• serendipity

Birding in Mannar

Words by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne

Heuglin’s Gull, a winter visitor from the Russian tundra

Mannar’s wetlands may be the only ones in the world where a million waders have been counted from a single point of view.

Key Messages

  • The wetlands on Mannar Island and on the mainland are internationally important for ducks, waders, gull and terns. A count of migrant waders on the mainland led to a revision of the estimate of populations of waders in Asia.

  • The improved roads and unrestricted access make it easier to understand the size and scale of the wetlands around Mannar and why they are internationally important.

  • Mannar now has very good road access from key cities and a range of local accommodation options for birders.

  • Mannar has been identified as one of the windiest places in the island and a key site for wind farms. This will need to be managed in a way to mitigate adverse conservation impacts and impacts which reduce Mannar’s potential for tourism.

  • An integrated tourism strategy should include a Black Skies policy for Mannar so that Mannar’s Big Skies are used for tourism both at day and night.

  • Mannar could become one of the best locations in the country for Loris Safaris to see this nocturnal and enigmatic mammal.

Pallas’s Gull, a winter migrant from North Asia. The Mannar and Jaffna peninsulas are the best locations for this bird in Sri Lanka


I visited Mannar with Ajith Ratnayake, one of the directors of Palmyrah House for a two night 3 day trip.

My first two of three previous trip reports written during a ceasefire were standard references for birders and encouraged birders to explore this area.

  • Mannar 13 to 16 March 2003

  • Mannar 7 to 9 November 2003

  • Mannar 1 to 3 April 2006

The situation at the time of my last visit in January 2014 was very different. A visit to Mannar is no different to any other part of Sri Lanka in terms of security issues. To be more precise, there are no security issues as with the rest of the country. The roads are excellent and around three hours have been knocked off the drive time from Colombo. People leave Colombo at 5 a.m. and reach Mannar by 10 a.m. Birders at present have no restrictions in locations such as the Mannar Causeway to stop and look or take pictures of birds. No one will challenge you if you are filming birds or other wildlife in the Vankalai Triangle for example. The situation is very different to my previous trips where I always felt I was being watched by both warring sides.

A number of birders continue to visit Mannar and the notes of the Ceylon Bird Club and Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka document sightings. Also social media such as Facebook and FlickR record the visits and observations of many birders and photographers.

Given the information available and current ease of access to Mannar , I have not attempted a full trip report with a record of all the species seen on this trip. Instead I have copied below the notes I have submitted to the Ceylon Bird Club. I have retained information on sites we visited en-route as other visitors to Mannar may wish to do the same.

The open access to this part of the island does not make it possible to more fully appreciate how extensive the wetlands around Mannar are. A number of habitats are present including salt marsh, tidal mud flats, salt pans, estuaries and lagoons. There are also seasonally flooded freshwater meadows.

There is no doubt that these wetlands are internationally important for wintering waders and waterfowl. Some of these sites are also critically important for resident species such as the Indian Courser.

Adam’s Bridge

Mannar is culturally important and I am not addressing these in this brief report. Adam’s Bridge is important in both a cultural and biological context. I like to note the role of Adam’s Bridge in connection with Sri Lanka’s disproportionate richness for wildlife. This is covered more fully in the articles published in the Sunday Times in 2014. See references.


I made no effort to explore the range of accommodation options used by birders. But I have written below my impressions of Palmyrah House, where I stayed.

Palmyrah House

Palmyrah House is best described as a small luxury hotel. I had previously been confused with people referring to it as a bungalow. It’s also hard to gain a sense of it from pictures as it is one of those properties which are nice from inside out. Pictures I have seen of it make it look ‘blocky’ reinforcing the impression it’s a house or bungalow which has been converted.

