At present, 245 different species of butterflies have been recorded in Sri Lanka including 23 endemic to this island. The largest is the Ceylon Birdwing, which has a wingspan of 135mm. A beauty in black and yellow, this is the national butterfly of Sri Lanka. They are generally found in wooded mountainous forests. The smallest is the Grass Jewel which is tiny, and ranging from 8-13mm in size.
One of the most notable features with regards to butterflies is the epic journey of the Lemon Emigrants to the hill country and more popularly believed to travel to the top of Sri Lanka’s sacred mountain Adams Peak (which is known as “Samanala Kanda” or Butterfly Mountain) during the period of April and May where they travel in hundreds of thousands.
Sinharaja World Heritage Site being a lowland rainforest is an ideal place to observe some of the endemic species such as the Red Spotted Duke, Clipper, Cruiser, Cingalese Bush Brown and the Tawny Rajah along with the giant among them, the Ceylon Birdwing. Morapitiya in the outskirts of Sinharaja is a good place to see the rare Yarnfly.
Closer to Colombo, the Talangama Wetlands and the Beddagana Wetland Park are a great place to get a good introduction to the commonly seen butterflies of Sri Lanka. Species encountered here include the Common Grass Yellow, Common and mottled Emigrants, Grey Pansy and the Common Sailor. Many other species such as the Blue and Glassy Tigers, Indian Cupid, Blue Banded and Common Pierrots can also be observed.
Moving upto the highlands Horton Plains National Park is a great place to find the endemic and rare Ceylon Treebrown. This rare butterfly perches around eye level and often overlooked. Another rare species if the Painted Lady which is seldom seen, and can be found in this area. Some streams and areas with water can reveal the Hedge Hopper and the Common Pea Blue. A common species found in the park is the endemic Ceylon Tiger. One of the most captivating and intriguing species found here is the Green’s Silverline Lineblue butterfly. This rare species was discovered as a species in 1896 but there have been no records ever since the first specimen was collected. Thereafter some scientists even removed the species from the books. Amazingly in 2008 a female of this mysterious species was photographed laying eggs near the Worlds End cliff in the park. This was an amazing discovery of an enigmatic and elusive species.
Moving down to the dry and arid zone of the country’s South Eastern lowlands, one comes to Yala National Park. Besides the common species such as the mud-sipping whites and yellows during period times after monsoonal rains the most unique aspect in this area is the Small Salmon Arab.
Mother Nature has designed a living helicopter in the form of dragonflies. This family of insects are called Odonanata which is divided to two sub orders namely, Anisoptera which are dragonflies and the other is Zygoptera which are called Damselflies. The main difference is that the Damselflies hold their wings closed along the length of their bodies while the Dragonflies hold their wings open and perpendicular to their bodies. There are at least 124 species identified in Sri Lanka with over 50% being endemic to the country.
There exists a high rate of endemism among Dragonflies, and out of all the 20 species identified of the Forest Damsels (Platysticidae) are endemic to the country. In the Clubtails (Gomphidae), 13 species out of the 14 in the country are endemic. There are many species yet to be discovered by science as there is very little known or studied in the country at the moment. One species lost to science after its discovery in 1859 by H.A Hagen is the Emerald Sri Lanka Spreadwing (Sinhalalestes orientalis) which was first observed in the Rambodde area. After over 150 years this species was re-discovered in the Balangoda- Dickoya area and hence the mystery and awe of these species are quite fascinating and full of surprises.
One of the best places to start ones tour is in the urban wilderness of the Talangama Wetland. There are around 37 species identified in this site. Five endemic species have been recorded here, and three of the most common species found here is the Adam’s Gem, Stripe-headed Threadtail and the Orange-faced Sprite. Two very enigmatic species found at dusk are the Dingy Duskflyer and the Foggy-winged Twister. These are beautiful specimens with the latter species having pale almost mist like patch on its wings and weaves a stunning figure eight pattern while in flight which gives the name Twister. While visiting the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya it would be ideal to take a walk around the moat area surrounding the ancient site which is a great place for the Black-tipped and Blue Perchers which can be seen on the grassers and reeds along the small ponds. The Dancing Drowing can also be seen in waist high vegetation. The main attraction with regards to dragonflies is the Fiery Emperor which is a fascinating animal to observe as it dominates the air space.
The tropical lowland rainforest of Sinharaja as great for sighting the Shinning Gossamerwing which is found in rocky streams. The species named the Oriental Greenwing is seen in the vegetation which borers shady streams in the forest. Another endemic which is found in this area is the Black-tipped Flashwing as well as the Red-striped Threadtail. A new species identified by science in 2009 is the Vermillion Forester which is seen in this area. Areas inside and outside the forest reserve are excellent locations to find these winged dragons. Few other locations of interest to search for dragonflies and damselflies would be Bodhinagala, Kitulgala and Horton Plains National Park.
Classic Wild not only get you the most unforgettable wildlife encounters, but will also showcase the skills of the best natualist guides and trackers to get you your dream sightings
Thank you so much, I appreciate all of your hard work helping us find great snakes...
Thanks for sharing your knowledge and helping us find some fantastic wildlife...
Cannot thank Rajiv and Classic Wild enough for the two trips (and more planned)...
Had a wonderful 3 night excursion to Sinharaja arranged by Rajiv and his team at Classic Wild...
Took part on a birding tour to Sinharaja with Classic Wild, it was a very well organized tour...