We all know Yala National Park as one of the best places in Sri Lanka to spot mammals. However, it is to say that there are so many smaller creatures that should evoke interest as well. Yes, we're speaking of Birds! Yala is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. 215 different Bird species share the five blocks of the park as their habitat. A lot of them are migratory birds, which make use of the warm temperatures on Sri Lanka when they fly down using the Central Asian Indian Flyway to spend the colder months of the year in the park.
On the contrary, 6 out of the 215 bird species to be found in the park are endemic to Sri Lanka: They are unique to the island and cannot be found elsewhere. This first part of our two-piece blog-series turns its attention to 3 out of 6 endemic bird species living in Yala and describes their unique features.
Sri Lankan Junglefowl
"Why is there a rooster in the bush?" is probably one of the comments we hear most frequently from our guests. The endemic Sri Lankan junglefowl (Gallus lafayettii), also known as the Ceylon junglefowl, is the National Bird of Sri Lanka! It is closely related to the red junglefowl and the wild junglefowl - the two Galliformes birds from which the chicken was domisticated. Similar to domesticated chicken, the male of Gallus lafayettii is larger and a lot more colorful than the brownish colored female.
The forests and scrub in Yala serve as a perfectly common habitat for the species. The Sri Lankan Junglefowl mostly ventures around on the ground to find insects, seeds and grain. It is only able to fly very short distances. At night it stays on trees for protection. It breeds usually around 2-4 eggs. The latter are protected in nests on the ground, in undergrowth or at times even in trees. Its distinctive call has often been imitated as "Chiok, chaw- choyik".
Only about 16cm in lenght, including its tail, the Brown-capped babbler is another endemic bird species of Sri Lanka, that calls Yala its home. Its unique style of hopping and walking through the park while searching for food, and its call that somewhat sounds like "pretty-dear" makes the bird easy to distinguish. It also is characterized by its weak flight and its appearance. The upper parts of the body are colored in deep brown, while the rest of the body comes in a brighter cinnamon brown. The Brown-capped babbler mostly lives in the forest undergrowth, where it also protects its usual clutch of 2-3 eggs. The nests are therefore built in holes in the ground covered by heavy foliage.
As you see on the left, the most striking feature of this beautiful endemic bird of Sri Lanka is its yellow body and its carbon black head. The Black-capped Bulbul is a bird of forest and scrub, which makes the vegetation of Yala National Park its perfect habitat. Moving very quickly like most Bulbuls, it flies from shrub to tree and the other way around to find insects and fruits to eat. The species is usually found in pairs. This particular Bulbul species builds their nests in small trees near the forest divide and not very high off the ground.
Using green leaves and cobweb the birds build a foundation for the cuplike nest to sit on. Therefore, male and female help building the nest, incubating the eggs (usually 2) and raising their young. The Black-capped Bulbul has a broad repertoire of calls. In these they feature a nostalgic three syllables song, piping whistles and some sharp calls as well.
All three of the presented endemic bird species reflect the variety of birdlife of both Yala National Park and Sri Lanka. It is always a fantastic feeling to spot these typical Sri Lankan birds on our Safaris. In the second part of our blog-series we'll take a detailed look on the three other Sri Lankan endemic birds found in Yala National Park: The Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, the Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon and the Crimson-fronted Barbet.