The property has clearly been purpose built as a luxury boutique hotel but interestingly captures a game lodge ambience in its common areas. The rooms are stylish, but in a deliberate, simple, understated style. The bathrooms are big with the mod cons of power showers and hot and cold water. The rooms have a desk and chair, a large sofa, big beds, wardrobes, etc. and plenty of plug points. I liked the fact that the stylishness of the rooms is combined with functionality. It surprises me that even now people who design hotel rooms don’t seem to understand that almost every traveler now will have at least a smartphone and a tablet PC/laptop and possibly another digital camera or consumer electrical item. With the rooms I saw, you don’t need to be getting on your knees and crawling underneath furniture to plug your items in.

The common areas have a wide verandah cum lounge which looks out across an open expanse. The wooden floors and the style lend it a game lodge feel. I can see people sitting here and having drinks and relating anecdotes after a day out in the field. Mannar is a very windy place and the verandahs have shutters to keep out the wind. Thoughtfully, these have clear panels so that the view is not cut out during times of high wind.

One of the highlights of Palmyrah House is the food. Both the chef and the Resident Manager (Charith Mendis) are interested in food and serve local food with a twist of innovation. I found myself drawing comparisons with a foodie place like John Salt in Islington in London. I found all of the meals delicious. I suspect it will be hard for a larger property to maintain such innovativeness and standards with food.

Photographers and birders will find that several of the key target species can be seen in the hotel grounds itself. These include Collared Dove, Long-tailed Shrike, Black Drongo and Black Kites which fly over.

Adam’s Bridge and the effect of land bridges

The sand banks are a chain of islands on Adam’s Bridge connecting Sri Lanka to India like an umbilical cord. Adam’s Bridge is also an important visual reminder of a key physical factor as to why Sri Lanka has large land mammals.

Fishermen on Mannar island with the first island on Adam’s Bridge in view behind them illustrating how close it is. In the 19th century thousands of people fled a famine in India using a combination of wading and swimming over the shallow waters connecting the islands between India and Sri Lanka.

Land Bridges as a Speciation Driver

Sri Lanka has large herbivorous land mammals like the elephant and large carnivores like the leopard. The occurrence of these large mammals is a result of land-bridging the island repeatedly with the mainland. Unusually, the radiation of species seen in Sri Lanka occurred in the Tertiary before the Pleistocene Epoch in the Quarternary Period where the most recent periods of land bridging occurred. It is not clear what evolutionary processes occurred in the Tertiary that resulted in Sri Lanka having more species per unit area than large tropical islands such as Madagascar, Borneo and New Guinea.

Generally speaking, land bridging does help to increase species richness over millions of years. I would describe this as a five stage speciation. During periods of glaciations water is deposited as ice on land and sea levels fall forming a land bridge in the shallow sea connecting an island to the mainland. Such an example is still physically evident in the discontinuous land bridge between Mannar and India, known as Adam’s Bridge. New waves of immigrants are imported to the island via the land bridge and dispersed and then isolated from rising sea levels drowning the land bridge in a post glacial warming. The new arrivals may be physically stressed into niches by complex structural and physical factors of topography and climate, such as in Sri Lanka In essence the process is connect– import and disperse– isolate–stress–speciate. A repeat of this cycle is one key factor why the dry lowlands share many species in common with India. The area around Mannar and Jaffna share a Deccan Plateau wildlife with Southern India, a legacy of recent land connections, the most recent of which occurred 10,000 years ago.

A general model of a 5 stage process for a continental island to enrich its tally of species by land-bridging with the mainland.

  1. Connect

  2. Import and Disperse

  3. Isolate

  4. Stress

  5. Speciate

Land Bridge’s: An artist’s impression of Sri Lanka and India

The graphic below is not accurate, but was drawn by Nalin Balasuriya of the Sunday Times to illustrate an article of my in the Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). It will give a visual impression of how it was possible for people, animals and plants to cross over to Sri Lanka and vice verse during ice ages.

