A Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka's avifauna has been well studied over the years, and in the last two decades its national list has grown with a number of splits and even a newly discovered species. This photographic field guide features them all, including the 34 endemics – among them Serendib Scops Owl, first seen in 2001 and formally described three years later – and all other breeding species, migrants and vagrants.

The strength of any photographic field guide lies in its images, and this offering does not disappoint. Many were taken by the author, whose work on the birds and other wildlife of this subcontinental hot-spot is well known from several previous titles. These have been augmented with contributions from other local photographers and, especially in the case of vagrants, some images taken outside the country.

The result is a photographic collection of Sri Lankan birds that must be without precedent. Such species as Ceylon Scaly Thrush, difficult enough to see let alone photograph, are well illustrated here, and where necessary many species have a couple of images to show variation according to age and/or sex. In a few instances the reproduction and cropping of images could have been improved a little, but overall the quality is high.

Each species account features a distribution map, key information detailing size, habitat, distribution, voice and status, and a short summary description with tips where needed for separation from similar species. There are a few quirky first-person comments in the text, unusual in a field guide, but they do add a nice personal touch. Each bird family also has a box with short introductory text, while another welcome inclusion is a few tables setting out the field characters of similar species (for example frigatebirds and drongos) and how to separate them.

While field guides illustrated with plates are perennially popular, their photographic counterparts have much to offer too. In this instance, the package is further enhanced by an opening section covering climatic zones and monsoons, birding in Sri Lanka, habitats and sites, a typical two-week itinerary for visiting birders, an overview of endemics and much more besides. Any globetrotting birder planning to visit Sri Lanka should take this excellent book with them.


Written by: Dominic Mitchell