Horton Plains, famous for its scenic beauty and its montane forests and grasslands, is also one of the best places for bird watching. Sinharaja Rainforest is number one for observing wetzone lowland birds, Kumana and Bundala National Parks are unsurpassed highlights to study both the island’s dryzone birds and waterbirds. Sri Lanka’s highland avifauna should be studied in Horton Plains in the first place.
BirdLife International recognizes Horton Plains, along with the adjoining areas of Ohiya, Pattipola and Ambelawa, as an “Important Bird Area” (IBA), a globally important habitat for the conservation of bird populations.
Almost all 26 endemic bird species (occuring only in Sri Lanka) can be found in either Sinharaja or Horton Plains or both of them.
5 of Sri Lanka’s endemic bird species only inhabit the highlands, with best chances to spot them on Horton Plains, namely:
Yellow-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus penicillatus), a passerine bird of the bulbul family, inhabits forests as well as agricultural areas in the highlands. Despite its restricted range, it is quite easily found on Horton Plains.
Sri Lanka Blue Magpie (Urocissa ornata). a member of the crow family, also occuring in the Sinharaja range, is an endangered species.
Dull-blue Flycatcher ((Eumyias sordida), a small passerine bird in the flycatcher family, breeds in montane, usually not below 900m.
Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon (Columba torringtoniae), a member of the pigeon family, can be quite easily observed on Horton Plains.
Sri Lanka Bush Warbler (Elaphrornis palliseri) is an Old World warbler of Locustellidae family, the only bush warbler in Sri Lanka. Since it prefers altitudes above 1200 m, Horton plays is definitely the best place to see it.
Additionally, 2 endemic bird species prefer the highlands:
Sri Lanka White-Eye (Zosterops ceylonensis), a small passerine bird in the white-eye family occurs mainly but not excusively in the highlands.
Sri Lanka Whistling-Thrush (Myophonus blighi), of the Old World Flycatcher family (Muscicapidae). It’s habitat is densely forested area near water. With good luck, this very elusive bird can be seen in the early morning.
Other endemic species of Sri Lanka occur on Horton Plains but are rarely seen here:
Yellow-fronted Barbet (Megalaima flavifrons), of tropical Asia’s Megalaimidae family
Sri Lanka Rufous Babbler (Turdoides rufescens), also known as Orange-billed Babbler, is a typical jungle bird., belonging to the Laughinghthrush family (Leiothrichidae), which is widespread in tropical Asia.
Sri Lanka Junglefowl (Gallus lafayettii), of the Phasianidae family, is Sri Lanka’s national bird.
Sri Lanka Spurfowl (Galloperdix bicalcarata), of the pheasant family is endemic to Sri Lanka’s rainforests, it can be more easily spotted in Sinhara Forest Reserve or Kitulgala Bird Sanctuary.
Other typical highland birds in Sri Lanka are:
Black-throated Munia (Lonchura kelaarti), a small passerine bird of the weaver-finch family (Estrildidae), is endemic to highlands in the southern half of India (Deccan) and Sri Lanka.
Indian Blackbird (Turdus simillimus), a member of the thrush family Turdidae, is not considered a subspecies of the common blackbird any more, but a separate species endemic to South Asia, inhabiting altitudes between 1000 and 2000 m. The Sri Lankan subspecies (T.s. kinnissi) resembles the Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush.
Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica), of the owl family, is a resident breeder in tropical Asia.
Hill Swallow (Hirundo domicola), endemic to South Asia, is a small passerine bird of the swallow family. This is primarily a coastal bird but increasingly spreading to forested highlands.
Birds of Prey found on Horton Plains are Crested Serpent Eagle, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Common Buzzard, Crested Goshawk, Black-winged Kite, and Peregrine Falcon. Harriers are among the migratory raptors.
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