Useful reading

The following article published in two parts has more details on why Sri Lanka is super-rich for wildlife.

de Silva Wijeyeratne. G. (2014). Why Sri Lanka is super-rich for wildlife. Sunday Times: Sri Lanka. Sunday Times Plus. Page 8. Sunday 27 April 2014. Part 02.


de Silva Wijeyeratne. G. (2014). Why Sri Lanka is super-rich for wildlife. Sunday Times: Sri Lanka. Sunday Times Plus. Page 8. Sunday 20 April 2014. Part 01.


Bird watching in Mannar

The content below is reproduced from an article published in Hi magazine in June 2014.

de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2013). June 2014. Birds in Mannar. Hi Magazine. Series 11, Volume 6. Pages 178-179.

We drive slowly along the causeway linking Mannar Island to the mainland and my host Ajith Ratnayake spots a Crab Plover, a wader handsomely dressed in black and white. We pull over and spend over half an hour photographing four Crab Plovers. We are also distracted by a Golden Plover hunting close by, at frame filling distance. The first two trip reports of my earlier visits to Mannar became standard reference to birders as it contained key information on sites for target species, namely birds of the Deccan plateau. Birders in the South of Sri Lanka could not see during the conflict with the LTTE. This visit was in January 2014. It was significantly different to my previous trips in March 2003, November 2003 and April 2006 during the ceasefire.

It was different due to a number of changes. Firstly, the road infrastructure is vastly improved. The drive is now relatively comfortable and takes a much shorter time. A few hours have been shaved off and some people leave Colombo at 5am to arrive in Mannar sometime after 10am. Secondly, people are more relaxed and no one bats an eyelid if a birder or photographer pulls over anywhere to photograph birds. On my previous trips I was repeatedly questioned by people in civvies who could have been informants for either side in the war. Thirdly, there is more accommodation available for birders. The serious birders will opt for some of the inexpensive accommodation. A key change is that those who are willing to spend on something better finally have an up-market place, the Palmyrah House.

Mannar has a long an important cultural history. Here I will focus on its significance as an internationally important complex of wetland reserves. Mannar Island and the North-western coast on the mainland is fringed with tidal mud flats, estuaries, lagoons, salt marsh and seasonally flooded wet meadows which are the wintering grounds for millions of birds. At Vidattaltivu Lagoon, during a Ceylon Bird Club census of an annual waterfowl count in February 2010, the census takers observed over a million waders in the field of view at one point in time. There may not be other sites in the world where a million waders are in view at the same time. This count led to a revision of the population estimates of certain species of waders in Asia. The wetlands around Mannar and Jaffna are beyond doubt some of the most important wetlands in the world.

On my last morning I walked I walked in the grounds of the Palmyrah House with resident manager Charith Mendis and we talked about the ‘Big Skies’ of Mannar, where the observer feels dwarfed by the immensity of the hemisphere hanging over flat plains thinly encrusted with scrub jungle. A courting Oriental Skylark lifted off near our feet singing loudly, its song growing fainter and fainter as it and ascended and vanished from view into the sky. Mannar’s wild spaces may also disappear and internationally important wetland habitats lost if development is not integrated into a biodiversity conservation framework. Mannar would also benefit from an integrated development programme which maintains its wild beauty for both general tourism and wildlife tourism in balance with other nationally important deliverables such as energy from wind farms. I also hope this area will be one of the first to have an official black sky policy and that the milky way will continue to glitter in the night sky.

Where to Watch Birds in Mannar

The whole of Mannar is at present like a giant nature reserve and people see desirable birds everywhere. I was able to see some of Mannar’s target species just by walking about the large grounds of the Palmyrah House. These included Collared Dove, Long-tailed Shrike and Black Drongo. Black Kites often fly over or may be seen perched on vantage point by the road.

