Are tall buildings trouble migrants visiting Sri Lanka..??

20 Sep

It is reported that millions of birds are killed each year in collisions with the tall buildings elsewhere in the world. Lights in the high rising structures are particular death traps, so in some cities of USA, the unwanted lights of the buildings are switched off or purposely dimmed to minimize the damage during peak of the migratory seasons. Development has reached Sri Lanka and there are lots of sky-scrapers mushrooming in main cities. There are communications towers too erected in many places. Have these become death traps to many of the migrant birds in Sri Lanka..?

Let’s try to find our whether tall buildings trouble migrants visiting Sri Lanka too.

(1) If your workplace is at a tall building, keep an eye for injured / death birds found in vicinity. Perhaps you can ask the department / or the external agency that carry out cleaning / janitorial services to alert you if such bird is found as they will be the first to encounter such troubled migrants.

(2) If the bird is dead, you can simply take a photo for the records (using a mobile phone..?) and email or share on FB page

(3) If the bird is alive and injured, protect them from dogs, cats, crows, shikras etc. and monitor whether it recovers itself. Handle them gently only if necessary and keep them in a dark, quiet and warm place if too weak to fly. You can contact MigrantWATCH team on following numbers for more instructions 0718440144/ 0712289022/ 0777356931

(2) Please share past records on cases where migrants collide on buildings at onset of toward the end of migratory season.

This Slaty-legged Crake was rescued from Lucky Plaza building in Colombo during first MigrantWATCH held in 2011..

Slaty-legged Crake2 - lucky Plaza Building - 17.11.2013

Slaty-legged Crake - lucky Plaza Building - 17.11.2013



Let’s try to help the migrants..!!

List of migrants seen for this season

16 Sep

We have compiled an online document to share the records of migrants. The sightings of migrants that are shared on public domain, social media and the records directly sent to us will be updated on this regularly. Please share your sightings of the migrants too, so that we can have better records that we can analyze at the end of this migratory season. Thanks Ajith Gamage for setting this page and volunteering to manage it for MigrantWATCH 2014/15.

Barn Swallows start arriving at Ratnapura roost

11 Sep

Athula Edirisinghe reports the arriving of Barn Swallos in Ratnapura Town, on 8th September 2014. He spotted a small group of Barn Swallows on 8th.September and now they have increasing gradually for more than several hundreds as of 10th.september. Here are some photos taken by Athula Edirisinghe.

Picture 595

Picture 596

Picture 597

Picture 598

Picture 599

The Arrival of Barn Swallow 2014/15

6 Sep

Deshapriya Disanaike reports the first sightings of Barn Swallows for this migratory season from Weerawila few mins ago (12.45pm on 06.09.2014). The next few weeks will be exciting in term of sightings of migrants as many species will start arriving Sri Lanka. Please share your records, also indicating the Date and the Location of the sighting.

Barn Swallows are known for roosting together at night. They are found in large number in many places – notably the Barn Swallows on electrical wires of Ratnapura has become a spectacular scene. As part of MigrantWATCH 2014/15; can we monitor when these birds arrive Ratnapura and how the numbers increase..?? A simple daily count (as a sample) around 6pm on a stretch of these wires for next few weeks reveal these info. If you are in Ratnapura or if you know someone who can help us to do this count – please share the info.. 

Barn Swallow (c) DeshapriyaDisanaike - weerawila - 06.09.2014

Barn Swallow (c) DeshapriyaDisanaike – weerawila – 06.09.2014

Here is what FOGSL member Uditha Wijesena wrote about the Ratnapura Barn Swallows…

Swallows sleep in the land of rubies

Why thousands of Barn Swallows choose Ratnapura town to roost from September to April, will always be a mystery, says Uditha Wijesena 

Now the island of Serendib lieth under the equinoctial line, it’s night and day both numbering twelve hours. It measureth eighty leagues long by a breadth of thirty and its width is bounded by a lofty mountain and a deep valley. The mountain is conspicuous from a distance of three days and it contains many rubies and other minerals, and spice trees of all sorts. I ascended that mountain and solaced myself with a view of its marvels which are indescribable and afterwards I returned to the King.” That is the “Thousand and One Arabian Nights”- Sixth Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor, describing Adam’s Peak and the valley of gems in Ratnapura.
Over the centuries Sindbad, Ibn Batuta, Marco Polo, numerous other seafaring Moors and more recently Thai prospectors, all came to Ratnapura looking for the precious rubies, sapphires and moonstones.

There is another regular visitor to Ratnapura every year from time immemorial. It would stay overnight and leave by daybreak only to return in the evening again, until it decided to return to where it belonged and visit again the following year. The Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) is a regular winter visitor that migrates to the country and is very special in Ratnapura.

