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Updated by Joanna James on Jul 13, 2023
Headline for Endemic Bird Species in Yala National Park – The Flying Gems of Sri Lanka
Joanna James Joanna James
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Endemic Bird Species in Yala National Park – The Flying Gems of Sri Lanka

Yala National Park is best known for its thriving mammal species that roam about its abundant greenery. However, it is also recognised as one of the many Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. A majority of the bird species that share this park as their habitat is migratory; only six birds are endemic to Sri Lanka.


Sri Lankan Jungle Fowl

One of the single best things to do in Yala during your stay at properties adjacent to its national park such as Chena Huts is to go bird watching in its green-strewn landscapes of varying topography. Contributing to its fascinating ecosystem is the Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl, the national bird of Sri Lanka. It is related to the wild junglefowl and the red junglefowl from which the chicken was domesticated. Similar to its domesticated relative, the male of the Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl bears a colourful plumage than its female counterpart.


Brown-capped Babbler

A tiny bird that is endemic to Sri Lanka, the Brown-capped Babbler, measures only about 16 centimetres in length, including its tail. Although it can be difficult to spot this bird in the dense vegetation in which they go in search for food, its unique call is telltale of its presence. Its call is easily distinguishable for it utters a sound that somewhat sounds like "pretty dear." The characteristic dark brown crown is what gives the Brown-capped Babbler its interesting name. The upper body of this small bird species with the intriguing call takes a shade of brown while the rest of its body contrasts with a bright cinnamon brown. Unlike many other birds that build their nests on trees, the Brown-capped Babbler builds its nests in holes in the ground that is usually covered in thick verdure.


Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill

A bird that prefers to live in communities, the Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, is an endemic resident breeder of the country that can be spotted in Yala National Park. It is a large bird that can be measured up to 45 centimetres in length. Although it has been recorded that this fascinating bird usually feeds on figs, it doesn't hesitate to add the occasional rodent or reptiles to its diet. The Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill features grey feathers along with black wings that are used for flight. Its long, curvy bill does not have the helmet-like casque that is characteristic of the other birds of this species. During the nesting period, the female lays around four eggs in a tree whole, which would be almost blocked, leaving enough space for the male to drop food.


Crimson-fronted Barbet

The Crimson-fronted Barbet is an arboreal species that emits a series of staccato calls. At about 15 centimetres in length, it is about the same size as the brown-capped Babbler. These birds get their names from the French word "barb," which means the beard, due to the whisker-like thistles that fringe their dark bills. The Crimson Fronted Barbet is dressed in a beautiful light-green plumage with blue bands on the lower part of its head and neck. The bright crimson front and the black crescent behind its eyes give this stout bird a thoroughly colourful appearance. It scours for fruit and insects in trees and is known for nesting in tree holes.


Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon

An endemic resident breeding bird that can be seen in the mountainous regions in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, is yet another species of bird that can be spotted in the Yala National Park. It usually assumes a quiet demeanour that is replaced by an owl-like hoot during its breeding season. Its flight is rather quick, with sharp flicks and flutters that are characteristic of all pigeons. Measuring up to 36 centimetres in length, this bird sets itself apart by the others of its species through its dark grey wings, the maroon undersides, and the distinct chessboard-like patch on the back of its neck. It is known for nesting in damp woodlands atop a tree in a nest built out of various sizes of sticks found in its habitat.