For birders a top site is the Mannar Causeway which has the resident Crab Plover and Western Reef Heron. It also yields some star wintering birds such as the Avocet and scarce waders such as the Bar-tailed Godwit. The latter are long-lived birds and it’s possible that the bird I photographed may be on its 25th annual visit. As the birds are used to vehicles, other waders such as Whimbrel may also be seen at close quarters. Just before the causeway, is a turn off (B420) heading South through the Vankalai Triangle, a RAMSAR wetland. This usually has huge numbers of waterfowl, including species rare in the South such as Wigeon and Teal. Over 50,000 Wigeon have been counted here and tens of thousands of Pintail also winter. On my visit in January 2014, I also saw Garganey and Shoveller. I have seen Greater Flamingo here, although there are more typically seen in the Mannar Salterns and from the causeway. I saw them on both locations on this trip. The Mannar Salterns are very good for a variety of waders and gulls and terns. Many of these locations give close access to waders for photographers which are not possible in many other places in the world.

Thalladi Pond (80km post, A14) near the causeway was famous for the rare Spot-billed Duck. We saw a pair close to this location and another pair was spotted by Ajith Ratnayake on the Mannar Pooneryn Road on a freshwater swamp beside the road. This road is also one of the few known locations for an enigmatic resident, the Indian Courser. Kora Kulam, on the main road of the island (89km post, A14) is also a very important site and holds large numbers of wintering waterfowl. I have also found it to be a good site for the magnificent Pallas’s Gull. Birders love their gulls and I headed with Ajith to the fishing village of Urumalai on the north-western tip for Heuglin’s Gulls. I was not disappointed. There were also Brown-headed Gulls in the flocks gathering on the beach and Little and Large Egrets waded in the sea.

Mannar’s Special Birds

In this section I give a brief outline of some of the target species for birders in Mannar. Some of these species, especially the migrants can turn up anywhere in the coastal wetlands. But Mannar is the best location for them. This is written with the viewpoint of reliability of desired birds by Sri Lankan birders in the southern half of the country. Some species such as the gulls will have universal interest, whereas birds such as the Eurasian Collared Dove are common and widespread from a global perspective.

From a nostalgic or emotional point of view, birds such as the Oriental Skylark and the Grey Francolin with their distinctive calls have a strong association for me with the big skies and open fields of Mannar.

In the brief photographic guide below I have used images from other parts of Sri Lanka and from the UK as the objective is to illustrate to a novice what the birds look like.

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis)

A scarce winter migrant to the coastal wetlands.

Look for it on the Mannar Causeway. Every year a bird seems to take up residence; perhaps the same individual.

Mannar, January 2014

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

Bundala, Mannar and Jaffna are the three key locations for this bird. In Mannar flocks are usually seen at a distance from the causeway or closer up in the Mannar Salt Pans. Migrant, but may be absent in some years. Breeds in the Rann of Kutch.

Mannar, November 2003.

Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)

Hundreds, sometimes thousands can appear in migrant flocks. Bundala in the South is the best possibility. Otherwise Mannar and the Northern Peninsula are the best locations.

Rainham Marshes, UK, January 2014.

Indian Spot-billed Duck (Anas poecilorhyncha)

The status of this bird was uncertain for a long time. It was observed breeding in 2003. It is probably both a rare migrant and a rare breeding resident.

Mannar, January 2014.

Northern Shoveller (Anas clypeata)

Shoveller is seen rarely in the southern wetlands. Mannar and the Northern Peninsula are the best places.

London Wetland Centre, UK, January 2014.

Common Teal (Anas crecca)

A scarce migrant. Mannar is a good place to look for it.

Minsmere, UK, January 2014.

Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

Can turn up anywhere in the coastal areas. I saw a pair in Kalpitiya Peninsula which once stayed long enough for many birders to twitch them. Several records from the Mannar Causeway.

Chilaw Sand Spit, March 2008.

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)

A scarce migrant. Look for it on the Mannar Causeway and the Adam’s Bridge Islands.

Mannar, November 2003.

Crab-plover (Dromas ardeola)

One of Mannar’s star birds; a scarce resident. Up to half a dozen may be seen from the Mannar Causeway when the mudflats are exposed. There seem to be local movements as the birds are not always there.

