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Birds of Sri Lanka

Field / Identification Guide

Series: Helm Field Guides

By: Deepal Warakagoda(Author), Carol Inskipp(Author), Tim Inskipp(Author), Richard Grimmett(Author)

224 pages, 104 colour plates, colour photos, 350 colour distribution maps,

Christopher Helm

Paperback | Mar 2012 | #186674 | ISBN-13: 9780713688535
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £24.99 $33/€28 approx

About this book

With a rich avifauna of more than 350 species that includes 29 endemics, the island of Sri Lanka is one of southern Asia's most popular birding destination. This new field guide provides full coverage of every species on the Sri Lanka list, including most vagrants, with particular emphasis placed on endemic species and races. Detailed text highlights key identification criteria, along with accurate colour maps. Packed with spectacular and detailed plates by leading bird artists such as Alan Harris, Tim Worfolk and John Cox, "Birds of Sri Lanka" is the definitive identification tool for the visiting birdwatcher and another majestic addition to the Helm Field Guides series.

"[...] The artwork is generally of a very high standard and, where appropriate, distinctive plumages and races are shown. The races illustrated are of course those that occur in Sri Lanka rather than elsewhere in the Indian Subcontinent. For species often seen and identifiable in flight, such as larger waterbirds, shorebirds, raptors, and seabirds, there are good flight illustrations.

Birds of Sri Lanka is an excellent piece of work and a true field guide, fitting neatly into a large pocket or small bag. In conclusion then, this is the crucial guide for anyone intent on birding on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka."
- Frank Lambert (10-04-2012), read the full review at The Birder's Library


"Sri Lanka’s tourist industry is undergoing something of a renascence. With the civil war behind it and the tragic loss of life and destruction caused by the Boxing Day tsunami becoming a distant memory, tourists are flocking to this tropical island in search of a bargain. Birders are joining them in increasing numbers and Sri Lanka has now become one of the most popular birding destinations in tropical Asia. This isn’t surprising when you look at what is on offer: modern hotels, good roads, excellent food and a superb range of breeding birds and winter visitors, including 27 endemic species (or up to 33 depending on the taxonomy adopted). The recent discovery of a new owl, Serendib Scops Owl Otus thilohoffmanni, by Deepal Warakagoda has also done much to boost the island’s

recent years most birders have used John Harrison’s Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka, although my personal favourite has always been G. M. Henry’s somewhat dated A Guide to the Birds of Ceylon, which includes a more extensive text but illustrations of somewhat dubious quality. With the publication of this new pocket-sized guide, visitors have a new tool to add to their armoury. For those unfamiliar with this series, it is an offshoot from the excellent Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by Grimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp, but with some updated illustrations and new text. Sri Lankan ornithologist Deepal Warakagoda brings a wealth of information to this guide, and he has added much to the introductory chapters and species accounts from his personal experience. In particular, the maps illustrate much of the new distribution data that has emerged in recent years, and are the best available.

A series of introductory chapters set the scene, providing a guide to the use of the book and an introduction to Sri Lanka’s birdlife. Of particular interest is a comprehensive section on Birdwatching Areas together with a map, providing a quick reference for route planning and species possibilities. Traditionally birders have concentrated on sites in the south of the country, largely because most of the endemics are confined to the Wet Zone of the southwest, but also because access to much of the north was restricted during the civil war. This has now changed and birders are exploring new sites and more are likely to be added to this list as interest grows. For example, the Vankalai Sanctuary near Mannar is now accessible and holds vast numbers of waders including Crab-plover Dromas ardeola and Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris, species absent from the south.

Readers who struggled with the family sequence in the original Birds of the Indian Subcontinent (Grimmett et al. 1998, 1999) will be relieved to learn that species order returns to a familiar arrangement, although the addition of plate numbers in the Family Summaries section would have been helpful. Each of the regularly occurring 450+ species are illustrated in colour and described in the adjacent plate caption. A distribution map is included for each species, showing breeding and winter ranges set against a grey-scale relief background of hills and lowlands. For pelagic species, offshore distributions are included. Vagrants are treated together in an appendix, each with a thumbnail colour illustration and brief text. The authors recognise 27 endemic species, six less than Rasmussen and Anderton acknowledge in Birds of South Asia, although these six are indicated by parentheses within the scientific name.

Most of the images are taken from Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, although a handful of plates have been repainted. For example, two new plates illustrate the owls and include the Serendib Scops Owl, a species that had yet to be discovered when Birds of the Indian Subcontinent first appeared in 1998. Other new plates include cuckoos, bulbuls, flowerpeckers and sunbirds, and ioras and leafbirds, the latter including Marshall’s Iora Aegithina nigrolutea, only recently discovered on the island but now found to be a localised breeding resident. Of the older images, it is disappointing that some appear to have been scanned at low resolution. This is particularly obvious on, for example, plate 56 where the swallows appear 40% larger than in Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, giving each bird a jagged outline. Given the technology that is now available, there are few excuses for this level of quality, and it is hoped that Helm will address this issue.

This book will appeal to anyone with an interest in Sri Lanka’s birds, and is a must if you are travelling to this delightful island. I won’t be giving up my copy of Henry just yet, but my baggage just got heavier."

- Peter Kennerley,


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Deepal Warakadoda is Sri Lanka's leading ornithologist. A tour leader, photographer and conservationist, Deepal made his name with his stunning 2002 discovery of the Serendib Scops Owl in Sri Lanka's Sinharaja Forest. This owl was a species completely new to scienc – the holy grail for any birdwatcher.

Richard Grimmett and Carol and Tim Inskipp are widely respected as the leading experts on the birds of southern Asia. Their major work was the epic Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, from which has sprung several highly acclaimed field guides.

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