Sigiriya needs no introduction. Today the name of this UNESCO world heritage site is famous among so many people around the world, and is even considered to be the 8th wonder of the world by some.
The surrounding area of Sigiriya is mostly a vast plain with 2 prominent features: the inselbergs of Sigiriya and the lesser known Pidurangala rock (approx 1 km North of Sigiriya) rising like giants out of the land. Made up of granitic rock containing copious amounts of quarts, these hard rocks have stood out the weathering and erosion of time through out millions of years. Unfortunately the vegetation of the area has not been as lucky as these inselbergs mainly due to heavy anthropogenic activity. Most of the remnant forests were once cleared for agriculture and other human needs and exist today as secondary forests. Nevertheless, the area still has a significant forest cover that sustains some interesting forms of wildlife. Being in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, the forests of Sigiriya are categorized mainly as Dry mixed evergreen forests. A slightly different micro habitat of Xeric shrub land is also exhibited on the surface of the Pidurangala inselberg and its immediate surroundings. Man made environments in the area include many small lakes, canals and farm lands.
The climate is usually pretty dry, receiving an annual rainfall of only around 1200-1500 mm. Sigiriya gets most of its rain from the North-Eastern monsoon, the months of October & November having the highest rainfall. June, July and August are usually the driest months.
Many who visit Sigiriya do so mainly to climb the rock inselberg of Sigiriya and to see the ruins of the ancient fortress and the gardens around the rock. For a nature lover, the area of Sigiriya holds another attraction: its WILDLIFE. Activities like bird watching are becoming increasingly popular in the area, and many of the hotels offer these services to their guests. This intent of this article is to create awareness on bird watching in the Sigiriya area, and hopefully to offer a bit of information to those who might want to explore the area by themselves and observe the local fauna. One could easily engage in an early morning hike or hire a cycle to cover more distance.
Where to stay?
There are three main areas you could stay at when you are visiting Sigiriya.
Kimbissa is a small village, 2.6 km before the turnoff to the Sigiriya rock on the Inamaluwa-Sigiriya road. It is an ideal place for budget travelers with many cheap accommodation options. It’s relatively quiet that the main part of the Sigiriya town, and has some wooded areas and lakes by the road that make for excellent hikes and bird watching locations.
The main area of Sigiriya is the popular choice for most, due to it’s close proximity to the Sigiriya rock. There are few places around where you could go for an early morning bird watching stroll here. Talkotta road and also the woods surrounding the Ramakele stupa lie not too far and are ideal for viewing some of the birds of the area. Birds seeking the shelter of these heavy woods can be spotted here even during the harsh hours of the afternoon. The gardens surrounding the Sigiriya rock are also good for viewing birds.
Make sure you do not walk by yourselves at night inside the sanctuary as it is one of the busiest elephant corridors of Sri Lanka
Next is the Sigiriya Hotel road. Most of the accommodation here is a bit pricey, but it is again very close to the Sigiriya rock. The road starts right next to the Sigirya tank and as you go east on it past the Sigiriya Hotel, it goes through the Sigiriya Wilderness Sanctuary. Make sure you do not walk by yourselves at night inside the sanctuary as it is one of the busiest elephant corridors of Sri Lanka.
Listed below are photographs of some of the birds that I managed to capture on camera during last year around Sigiriya. All the photographs were taken around the above mentioned locations. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a good picture of the Blue-faced Malkoha (Rhopodytes viridirostris). Although I did spot many in the Sigiriya sanctuary, they were extremely shy and kept disappearing into the scrub before I could take any decent pictures
Sometimes for a good bird watching session, all you need to do is pick a tree and wait.
A fovourite birding session of mine in Sigiriya last year was when I just picked a spot near the Southern moat where there were a few tall trees, and within half an hour or so managed to photograph many birds feeding there. Below are a few that I found specially interesting.
Some other interesting bird species that can be spotted in the area are, Barred Buttonquail, Sri Lanka Jungle fowl, Peregrine Falcon, Shaheen, Orange breasted Green Pigeon, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Drongo Cuckoo, Jerdon’s Nightjar, Indian Nightjar, Rufos Woodpecker and many more. For any further inquiries you may have about bird watching in the Sigiriya area, please do not hesitate to contact me. Happy bird watching!!!