Mannar, January 2014.

Indian Courser (Cursorius coromandelicus)

Very rare resident, with only one or two publicized sites.

© Ajith Ratnayaka,Mannar.

Heuglin's Gull (Larus heuglini)

The fishing village of Urumalai is a good location for photographing flocks and birds in various stages of plumage.

Mannar, January 2014.

Pallas’s Gull (Larus ichthyaetus)

Kora Kulam is a reliable location. Flocks of Pallas’s Gulls (also known as Great Black-headed Gull use it as a day roost).

Mannar, January 2014.

Eurasian Collared Dove

(Streptopelia decaocto)

A common bird in this area.

Mannar, January 2014.

Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus)

A common bird in this area. Often perched on wires beside the road.

Mannar, November 2003.

Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach)

Fortunately this much desired bird is easy to find in the thorn scrub interspersed fields in this area. It’s the only resident species of shrike in Sri Lanka.

Mannar, January 2014.

Other birds

There are other birds for which Mannar is good. This is because the habitat is especially good for certain resident species. These include Striated Heron, Grey Francolin, Lesser and Goldenback. Mannar is also offers a better chance of seeing waders such as Greater Sand Plover and Terek Sandpiper. It is the best gull watching site in Sri Lanka and a good place to study the plumages of Brown-headed Gull as well as the gulls mentioned in the text above.

Mannar being a migration hotspot is also good for rare migrants. Birds of interest I have seen here include different species of Harriers and Amur Falcon.

Three different points in time in the development of a Heuglin’s Gull plumage

All gulls have complex plumages with a fairly well defined pattern of change which allow birders to ‘age’ them. Ageing and identifying difficult gulls is a technical challenge relished by the more technically advanced birders.

No gulls are resident in Sri Lanka. They are all winter visitors. The gulls belong to three age groups as follows, with gulls increasing in body size falling into longer age groups.

Two age groups The smaller gulls such as the Brown-headed Gull, a regular migrant to Mannar.

Three age groups Species such as the Common Gull, not recorded in Sri Lanka.

Four age groups Species such as Heuglin’s Gull.

In their breeding grounds, each of these age groups, during summer will have an additional age group comprising of the recently fledged juveniles. In Sri Lanka all birds will be at least in first winter plumage.

All birds change their plumage in a succession of moults. The spring moult or partial moult may take 1- 2 months to complete. In gulls, the first moult or post winter moult will take place in the autumn and will involve just a change in the head and body feathers. The spring moults are of the head and body feathers. Therefore a bird in its first summer would have undergone a post juvenile moult and a spring moult both of which have involved only the head and body feathers. Therefore its tail and wing feathers will be rather worn and ragged. In successive autumnal moults it will replace all of its feathers. The autumn moult is a complete moult and may take 3-4 months.

Urumalai Beach provides bird photographers wonderful opportunities for photographing gull plumages. Plus there is the added bonus of other coastal birds including waders and egrets.

January 2014 Birding Trip Notes

These are extracts of notes submitted to the Ceylon Bird Club. My notes on this visit are relatively skeletal.

The resident Crab-plover is one of the star birds on the Mannar Causeway.

Thursday 9 January 2014 Mannar

Palmyrah House, Mannar

The grounds are good for a number of birds including Eurasian Collared Dove, Black Drongo, Long-tailed Shrike, and Grey Francolin with fly overs by Black Kites. Some areas of the grassland were wet and waders present included Golden Plover. Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks, Paddyfield Pipits and Oriental Skylarks were common. The skylarks were ascending and singing in courtship displays.

The forested patch at the back has sunbirds, Black-hooded Oriole, etc.

Scaly-breasted Munias nesting.

In the evening I saw 2 Long-tailed Shrikes hunting along the driveway using the fence and small trees as a vantage point.

Mannar Saltern Visit 2

40 + Caspian Terns resting together. One Caspian Tern took a fish from another, probably a courting pair.

