October 2014


A Paradise for Birds
October 2014




Victoria Crowned Pigeons

Watchful eyes peered at us mirroring perhaps the same curiosity that reflected in our eyes as we made our way through the pathways of the Birds Research Centre and Resort in Hambantota. 


Words Krishani Peiris Photography Indika De Silva


Famed as the largest bird research centre in Asia, the Birds Research Centre and Resort is home to over 200 species of birds. Opened to the public in March 2014 by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Centre is spread across an expanse of 50 acres (20.24ha) out of which 18 have been utilised so far.


A breeding ground for rare and exotic bird species-some endangered-the Centre acquires birds through the assistance of foreign bird breeding centres and by exchanging species with zoological gardens around the world. The objective of the Centre is to encourage students to conduct research in ornithology while creating awareness about wildlife, especially birds, among local and foreign visitors. 

The Centre acquires birds through the assistance of foreign bird breeding centres and by exchanging species with zoological gardens around the world
Enclosures dot the grounds as the terrain varies while paved pathways lined with fences, trees and manicured lawns, crisscross the periphery. One section of the Centre is dedicated to cultivating organic plants that are used to fulfill the dietary needs of the birds. Since the Centre is also promoted as a breeding ground, a special incubator room has been built, with state-of-the-art equipment, where eggs are hatched and small chicks raised. 


An enclosure divided into four sections, housing flightless birds such as Ostriches (Struthio camelus), Grey Rheas (Rhea americana), Emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) and their chicks caught our attention first. Ostriches towering over seven feet tall, emus with long thin legs, known for speed and strength, and grey rheas with their queer call resembling a ‘booming' sound, were an intriguing sight.


In another section we saw several aquatic bird species gracefully gliding along small man-made pools. Black Necked Swans (Cygnus melancoryphus), Black Swans (Cygnus atratus), Mandarine Ducks (Aix galericulata), and Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) to name just a few exotic breeds, calmly caressed the waters, stepping out every now and then.


Strolling past these aviaries we came upon a spacious cage accommodating white and Green Peacocks (Pavo muticus). Feathers littered the cage by the dozens and we were told that during the breeding season the plumage of most birds falls.


Skirting around this cage we proceeded towards a structure divided into several pens, sheltering a variety of pheasant breeds mostly endemic to China and other Asian countries. Kept in pairs, the birds were of vibrant shades capturing the gaze of any with their breathtaking and beautiful plumage. Some of the rare birds found within this coop included Palawan Peacock (Polyplectron napoleonis) with its various shades of blue and endearing tail with purplish blue dots resembling small buttons, and Lady Amherst's Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) with its colourful hues and fancy headdress similar to that of a Red Indian's.


Further on, Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus), Great Arguses (Argusianus argus) from Malaysia, Reeves's Pheasants (Syrmaticus reevesii), Violet Crested Fireback Pheasants (Lophura ignita), known for its aggressive nature, Elliot's Pheasants (Syrmaticus ellioti), Lewis Silver Pheasants (Lophura nycthemera) and more, presented a fascinating sight.

A nest of knowledge for wildlife enthusiasts, the Birds Research Centre and Resort is becoming increasingly popular with people keen to observe feathered creatures never before seen in Sri Lanka
A little way from this building we ventured onto an extent where the ruckus made by the birds was nearly overwhelming. Here unique species such as Nicobar Pigeons (Caloenas nicobarica) from the Nicobar Islands, Ducorp's Cockatoo (Cacatua ducorpsii) from the Solomon Islands, Wreathed Hornbills (Rhyticeros undulatus) and Victoria Crowned Pigeons (Goura victoria) from New Guinea, occupy the premises. In another structure Red and Blue Lories (Eos histrio) and countless other distinctive breeds of Lories filled every nook and corner.


The Birds Research Centre and Resort is soon slated to incorporate more facilities, such as rooms, a restaurant and pool, to provide comfortable accommodation for bird enthusiasts and researchers so they can stay for days or months at a stretch to study the numerous yet rare types of birds within the Centre.


A nest of knowledge for wildlife enthusiasts, the Birds Research Centre and Resort is becoming increasingly popular with people keen to observe feathered creatures never before seen in Sri Lanka.