Sri Lankan Wildlife: a paradise for bird watchers

Sri Lankan wildlife is legendary, from the elusive leopards of Yala National Park and the gargantuan blue whales in the south coast waters, to the kaleidoscopic array of birdlife that takes to the skies each day. Of Sri Lanka’s more than 400 species of bird, over 50 of these can be seen here at Tri. 2018 marks National Geographic’s Year of the Bird, so what better time to celebrate the winged and wonderful companions with which we share our home…

Black-rumped Flameback (Dinopium benghalense psarodes)

A sub-species of the more commonly known black-rumped flameback, this woodpecker is endemic to Sri Lanka and differentiates itself with deep red wings and darker, more extensive markings. Often spotted flitting through the trees at Tri, you’ll recognise its characteristic rattling-whinnying call and undulating flight.


White-bellied Sea Eagle (Heliaeetus leucogaster)

Keen birders will spot the huge white-bellied sea eagle swooping down to pluck fish from Koggala Lake, its regular hunting ground, and the bird can often be seen roaming the grounds here at Tri. No shrinking violet, this raptor bird of prey is Sri Lanka’s largest bird — with a wingspan of up to 2.5m — and is particularly distinctive with its white head, under-wing coverts and loud, goose-like honking.


Sri Lankan Green Pigeon (Treron pompadora)

A sub-species of the fabulously-named pompadour green pigeon (also seen at Tri), this bird is thought to be endemic to Sri Lankan wildlife. Beautifully bright in colour with an emerald green body and deep purple wings, the Sri Lankan Green Pigeon usually nests alone or in small groups, and can be spotted making fast and fleeting flights with a sharp flick of the wing.


Jerdon’s Leafbird (Chloropsis jerdoni)

Living high amongst the treetops, the Jerdon’s Leafbird is easily camouflaged in Tri’s lush vegetation thanks to its small size and fluorescent green body. Eagle-eyed guests will spot the little bird hanging out in our cashew and jackfruit trees, singing its unique song made through mimicking the calls of a number of other nearby bird species.


White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)

A favourite amongst birders of Sri Lankan wildlife, these gorgeously iridescent blue birds can be spotted flitting across the waters by Tri, feeding on small reptiles, amphibians, crabs and even other birds. A powerful bill and rapid flight means the species has few predators, and they are especially noticeable here at Tri during breeding season thanks to a loud morning wake up call.



Birding interest piqued? The list doesn’t stop there… Here at Tri, you’ll also find black-hooded orioles, emerald doves, red-wattled lapwings – more commonly known as the ‘did ‘e do it’ bird on account of its unique call – babblers, bul buls and barbets, peacocks, parakeets and more…

There’s a whole world of aerial Sri Lankan wildlife to discover. Keen birders: grab your binoculars, for Sri Lanka’s birding paradise awaits…

The Flora and Fauna at Tri

Sri Lanka is well known to be a wildlife lover’s paradise – and you don’t have to stray from Tri to appreciate that. Nature is all around us, observes Rob Drummond.

Before we opened, as we were starting to landscape our grounds on Koggala Lake, we invited the Carbon Consulting Company to come and assess the biodiversity of Aladoowa. This was so we could get details about the flora and fauna here and so we could learn how best to enhance the biodiversity of our Sri Lankan eco retreat.

Biodiversity plays an important role in a hotel – from the food served to the materials used in the furniture and fittings – and we recognised that building a new luxury hotel can have a negative impact on our ecosystem, so we were determined to be as ecologically sensitive as possible. Our aim was to enrich the land by planting trees, introduce rare species of mangrove, increase the firefly population and to create a butterfly garden.

In January 2014 the CCC identified 97 species of fauna, five of which were endemic, 89 native and five migratory. This included 51 bird species – including the endangered blue-tailed bee-eater – 18 butterfly species, eight dragonfly species, three amphibian species, six reptile species and three mammal species…

Some of the characters you’ll see at our nature-loving Sri Lankan hotel:


Great hornbill (pictured) These magnificent yellow-beaked big-eyelashed black-and-white birds are best spotted in the morning as they flutter through the treetops. Males can live up to the age of 50. Listen for their loud, high-pitched calls and cackles.

Brown-headed barbet Listen for the loud monotonous call of these birds which live in pairs and feed on berries, fruits and insects. They much prefer village gardens and open greenery to dense forests.

Blue-tailed bee-eater You’ll spy these mostly in winter, when they can be seen plunging into the water to bath. They prey on flying insects such as bees, wasps, dragonflies and butterflies and can be spotted sallying out from the top of trees where they perch as flocks of usually less than ten birds.

Indian pond heron You can’t miss these poking out from paddy fields – they love marshy wetlands and places they can feed on fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects. They are solitary by day, and then roost with their birds of a feather by night.

Red-vented bulbul These cuties live in pairs in gardens and scrublands and are prolific breeders. Look out for their nests made up of little twigs and rootlets bound together by cobwebs.

Asian koel During Sinhala new year season keep your ears open for the mating call of the male bird as this is also the start of their breeding season.

Stork-billed kingfisher The largest of the kingfisher family, you’ll spot these fish-eaters in rivers, marshes, paddy fields, and lagoons.

Jerdon’s nightjar The big eyes are a clue this is a nocturnal bird. During the day, they lie silently on the ground, hidden by their plumage.