1 Richard's Pipit.

A number of waders present including Ruddy Turnstone, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper and Little Stint.

1 Little Tern in non breeding plumage repeatedly hunted over one section of a channel lining one of the salterns.

Thiruketeeswaram Kovil

A peacock was dancing to a female.

Mannar- Pooneryn road

2 Spot-billed Duck beside Mannar- Pooneryn road a few km past the freshwater tanks beside the first kovil (Thiruketeeswaram Kovil) on this road.

A Serpent Eagle on a telegraph post.

6 Indian Courser past iron bridge at the regular site. The birds were initially very far away and we waited patiently for over an hour for them to approach us so that we could at least have a proper look through binoculars. Habitat was dry soil with short grass. At times the birds were in grassland where the grass was to the head height of the birds. Seemed wary and kept well away from parked vehicle. They walked towards us a few times and retreated each time. One bird came closer to the road but was ahead of where we were parked. We made a slow approach along the road in the vehicle but it flew off and the rest of the flock joined it and flew away. I am not sure if the reaction was because we had moved the vehicle along the road from where it had been parked for almost an hour. I was told that some irresponsible photographers had gone off road and pursued them to take pictures. I am not sure if they are now generally wary of vehicles.

The site poses a conservation dilemma. It may be that the bird has a narrowly defined habitat requirement: in which case the current location may need conservation protection. There is a risk that the site may eventually be lost to agricultural uses.

At the same location on the other side of the road, it seemed like the birds had sensed the emergence of insects, possibly termites. 2 Brahminy Kite adults hunted for insects on the ground for over an hour. They were about 20 feet away. A juvenile kite was present but did not stay with the adults and flew away. The kites were joined by Black Drongos and Common Mynas. A Yellow-wattled Lapwing harried one of the kites by flying at it and also seemed to be feeding on the emerging insects.

A flock of 4 + Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks flew in and out repeatedly to feed.

Mannar Causeway

3.45 p.m. A flock of Greater Flamingo was present in the distance. Did not count properly but loosely estimate over 50 birds.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Urumalai Visit 2

Heuglin's and Pallas’s Gulls. Small numbers, less than 60 of each.

Greater Sand Plover.

About 10 plus Little and Great Egrets were on the beach wading into the sea and fishing.

Kora Kulam

150 plus Pallas's Gulls. Also Brown-headed Gulls 200+ Also 300 Eurasian Wigeon, smaller numbers of Northern Pintail.


4 Caspian Plover

1 Bar-tailed Godwit

Grey Plover, Western Reef Egret, small flock of Greater Flamingo (less than 10).

Pacific Golden Plover hunted in the leaf litter of the salt tolerant plants near the road. This bird must be used to vehicles.

Mannar- Pooneryn Road

At a freshwater tank near a Kovil. At dusk around 6.15 pm 5 Black Drongos and 1 Blue-tailed Bee-eater alighted on the overhead wires spaced no more than 100 feet apart and hawked for insects. 1 Indian Roller also joined them.

Tuesday 7th January 2014

Chilaw Sand Spit

Drove in and out briefly and did not alight from the vehicle. I only saw Gull-billed Terns as a result. One flock in the air had about 40 birds. They were patrolling along the shoreline.


Good forest in and around the archaeological site. Did not stay to bird. Heard Indian Peafowl; a flock of Indian Swiftlets

Giant's Tank

A flock of 8 and another 2 Cotton Pigmy-goose, making 10 in total. A raft of 22 Little Grebe plus another raft of 10 Little Grebe.

2 Caspian Tern. Also Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns.

Indian Cormorant and Little Cormorants.

Mannar Mainland

Near the 79 km A14, 2 Spot-bill Duck flew off as we stopped to look at them.

Vankalai Triangle

1 male Common Teal was by itself, close to a few Garganey and Black-tailed Godwits in the water.

