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Yala National Park - BirdForum Opus

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Photo by Wintibird
Patanangala Rock, Yala Beach

Sri Lanka


Yala is the most visited national park in Sri Lanka and should be included in every birders itinerary on this beautiful island. It's located in the southeastern corner of Sri Lanka.
The park is in the dry zone of Sri Lanka and holds a different avifauna than the wet zone (Sinharaja and other places).


Notable Species

Photo by Wintibird

Malabar Pied Hornbill is easily seen here. The only endemic species in the park are Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Brown-capped Babbler and Sri Lanka Junglefowl. However, there is plenty more: waders, terns, storks,Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Brown Fish Owl and many more.


Blyth's Pipit is sometimes found. Rare waders are also a possibilty.


Birds you can see here include:

Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Indian Peafowl, Lesser Whistling Duck, Garganey, Little Grebe, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Lesser Adjutant, Black-headed Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Indian Pond Heron, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Eastern Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Spot-billed Pelican, Darter, Little Cormorant, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Hawk Eagle, White-breasted Waterhen, Grey-headed Swamphen, Great Thick-knee, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Black-winged Stilt, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Red-wattled Lapwing, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover, Tibetan Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Ruff, Red-necked Phalarope, Pin-tailed Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Stint, Sanderling, Dunlin, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Greater Crested Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Common Tern, Whiskered Tern, Common Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, Spotted Dove, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Oriental Turtle Dove, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Brown Fish Owl, Asian Koel, Blue-faced Malkoha, Sirkeer Malkoha, Greater Coucal, Asian Palm Swift, Crested Treeswift, Little Swift, Common Hoopoe, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Asian Green Bee-eater, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Brown-headed Barbet, Indian Pitta, Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Common Iora, Small Minivet, Brown Shrike, Black-hooded Oriole, White-browed Fantail, Indian Paradise-Flycatcher, Indian Jungle Crow, Barn Swallow, Jerdon's Bushlark, Red-vented Bulbul, White-browed Bulbul, Plain Prinia, Grey-breasted Prinia, Ashy Prinia, Common Tailorbird, Brown-capped Babbler, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Yellow-billed Babbler, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Common Myna, Rosy Starling, Oriental Magpie Robin, White-rumped Shama, Indian Robin, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Purple Sunbird, House Sparrow, Indian Silverbill, White-rumped Munia, Scaly-breasted Munia, Paddyfield Pipit

Photo by Wintibird
Main road in block 1

Other Wildlife

Yala Nationalpark is probably the best place in the world to see Leopard. Full day safaris are best to see this wonderful species.
Spotted Deer is very common, Sambar, Wild Boar, Golden Jackal, Toque Macaque, Hanuman Langur, Indian Grey Mongoose, Water Buffalo, Asian Elephant, Palm Squirrel, Giant Squirrel and Black-naped Hare can also be seen. Mugger and Saltmarsh Crocodiles and Monitor Lizards are common.

Site Information

Block 1 consists of open woodland and scrub with several ponds and patches of grassland. The only possibility to visit the park is with a jeep safari.

History and Use

Yala was declared a national park in 1938.
It's the most visited park in Sri Lanka and every day dozens or even hundreds of jeeps enter block 1. Most visitors want to see mammals (particularly leopard), so many vehicules drive around pretty fast in search of animals. Therefore it's best to hire a jeep for yourself or your group and make clear that you are birdwatching. Some companies have drivers and guides which know the birds, other drivers and guides only know the mammals and some of the big birds.

Photo by Wintibird
Spotted Deer

The tsunami of 2004 has killed several tourists and many of the local people. It has also changed the coastline and created some interesting habitat, especially for waders.
Before 2009 the Tamil Tigers used the park to hide from the army and to start terrorist attacks. However, since the end of the civil war this has stopped and Yala is a safe place to visit.

Areas of Interest

There is a main road from the ticket office into the park. Many side roads go to the coast or either a bit more inland. Waders are mostly found near the coast. On a full day safari you will have more time to explore the quieter side roads, half day safaris usually stick more or less to the main road.

Access and Facilities

The most visited area of Yala Nationalpark is Block 1 (Ruhuna National Park), reachable from Tissamaharama or Kirinda. Jeep safaris are offered by various hotels and companies. There are half day safaris and full day safaris. For birdwatching a morning or a full day safari is recommandable. Prices vary with the number of people on a jeep and the companies. There is no other possibility to visit the park. There are some foodstalls close to the ticket office but nothing in the park. Bring water with you. The companies usually offer a meal or a snack. You are not allowed to leave the car in the park outside two or three marked spots.
Safaris can be booked in the hotels around Tissamaharama or on the internet.

External links