black-Winged Stilt, Eurasian Stone Curlew, Great Thick-Knee, Small Pratincole, Yellow-Wattled & Red-Wattled Lapwing, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Little-Ringed, Kentish, Mongolian & Greater Sand Plover, Marsh, Wood & Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Bengal Bushlark, Ashy-Crowned Finch-Lark, Brahminy Starling, Rosy Starling.

Day 12 : Route – Yala / Airport

Drive:  5 hours approximately

After a simple breakfast, you can head over to the airport in time for your evening flight with pleasant memories. You may visit Galle fort and fresh fruit and vegetable and fish markets en route if you wish.

Where to Stay

Learn more about the properties available for your trip.

Galavilla Boutique Hotel & Spa

Galavilla’s mission is not only to provide lodgings for guests in a hotel but to treat them to comprehensive care. Their comfort and relaxation are facilitated by a 20 meters long pool and Jacuzzi for up to 8 people.

Jansen’s Bungalow

Located in Kalawana, Jansen’s bungalow sinharaja provides free WiFi, and guests can enjoy a garden, a shared lounge and water sports facilities. Some units are air-conditioned and include a patio and/or a seating area with a flat-screen TV.

Jetwing Thalahena Villas

Jetwing Thalahena Villas is a holiday villa situated on the Western Coast of Sri Lanka. The Villa has three bedrooms and a pool, with a garden that leads right out onto the beach front and the Indian Ocean.

Add-on Experiences

We have many activities to keep you busy during your stay. See our destination pages for more information.

Take up water activities, including kayaking, skiing, boat excursions and jet skis with Jet Watersports.

There are many beach stretched around, with the Yala beaches being a key experience.

Catch the waves in the Southern Coastlines of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Tailor-made