1 juvenile Little Ringed Plover is noteworthy of comment because the brown shaded area under the eye did not have a sharp downward point and was more rounded like in the scarcer Common Ringed Plover. However the images show traces of the yellow orbital ring. Another juvenile photographed a day later showed the yellow orbital ring more distinct and the ‘sharp edge’ just beginning to show.

2 Striated Herons, seemed habituated to vehicles.

1 Eurasian Curlew, used to vehicles was feeding beside the turn off from the main road. The freshwater swampy areas near the road had Wood Sandpiper.

Caspian and Gull-billed Terns, Brown-headed Gulls in non breeding,

In the scrub, Black Drongo, Grey Francolin, Long-tailed Shrike.


1 Western Reef Egret.

Mannar Saltern Visit 1

220 Greater Flamingo.

1 Black-winged Stilt with a deep black hind neck marking.

Waders include Ruddy Turnstone, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Marsh Sandpiper.

Adam's Bridge Point Visit 1

By this I refer to the North-west corner of the island which is directly in line with Adam’s Bridge and where the first of the islands is only a few hundred meters away. This was accessed through privately owned land.

25 Caspian Tern, 200 + Lesser Crested Tern

5 Sanderling, 1 Terek Sandpiper, etc.

Greater Crested Tern.

A peacock was dancing to a female on scrub land which is privately owned.

Mannar Wildlife Checklists

8.1 Birds

The following is a checklist of birds I have seen in the Mannar District on 4 trips spanning a modest 13 days. The list excludes species such as Avocet a star attraction at Mannar seen by several observers on the Mannar Causeway. I have included birds seen on Mannar Island, Adam’s Bridge, the mainland area around the Mannar- Pooneryn Road (for Indian Courser), Vankalai Triangle and Giant’s Tank (for Common Coot).

The list of species recorded at less than 150 species is under representative. During the northern winter a single focused birding trip of a week may yield close to 150 species. However, many birders to Mannar will focus on its special birds rather than pursue a big list.

The list below is based on the following field days.

  • Mannar 13 to 16 March 2003

  • Mannar 7 to 9 November 2003

  • Mannar 1 to 3 April 2006

  • Mannar 7 to 9 January 2014


R Resident, M Migrant

C Common, U Uncommon, S Scarce, H Highly

Other Wildlife Recorded in Mannar

I have not kept detailed notes or a checklist of the other wildlife I have seen in Mannar, But given the growing interest in Mannar with the road access improving, I have compiled below some of my previous records.

8.2 Butterflies

Recorded between 13-16 March 2003

The following species of butterflies were observed in the Giant's Tank to Mannar Island stretch.

Lemon Pansy, Crimson Tip, Lime Butterfly, Peacock Pansy, Common Mormon, Tawny Coster, Crimson Rose, Lesser Gull, ? Angled Castor, Blue Mormon, Small Salmon Arab, Glassy Tiger species, Common Tiger, Plain Tiger, Grass Yellow species.

Recorded between 7-9 November 2003

Mannar and the area from Giant's Tank was very good for butterflies. One of the commonest was the Small Salmon Arab. Other species recorded included Common Rose, Crimson Rose, Plain Tiger, Common Tiger, Chocolate Soldier, Common Leopard, Grass Yellows, Orange Tip, Crimson Tip, Common Gull, various Blues, Common Pierrot etc. The Joker was recorded at Giant's Tank.

Recorded between 1-3 April 2006

Milkweed Butterflies (Danaidae )

  1. Blue Tiger (Tirumala limniace)

  2. Common Tiger (Danaus genutia)

  3. Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus)

  4. Common Indian Crow (Euploea core)

Brush-footed Butterflies (Nymphalidae)

  1. Angled Castor (Ariadne ariadne)

  2. Joker (Byblia ilithyia)

  3. Chocolate Soldier (Junonia iphita)

  4. Lemon Pansy (Junonia lemonias)

  5. Grey Pansy (Junonia atlites)

  6. Common Sailor (Neptis hylas)


  1. Tawny Coster (Acraea violae)

Gossamerwings (Lycaenidae)

