Are you trying to learn about the types of birds in Sri Lanka?
There are tons of interesting species to observe. From tiny bee-eaters to large, colorful peacocks, there’s something to catch everyone’s attention!
Due to the sheer number of species, there was no way to include every bird found in Sri Lanka in this article. So instead, I tried to focus on the birds that are most regularly seen and observed.
Today, you will learn about 8 COMMON types of birds in Sri Lanka!
#1. Asian Green Bee-Eater
- Merops orientalis
- Adults are 16–18 cm (6.2-7 in) long.
- Their coloring is predominantly green, with a bronze-colored cap, a black necklace, and a black stripe on the face. In addition, they have turquoise highlights on the cheeks and wing tips.
- Their central tail feathers are long and thin, adding about 5 cm (2 in) to their overall length.
Look for Asian Green Bee-eaters in Sri Lanka in grassland, scrublands, and forests. They’re not dependent on a close-by water source and are even found in deserts.
This species is particularly sensitive to cooler weather but has developed an unusual habit of combating the cold. They roost in groups of 200 to 300 birds and will sleep well past sunrise, nestled close to each other to stay warm. The Asian Green Bee-eater doesn’t subscribe to the saying, “the early bird gets the worm.” 🙂
Asian Green Bee-eaters can be a nuisance to beekeepers because they will raid beehives to find food. However, they only do this if their favorite food, beetles, are scarce. And they aren’t picky when it comes to finding something to eat! They will even eat small crabs if that’s the only thing available.
Although the Asian Green Bee-eater song is pleasant and melodic, their alarm call is anything but! Listen to the shrill, staccato notes here.
#2. Common Myna
- Acridotheres tristis
- Adults are 23 cm (9 in) long.
- They have thick yellow legs, a yellow-tipped bill, and a yellow patch of skin underneath their eyes.
- Their plumage is glossy black on the head with a brown body and lighter undercarriage. The undersides of their wings are pure white.
The Common Myna is one of only three birds worldwide to make the Top 100 Most Invasive Species list! Although the reasons are complex, the IUCN Species Survival Commission stated that it poses “a threat to biodiversity, agriculture, and human interests.”
The main problem with the Common Myna is that it will eat basically anything, meaning it can outcompete native species and decimate their numbers. They readily devour the chicks and eggs of other birds, lizards, fruits, beetles and their larvae, spiders, snails, flies, worms, and caterpillars.
But, as the saying (sort of) goes, one man’s invasive pest is another Farmer’s Friend. At least, that’s what this species is called in India, where it eats insects that damage crops, like grasshoppers and locusts. 🙂
This species doesn’t just eat all day either – their extreme vocal range makes for a noisy day anytime they’re around. They can growl, croak, chirrup, squawk, whistle, and click. The Common Myna can even mimic human speech!
#3. Indian Peafowl
- Pavo cristatus
- Males are 100-115 cm (39-45 in) tall, but with their long tail feathers, they can be up to 195-225 cm (77-89 in). They weigh 2.75-6 kg (6 to 13 lbs.)
- Females are about 95 cm (37 in) tall.
- Males are bright blue on the body with flashy green and blue tail feathers. Breeding females are brown and white with a metallic green wash on the neck.
Many people call these birds “peacocks” without realizing that this refers to only the males of the species. Peahens are the female counterparts, but collectively they’re known as Peafowl. They’re among the heaviest birds capable of flight and can fly up to a mile at a time.
Males have over 200 brightly colored feathers in their tails, which are used to attract females. The females themselves have just 100 feathers in a duller hue, so they’re less interesting to see. However, as females age, they revert to male characteristics, sing male songs, and grow colorful tails.
The reason behind this change is fascinating. Unlike most birds, the male display colors are the “dominant” coloring of this species, and females become dull due to changes in their bodies while they breed. So instead of male birds becoming dull, females become showy!
Their songs and calls are reminiscent of a drawn-out “OWW” sound.
#4. Oriental Magpie-Robin
- Copsychus saularis
- Adults are about 19 cm (7.4 in) long.
- Males are black on the head, back, and wings and white on the underside.
- Females have the same color pattern, but their heads are slate gray instead of black.
By the looks of it, Oriental Magpie-Robins are ready for a night on the town! Their tuxedo-like plumage gives them an air of sophistication. 🙂
During the breeding season, males sing long, melodic tunes to attract females. This habit only adds to their appeal, and in addition, if you can attract them to your yard, they’ll help by eating insects and leeches. Although they usually nest in tree cavities, they don’t mind buildings or nesting boxes. So, they’re a worthwhile investment in your yard for a chance to have these talented singers nearby.