As day breaks in Ratnapura for the poor peasant gem miner and the timber tycoons with their loaded trucks, worshipping the deity Sumana Saman, it is ironical that they seek blessings to destroy the very environment that this deity is guardian of. This ritual is followed by the congregation of hundreds of white-clad gem buyers into the town, armed with flashlights sans the reflector to get light into the tiny stones for pricing. By 4 p.m. this trade fair ends and the crowds disperse for the day and by 6 p.m. the Barn Swallows, the night dwellers start descending on the town in their thousands.

Barn Swallows are silent when in their roost unlike other birds. They arrive inaudibly and settle down for the night over a busy town. In the good old days they may have roosted outside the town. Our colonial birders had no records of these roosts; perhaps this habit would have come by only after Ratnapura got electricity. Habits are passed through progeny and they still occupy the electrical wires on the old Colombo road section even though the town has expanded.

Why they choose Ratnapura town to roost in their thousands is a mystery. During the day it is quite impossible to see them around but they are present in their numbers in the Walawe Basin. Motoring in the Uda Walawe Park you would find a fair number following or leading you through the tall grasses, attracted by the insects that take off from the grasses in the draft wind following the vehicles. It could be all these birds in the Walawe Basin and in the southern plains that come over to Ratnapura to roost. No other urban location is noted as a Barn Swallow roost in this country. The attraction to Ratnapura maybe due to its high humidity present both day and night and its elevation opening to the vast flatland to the south, their foraging grounds.

People in the area take no notice of the birds’ presence save those interested in them. However, lately with the awareness of avian influenza there were concerns as to whether they should be eradicated. Timely intervention both scientifically and medically thawed out fears within the community, letting the birds alone in their habitat.

The barn swallow is the most widespread species of swallow in the world with a deeply forked tail and pointed wings ideally suited for long and swift flight. It is found in open country and generally uses man-made structures to breed. It has spread with human expansion in its breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere. A cup nest is made from mud pellets in barns or similar structures and it feeds on insects caught in flight. Its closeness to humankind is quoted in literature and religious works. It is the national bird of Estonia.

The long tail of the Swallow is said to indicate the quality of an individual bird and females prefer a bird with a long symmetrically laid tail with a darker reddish chest patch as their mate.

The Barn Swallow winters from September to April in Sri Lanka and is thought to be a bird that migrates in large numbers. They have been recorded in Ratnapura during these months for over 50 years now and there is no doubt of their return again in September. So if you pass Ratnapura after 6 in the evening or if you are hooked on birds visit Ratnapura town via the old Colombo road and you are bound to see the amazing sight of many thousands of birds sleeping together.

(The writer is a member of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka)

Courtesy;  Sunday Times   Plus  2011 – 6 – 5

Identification: Black-tailed & Bar-tailed Godwits

2 Sep

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) is a common winter migrant and the Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) is rare winter migrant. Black-tailed Godwit is more common in coastal area of dry lowlands and Bar-tailed Godwit arrives mainly to coastal area of Northern dry lowlands i.e Mannar and occasionally to Southern coastal area i.e Bundala.

Here are some useful field marks of these species, which will help you to identify the species correctly.

Black-tailed Godwit


Bar-tailed Godwit

(c) From ‘Birds Thapobanica’ Facebook Group 

Great Knots at Bundala Lagoon

31 Aug

The FOGSL Bird Ringing team at Bundala reports arrival of migrant shore birds. Here is a note by Dr.Sampath Seneviratne about sighting of Great Knot bird ringing sessions from 27th to 29th August 2014 . 

Very high numbers of arriving winter migrants at Bundala Lagoon over the past few days. The prevailing drought had opened up the lagoon shore at the southern side of the lagoon near the Saltern, where most of the shorebirds and other aquatic birds have been seen. Two GREAT KNOT were the highlight among high numbers of shorebirds. Both birds are molting with one almost retains its breeding plumage. This species is a regular but a rare migrant come to Sri Lanka and it is a globally threatened shorebirds species. There were 550 – 600 SPOT-BILLED PELICAN and 150 SPOONBILL among the crowd as well.

Great Knots at Bundala Lagoon – 27th to 29th August 2014 (c) Chandima Fernando

Great Knots at Bundala Lagoon – 27th to 29th August 2014 (c) Chandima Fernando

Great Knots at Bundala Lagoon – 27th to 29th August 2014 (c) Chandima Fernando


Mass Migration of Sea Birds

30 Aug

There is a mass migration of Sea Birds observed off west coast annually. Elsewhere on Facebook, Rex I. De Silva who studied these migrants over many years mentioned that this mass migration of seabirds should reach a maximum within the next week or two. Rex further added that The heavy rain forecast for tomorrow (Sunday 31st) should make conditions ideal for observing the seabird mass migration. It is best to start as early in the day as possible – ideally around 6.30 a.m. He says that as the day advances the birds will tend to fly farther away.

Rex requests the birdwatchers to be on the alert for Flesh-footed Shearwaters, Pomarine Jaegers and Brown Skuas. If any of you can visit the coastal areas tomorrow morning, try to observe this Sea Birds migration and share your observations..!!

For details visit:


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