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My Sri Lankan adventure – a species list

Hey hey! I’m back from a wonderful 2.5-week holiday in Sri Lanka. It was tremendous, and the first proper no-writing, no-work break I’ve taken for well over a year. Your normal blogging and tweeting service will now resume, and photos (oh, so many photos) will emerge at some point. But for now, here’s some geekery for you.

This is the full list of what we saw on the holiday. I’ve never been to a country where the wildlife watching opportunities were so thick and easy. The first thing that I saw when I pulled back the curtains on my first morning was a criticially endangered monkey on my balcony. I walked out of a room one afternoon to get some tea and ended up photographing troops of Toque macaques and gray langurs, a mongoose, some water monitors and a giant squirrel. We did a boat trip where a pod of 150 or so spinner dolphins was only the third most exciting thing we saw in an hour (two green turtles mating, and five blue whales).

So, the list. The rules are that they have to be seen in the wild, not in a zoo or nursery, and we had to identify them to the species level (which explains why there are no invertebrates and why the flying fish we saw didn’t make the cut – 65 friggin’ species, are you kidding me?). The asterisks indicate the ones we have photos of.


  • Blue whale *
  • Spinner dolphin *
  • Spotted deer *
  • Water buffalo *
  • Wild boar *
  • Indian flying fox *
  • Asian elephant *
  • Purple-faced leaf monkey (Western and Southern races) *
  • Toque macaque *
  • Grey langur *
  • Black-naped hare
  • Giant squirrel *
  • Palm squirrel *
  • Ruddy mongoose *

Reptiles and amphibians

  • Green turtle *
  • Star tortoise *
  • Water monitor *
  • Land (Bengal) monitor *
  • House gecko
  • Fourclaw gecko
  • Kandyan gecko *
  • Sri Lankan ratsnake
  • Mugger crocodile *
  • Sri Lanka bullfrog *


  • Little shag
  • Great cormorant
  • Indian darter *
  • Spot-billed pelican
  • Indian pond heron *
  • Cattle egret *
  • Little egret
  • Intermediate egret *
  • Grey heron
  • Purple heron *
  • Painted stork *
  • Asian openbill stork *
  • Woolly-necked stork
  • Black-headed ibis *
  • Eurasian spoonbill
  • Garganey
  • White-bellied sea eagle *
  • Brahminy kite *
  • Grey-headed fish eagle *
  • Crested serpent eagle
  • Crested hawk eagle *
  • Grey francolin
  • Ceylon junglefowl
  • Indian peafowl *
  • White-breasted waterhen *
  • Purple swamphen *
  • Pheasant-tailed jacana *
  • Black-winged stilt *
  • Greater thick-knee
  • Yellow-wattled lapwing
  • Red-wattled lapwing *
  • Common sandpiper
  • Brown-headed gull
  • Common tern *
  • Spotted dove
  • Emerald dove *
  • Orange-breasted green pigeon *
  • Imperial green pigeon
  • Ceylon hanging parrot *
  • Rose-ringed parakeet *
  • Asian koel
  • Greater coucal *
  • Indian nightjar *
  • Little swift
  • Stork-billed kingfisher *
  • White-throated kingfisher *
  • Common kingfisher *
  • Little green bee-eater *
  • Blue-tailed bee-eater *
  • Chestnut-headed bee-eater *
  • Indian roller *
  • Ceylon grey hornbill
  • Malabar pied hornbill *
  • Brown-headed barbet *
  • Ceylon small barbet
  • Black-rumped flameback *
  • Crimson-backed flameback
  • Barn swallow
  • Ceylon swallow
  • Orange minivet *
  • Pied flycatcher shrike
  • Red-vented bulbul
  • Gold-fronted leafbird
  • Oriental magpie-robin
  • Pied bush chit
  • Indian robin
  • Asian brown flycatcher *
  • Paradise flycatcher (Asian + Indian races) *
  • Ceylon scimitar-babbler
  • Yellow-billed babbler *
  • Great tit
  • Purple-rumped sunbird
  • Loten’s sunbird *
  • Black-hooded oriole *
  • Brown shrike
  • Philippine shrike
  • White-bellied drongo
  • Indian jungle crow
  • Brahminy starling *
  • Common myna *
  • White-rumped munia

7 thoughts on “My Sri Lankan adventure – a species list

  1. This is great Ed. I spent 2 weeks in Sri Lanka on an Earthwatch expedition tracking Toque macaques. (First rule of Toque macaques: never set anything down you aren’t prepared to lose.) Didn’t amass quite the list of animals you did, but many of yours bring back great memories of my own sightings. No sea mammals for me, but I must say, the wild Asian elephant emerging silently from the forest nearly brought me to tears. And to this day I have never heard a symphony of birdsong that matches what we woke to every morning at 5am in the research camp. Anyway, am very much looking forward to your posts and photographs.

  2. “I’ve never been to a country where the wildlife watching opportunities were so thick and easy. ”

    You should visit South and North-east India sometime. 🙂

  3. Wow! That’s an impressive list. You or your wife must be a birdwatcher, then, because I’d have no idea how to begin to identify all of those birds. But then, I’d have at least a few invertebrates on *my* list… : )

  4. You know, Ed, the first time I read through your list, I was so annoyed of pure jealousness that I couldn’t even comment to congratulate you for an obviously awesome holiday.

    I spent two weeks in Sri Lanka with my parents a year ago. They are not nature people or, actually, any other sort than laying-on-the-beach -people. I got to see a fair number of wildlife, but nothing like your list. After this, I have heard stories one after another of people having the most wonderful trips to Sri Lanka and I’m getting more and more frustrated.

    It doesn’t help that where I live, it has been months of dark, cloudy and freezing weather where one can’t even go outsize without getting layers of ice on one’s face. The most exiting animals around are blue tits.

    Soo… I’m not really happy for you, but wow. A wonderful trip. Also, the white-throated kingfisher is my favourite bird ever.

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