Ten common birds

Observe 10 types of birds in the area that you live. Collect data about their colours, body sizes, warbling sounds, their habitat, colour of eggs, shape of their feet, shapes of their beaks etc. and write in your log book.

There are many Birds sanctuaries across the little island 270 km by 140 km in size. Kumana is situated in east Coast, Bundala, Kalamatiya are is in the southern coast. Sinharaja Rain Forest, Udawatta Kele, Horton Plains, Bellanwila, Muthurajawela, Minneriya, Kitulgala, Minipe , Yala and Udawalawe National Parks are other important Bird watching locations. In additions you can see Birds throughout the country in pockets of forests, lakes, lagoons and river side’s during your travel.

01: Kingfisher

Kingfishers are distributed worldwide except in the polar regions, high altitudes, and remote islands. They are concentrated in Southeast Asia, New Guinea and tropical Africa. There are 90 species of kingfishers in the world. They belong to the family Alcedinidae which is divided into three subfamilies.

The Kingfishers, unlike certain other species of birds, show an unmistakeable general similarity. They have strong, straight and pointed beaks, which are long, enabling them to catch fish easily. They have compact bodies, short necks and large heads.

Their legs are rather short and their toes are syndactyl. This means that they have three toes in front of their foot and one at the back. In some cases the second toe is much reduced or totally absent as in the Three-toed Kingfisher.

Kingfishers are sit-and-wait predators, scanning a wide area from a favorite perch. If there is no suitable perch, they may hover over the water. Solitary birds are seen and also pairs but rarely in groups. Kingfishers dig their nests in earth banks along rivers or in the coastal areas. Their nests have also been found in mounds of earth, anthills and even, on occasion, in a hole in a tree.

In Sri Lanka we have seven species of kingfishers. They are the Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis), the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), the Ceylon Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting), the Three-toed Kingfisher (Ceyx erithacus), the Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopis capensis),the White-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) and the Black-capped Purple Kingfisher (Halcyon pileata).

Of these six are resident in the island and one, the Black-capped Purple Kingfisher, is a rare migrant. The Blue-eared Kingfisher, though a resident, is also rare. None of the kingfishers found on the island are endemic.

All kingfishers are carnivorous and, as their name implies, live mainly on fish. Though originally all kingfishers would have caught and eaten fish, with time and necessity, the food preferences of some species seem to have changed. They have adapted to a diet of small trerrestrial species and subsist on crustacea, insects, small vetebrates etc. It is now not surprising to see some species of kingfishers far away from water. They hunt any slow-moving prey that are within their reach.

02 : Myna

Scientific name : Gracula ptilogenys

The Sri Lanka Myna, Ceylon Myna or Sri Lanka Hill Myna (Gracula ptilogenys), is a myna, a member of the starling family. This bird is endemic to Sri Lanka.

These 25 - 29 cm (~8.5 inches) long birds have green-glossed black plumage, purple-tinged on the head and neck. There are large white wing patches, which are obvious in flight. The strong legs are bright yellow, and there are yellow wattles (loose folds of skin) on the nape (back of the neck).

The different shape and position of the wattles and the stouter orange-red bill distinguish this species from the Southern Hill Myna, which also occurs in Sri Lankan forests. This is the only Hill Mynah that lacks wattles (loose folds of skin) on the sides of face.

It talks well and is eagerly sought after locally as a caged bird.

Males and females look alike, but juveniles have a duller bill.

03: Crimson-backed flameback

Scientific name: Chrysocolaptes stricklandi

The Crimson-backed Woodpecker or Layard’s Woodpecker or Greater Flame-backed Woodpecker (Chrysocolaptes lucidus stricklandi). One name is Layard’s Woodpecker. It is named after the British Ornithologist Edgar Leopold Layard. This is also a sub species endemic to Sri Lanka. The main species, however, is also found in India.

It is a forest loving bird found in many parts of the island except in the highest hills. The breeding season is from October to March. The nest hole is generally high up in a tree. One to three eggs are laid.

Woodpeckers are a necessary part of our ecosystems, especially considering the fact that they get rid of, as food, many of the boring insects and other insects that are a danger to the trees.

Removing these pests prevents the tree from succumbing to death due to the loss of its trunks and branches. They are useful to a range of other birds, as they nest in holes that the woodpeckers have excavated.

04: Asian Koel (Koha)

'Koho, koho', the call of the Asian Koel is all too familiar at the advent of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. These dynamic cuckoo birds have a unique character and mischievous nature that ensures the survival of their species.

The Asian Koel is a member of the Cuckoo family. Thus, similar to all the Cuckoo birds around the world, Koha has a unique behavior called 'brood parasitism'. These parasitic birds avoid the arduous process of making a nest of their own. Instead, the female Koha, conveniently, lays eggs in the nests of crows. The Koha's eggs have a similar shape and size to Crow's eggs and therefore go unnoticed. They lay one egg and push aside a Crow's egg, to ensure the parents will not notice any mischief. What is intriguing is the fact that the Crows raise an altogether different species, as their own. The Koha egg hatches faster than the Crows eggs, and the minute it hatches, the Koha chick begins to kick the rest of the eggs out of the nest. In the end, the Koha chick is the sole survivor in the nest. The host parents sincerely take turns to feed their strange young chick. Amazingly these parasitic chicks have a similar voice to that of Crow chicks.