  1. Pea Blue (Lampides boeticus)

  2. Zebra Blue (Syntarucus plinius)

  3. Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis)

  4. Bright Babul Blue (Azanus ubaldus)

  5. African Babul Blue (Azanus jesous)

  6. Small Cupid (Chilades parrhasius)

  7. Grass Jewel (Freyeria trochilus)

  8. Ceylon Silverline (Spindasis ictis)

Whites & Sulphurs (Pieridae)

  1. Common Jezebel (Delias eucharis)

  2. Striped Albatross (Appias libythea)

  3. White Orange-tip (Ixias marianne)

  4. Yellow Orange-tip (Ixias pyrene)

  5. Small Salmon Arab (Colotis amata)

  6. Crimson Tip (Colotis danae)

  7. Plain Orange-tip (Colotis aurora)

  8. Large Salmon Arab (Colotis fausta)

  9. Dark Wanderer (Pareronia ceylanica)

  10. Mottled Emigrant (Catopsilia pyranthe)

Swallowtails (Papilionidae)

  1. Common Banded Peacock (Papilio crino)

  2. Lime Butterfly (Papilio demoleus)

  3. Common Rose (Pachliopta aristolochiae)

  4. Crimson Rose (Pachliopta hector)

8.3 Dragonflies

Recorded between 1-3 April 2006

The dragonflies are very much under-recorded like the butterflies. I hope other observers will pay more attention to the Lepidoptera and Odonata. Karen Conniff very kindly assisted in the identification of species which had been photographed.

Reedlings (Lestidae)

Scalloped Spreadwing (Lestes praemorsus decipiens) Giant's Tank

Bluets (Coenagrionidae)

Malay Lillysquatter (Paracercion malayanum) Giant's Tank. Note that the ID is not absolutely certain as the image is of poor quality.

Common Bluetail (Ischnura senegalensis), Giant's Tank

Chasers (Libuellidae)

Green Skimmer (Orthetrum sabina), Mannar, Giant's Tank

Blue Percher (Diplacodes trivialis) female, Giant's Tank

Asian Groundling (Brachythemis contaminata), Mannar, Giant's Tank.

Dancing Dropwing (Trithemis pallidinervis), Giants Tank.

Pseudagrion decorum was photographed at Giant's Tank and identified conclusively by Matjaz Bedjanic after Karen Conniff referred the images to him. This is the first record of its occurrence in Sri Lanka. It is common in Southern India and Fraser had commented that it is surprising that it has not been recorded from Sri Lanka.

8.4 Mammals

Recorded between 13-16 March 2003

Palm Squirrel, Civet Cat and Grey Mongoose.

Recorded between 7-9 November 2003

The only mammals observed were a Grey Mongoose, Palm Squirrels and a Black-naped Hare.

Recorded between 1-3 April 2006

Grey Slender Loris.

Recorded between 7 – 9 January 2014

Palm Squirrel.

8.5 Reptiles

Recorded between 1-3 April 2006

Saw-scaled Viper.


de Silva Wijeyeratne. G. (2014). Why Sri Lanka is super-rich for wildlife. Sunday Times: Sri Lanka. Sunday Times Plus. Page 8. Sunday 27 April 2014. Part 02.


de Silva Wijeyeratne. G. (2014). Why Sri Lanka is super-rich for wildlife. Sunday Times: Sri Lanka. Sunday Times Plus. Page 8. Sunday 20 April 2014. Part 01.


de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2013). June 2014. Birds in Mannar. Hi Magazine. Series 11, Volume 6. Pages 178-179.


Tara Wikramanayake copy edited this article. Ajith Ratnayaka very kindly provided me with photographs of the Indian Courser.

Various people have accompanied me on my trips to Mannar and assisted in various ways. Ajith Ratnayaka very kindly accompanied me on my visit in January 2104 which was hosted by Palmyrah House.

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