Unfortunately, their sought-after coloration and vocals have led to illegal poaching activities by unscrupulous animal traders. Consequently, high-quality recordings are restricted, so they cannot be used to lure these beautiful birds. However, this video gives you an idea of how beautiful they sound.
#5. Red-Vented Bulbul
- Pycnonotus cafer
- Adults are about 20 cm (8 in) long.
- These distinctive birds have a black, crested head, brown back and wings, and a white belly.
- Their most unusual feature is the brilliant red patch of feathers at the base of their tail.
Red-vented Bulbuls are happy in various habitats, including plains, dry scrub, open forests, and cultivated lands. However, they avoid mature forests because the trees are too dense for flight.
Unfortunately, their adaptability can be a problem for farmers and native birds in Sri Lanka. They damage crops, reduce populations of endemic birds, and often disperse seeds of invasive plants that can further damage the region’s biosphere. Additionally, they learn rapidly, so extermination efforts rarely work. To make matters more complicated, they seem to be able to avoid other invasive species, so they don’t even help to control those populations.
Humans are the likeliest source of the international spread of the Red-vented Bulbul. During the 19th century, they were used in bird fighting. They were tied to the owner’s finger by a thread and made to fight, attempting to steal the red rump feathers of their opponents. As you can imagine, instances of these birds escaping happened often, leading to invasive populations.
Despite its status as a pest, the Red-vented Bulbul has a beautiful song.
#6. Red-Wattled Lapwing
- Vanellus indicus
- Adults are 32–35 cm (13-14 in) long.
- Its coloring is black on the head and chest, with white cheek patches and undersides. The wings are gray-brown.
- Red skin surrounds the eyes and continues down to the reddish beak. Its long legs are bright yellow.
Red-wattled Lapwings occupy any open area near fresh or brackish water. This bird’s stork-like walk is invaluable as they hunt for insects and snails in shallow water. They also stride about on land, eating grains or using their long legs to disturb the ground and bring insects to the surface.
The eggs are mottled gray and black and look precisely like the rocks surrounding them, making them invisible to most predators. Can you see them? Like the eggs, the chicks are nearly invisible, with patterns resembling sand and dirt.
In addition to their camouflage, the parents will fly nearby and dive-bomb anything that gets too close to the nest, screaming threateningly. They even swoop on herbivores that might get too close and damage the nest.
This species is also known as the “Did He Do It” bird because of the pattern of its call. Listen below to hear what I mean!
#7. Spotted Dove
- Streptopelia chinensis
- Adults are 28-32 cm (11-13 in) long.
- This species has red eyes, a rosy-grey breast, head, and underbody, and a nearly-black mantle that is densely spotted with white.
- The tail is unusually long for a pigeon and tipped in white.
Depending on where you live, you may know this bird in Sri Lanka as the “lace-necked dove”, “pearl-necked dove”, “mountain dove”, or “spotted turtle dove”. They generally rove in pairs but may form groups, especially when foraging for seeds, grains, fruit fallen from trees, and grass seeds. They’ve been known to take insects on occasion.
The wing pattern is interesting as each feather has a drop-shadow, making it look extremely three-dimensional, even though they lay completely flat. This defensive characteristic interferes with a predator’s depth perception and makes them miss a strike.
Spotted Doves are a welcome addition to parks and backyards. However, their habit of springing into flight when disturbed is hazardous around airports, causing damage to planes. Some airports have responded by hiring falconers to fly their raptors around the airport, making them avoid the area and keeping it safe for air traffic.
Their sounds are soft and soothing, and they’re exceptionally comfortable around humans.
#8. White-Throated Kingfisher
- Halcyon smyrnensis
- Adults are 19–21 cm (7.4 – 8.2 in) long.
- This species has an incredibly bright blue back, tail, and wings contrasting with its brown body and white throat.
- Its legs and beak are bright orange, and the beak is enormous for the size of its head.
Like other kingfishers, the White-throated Kingfisher’s beak is much longer than the depth of its skull. The brilliant red beak is perfectly suited to grabbing fish out of the water. In addition to fish, they eat large crustaceans, worms, snakes, the young of other birds, and rodents.
Few predators can catch these acrobatic birds in Sri Lanka, but their speed can pose other problems for their safety. Much like a cartoon, the White-throated Kingfisher sometimes flies straight into a tree trying to avoid a predator. At high speed, they are often killed when their beaks become embedded in tree trunks.
Their nests are unremarkable, but how they construct them is downright weird. First, they repeatedly fly into a mud bank with their beaks until they make a big enough dent to stand on so they can begin excavating. Then, they peck away at the dirt for hours to make a deep tunnel where they build their nests.
Its call is distinctive, shrill, and high-pitched. Listen here!
Which of these birds in Sri Lanka have you seen before?
Leave a comment below!
Check out these guides to other animals found in Sri Lanka!