05: Yellow-billed Babbler

The yellow-billed babbler (Argya affinis) is a member of the family Leiothrichidae endemic to southern India and Sri Lanka. The yellow-billed babbler is a common resident breeding bird in Sri Lanka and southern India. Its habitat is scrub, cultivation and garden land. This species, like most babblers, is not migratory, and has short rounded wings and a weak flight and is usually seen calling and foraging in groups. It is often mistaken for the jungle babbler, whose range overlaps in parts of southern India, although it has a distinctive call and tends to be found in more vegetated habitats.

06: Black-hooded oriole

The black-hooded oriole (Oriolus xanthornus) is a member of the oriole family of passerine birds and is a resident breeder in tropical southern Asia from India and Sri Lanka east to Indonesia.

It is a bird of open woodland and cultivation. The nest is built in a tree, and contains two eggs. Its food is insects and fruit, especially figs, found in the tree canopies where they spend much of their time.

Fun facts The Black-headed Oriole, is a bird which forages in mixed species and flocks on the canopies of trees, consuming a variety of invertebrates, fruits and seeds. They can be found in the stems of a fork in a slender tree branch, shaped into a deep cup, woven with old man’s beard strands, moss and grass.

Lesser known facts Whilst the species will feed mainly on fruits, insects, berries and nectar, they are also known to have a very quick digestion period that is of around 5 minutes! They are known to nest in trees, in forks at the end of a branch, and it’s observed that there is no nesting period for the species. The mother bird is often observed to lay two eggs, and once hatched, the chicks are said to feed on caterpillars.

07: Paradise-Flycatcher

The Ceylon paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi ceylonensis), also known as the Sri Lanka paradise flycatcher is a subspecies of the Indian paradise flycatcher. It is a resident subspecies and remains in Sri Lanka throughout the year, its typical habitat being the understory of dry lowland forest. It also occurs in gardens and dry hilly areas, and moves to other parts of the island outside the breeding season. The birds have black heads and chestnut upper parts, and the male has a black crest, and a much longer tail than the female.

The Ceylon paradise flycatcher flits about in the lower parts of woodland, feeding on insects which it catches in flight. It breeds between April and July, the cup-shaped nest being built of fine grasses and rootlets, bound together with spider's web, a few metres off the ground. Two or three reddish-brown speckled eggs are laid.

08: Oriental Magpie Robin

The Oriental magpie-robin (Copsychus saularis) is a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but now considered an Old World flycatcher. They are distinctive black and white birds with a long tail that is held upright as they forage on the ground or perch conspicuously. Occurring across most of the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia, they are common birds in urban gardens as well as forests. They are particularly well known for their songs and were once popular as cagebirds.

Very common breeding resident of gardens, cultivations and scrublands of all zones. It avoids deep forests. Oriental Magpie Robin feeds mainly on insect, hopping on the ground solitary or in pairs. But vegetable foods such as rice, bread and etc thrown out of the houses are also taken. It is active even after dusk and territorial call of the male can be heard again before sunrise often uttered from a top of tall tree or a lamppost. Fierce combats between males occur occasionally. Main breeding season is from March to September and the nest is a mass of grasses in a tree hole.

09: Loten's sunbird

Loten's sunbird (Cinnyris lotenius), also known as the long-billed sunbird or maroon-breasted sunbird, is a sunbird endemic to peninsular India and Sri Lanka. Named after Joan Gideon Loten, who was the Dutch governor of colonial Ceylon, it is very similar to the purple sunbird that is found in the same areas and also tends to hover at flowers for nectar, but can be distinguished by the longer bill, the maroon band on the breast and brownish wings. Like other sunbirds, it is also insectivorous and builds characteristic hanging nests.

10: Green-billed coucal

The green-billed coucal (Centropus chlororhynchos) is a member of the cuckoos. It is endemic to Sri Lanka's wet zone and listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, as the small population declined due to forest destruction and fragmentation. It inhabits the tall rainforests of southwest Sri Lanka and nests in bushes. Its typical clutch is 2–3 eggs.

Common breeding resident of home gardens, cultivations, scrublands, forest edges of wet zone and dry forests throughout the island. It is a ground feeder and food consist of almost any animal which is small enough to tackle such as snails, lizards, insects, frogs, small snakes, eggs and nestlings of birds etc. It hunts solitarily or as pairs. It appear to be pair for life time and when feeding keep contacts with each other with call which sound like hoop oop oop .... Breeding season is from February to September and again from October to December. It lays two or three eggs in a domed nest concealed in deep cover in thorny bushes or crown of a palm.

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