Bird Watching in Kurunegala, Sri Lanka

Bird Watching in Kurunegala, Sri Lanka

I spent two days in Kurunegala in December 2017. My main challenge was to take photographs of birds.

When I researched on the internet,  there was almost no mention of Kurunegala as having the potential for bird watching. All indications were that Sigiriya and Kandalama were the closest locations for birds.

Anyhow, I decided to try my luck in Kurunegala since I had an appointment there as well. Late in the evening, my friend David drove me up to the top of Eththagala, Kurunegala’s landmark. The drive was through thick jungle, and we spotted a huge porcupine as a hare. The top of the rock gave us a bird’s eye view of the city, which was memorable. But the main purpose of the drive was to check out the jungle on both sides of the road as a potential birdwatching spot.

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Early the next morning, David drove me up to the top of the rock again, and we slowly made our way down, sometimes in the car, sometimes on foot. Then the fun began. In addition to the many monkeys, I spotted many birds. The tall trees on both sides of the road resounded with a cacophony of bird calls. I was able to photograph a Spotted Dove, Alexandrine (or Lanyards) Parakeet, Brown-headed Barbet, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Ceylon Small Barbet, purple sunbird, Orange minivet and saw some other birds as well. This was amazing. I was also able to capture some stunning images of the sunrise.

After a quick stop for tea, we next drove to the Kurunegala lake. This was also a good location. A White-throated Kingfisher obligingly posed for me. Egrets, Cormorants and Pond Herons were also spotted. The highlight was a White-bellied Sea Eagle.

I was almost ready to head home for breakfast by this time. But my friend David insisted we try another lake and drove me to Saragama Weva. He had saved the best for last! This lake was teaming with birds! I was like a kid in a candy store. In addition to many Purple Swamphens, I saw a pair of Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, A large of flock of Cormorants, Little Egrets, Whistling Teals, breeding Little Grebes, Purple heron, Brahminy Kite and more.

All three sites are less than 10 minutes from the heart of Kurunegala town. More than 20 birds photographed in three hours and many more spotted. Kurunegala is a surprisingly pleasant bird watching experience and proves that almost all parts of Sri Lanka are a bird watcher’s paradise.

Written by Paul Navamani

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