Emerald dove  These birds love wooded gardens and plantations and are usually found on terra firma in pairs. Their nests are mostly in small trees or in the jungle and are not very high up.

Pompadour green-pigeon Endemic to Sri Lanka, but its fast-and-direct flight with the regular beats and an occasional sharp flick of the wings are characteristic of pigeons in general.

White-breasted sea eagle Whether in Asia or Australia, these birds breed and hunt near water, since fish makes up half of their diet. They’re also opportunistic, and will tuck into carrion if it’s available.

Long-billed sunbird You can’t miss this little blue-headed curve-beaked bird endemic to peninsular India and Sri Lanka. It’s a sociable so-and-so, often found close to human settlements probably due to abundant of flowering plants which it feeds on the nectar of along with tiny insects, spiders and caterpillars. The nest is recognisable as a hanging pear-shaped structure with an entrance in the side.

Asian palm-swift These small birds spend much of their lifetime in the air, living on the insects they catch in their beaks. They drink on the wing, but roost on vertical cliffs or walls. Not unlike many luxury hotel guests, they’re slow risers in the mornings. They breed in southern Spain, Africa and then head northeastwards through southern Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.

Black-rumped flameback Look out for these bright-red birds in forests and home gardens of lowlands and hills. They like to spend time as a twosome pairs and they graze on ants and insects inside tree barks. Their hopping movements around branches are quite unique.


Southern purple-faced langur This endangered long-tailed arboreal monkey endemic to Sri Lanka inhabits thick jungles and wooded gardens. Their tails are carried hanging down, not over their backs as how the grey langur struts its stuff. When it comes to mealtimes, leaves, flowers, seeds and fruits are on the menu.

Palm squirrel There are four subspecies of this critter that’s found all over Sri Lanka except in heavy jungles. Nuts, seeds, fruits, flowers, bark are their natural diet but they’ll happily seek out rice or bread us humans accidentally drop scraps of.

Common shrub frog Endemic to Sri Lanka, this little amphibian hangs out in tropical moist lowland forests, arable land, pastureland and gardens.

Garden lizard The harmless agamid lizard is arboreal and diurnal, and while usually seen on low shrubs and tree trunks waiting for its lunch of insects it’s often drawn to human habitations.

Green forest lizard Handsome and highly arboreal, found in both forest and anthropogenic habitats such as gardens and plantations, it has a very long tail and is considered the largest Calotes species in Sri Lanka. Various colours have been recorded for this species.


Variegated flutterer Easily mistaken for butterflies these fragile south-east Asian dragonflies don’t have a very strong flying skills. Give them some encouragement if you see them.

Blue pursuer You’ll spy these common dragonflies from the Mediterranean through southern and eastern Asia to Australia. Small weedy ponds and marshes are their favoured stomping ground. When it comes to flying, they’re fast and strong and they often prey on other dragonflies. (Watch your backs, variegated flutterers.)

Common jezebel A medium-sized butterfly it is found everywhere in southern Asia – in cities, villages, gardens, forests – just about anywhere which has trees to support the semi-parasitic mistletoe. The Jezebel often flies high up in the canopy and usually comes lower down only to feed on nectar in flowers.

Indian cupid A tiny little flutterby found in Australasia and Indomalaya you’ll even spot them in the highest elevations in the wet zone –throughout the year.

Chocolate soldier Commonly spotted in areas with thick vegetation or on either side of gravel roadsides and waste places. It clearly has a little wanderlust as it’s been known to join migratory flights.

Common sailer An all-weather year-round flier, especially where it’s dense with vegetation and lightly wooded. It has been known to follow migration paths towards south India.

Crimson rose They fly close to the ground and their flight is fast and straight. The male butterfly has a black-coloured upper side and his underside is a dull brownish black and his head and stomach are bright pink. The female is similar, but the sequence of are duller, with pale pink, and the top of their abdomen is black.

Tailed jay This mainly green-and-black tropical butterfly is more abundant in wet zones. It flies really fast and only pauses for a moment at each flower. If disturbed it zooms off vertically to considerable height before flying away.


The Sweet Scent of Cinnamon

Ninety per cent of the world’s highest-quality cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka. Juliet Kinsman gets a lesson in how this deliciously fragrant spice is harvested and produced from Tri’s very own neighbours.

A fishing boat tour of Koggala Lake by sarong-wearing Douglas is a charming excursion in itself, but our cinnamon-obsessed outing would prove an even bigger treat for all the senses. Douglas kindly chaperoned us by dhoni across the lake, past fishermen, to another local industry care of a visit to a cinnamon planter at his home.

Sarath, the cinnamon farmer welcoming us off the boat up through some trees, past an impressive monitor lizard, to his small house in what felt like jungle. He gestured us to the family’s table and chairs just beyond where his wife was cradling a very happy-looking newborn baby. Here, with a glass of hot cinnamon tea, we learned how the fragrant sticks we buy in little jars in supermarkets back home are often hand made from the bark of a Sri Lankan tree by an experienced artisan just such as Sarath.

Cinnamon has been on sweet and savoury menus around the world since the Portuguese discovered this aromatic wild tree in Sri Lanka and it’s fascinating to get such a close-up view of how it’s processed by hand. Expertly, Sarath’s experienced hands demonstrated how the bark is carved off branches of the cinnamon tree. The stems are processed straight after harvesting while the inner bark is still wet – after the outer bark is masterfully scraped off, he tapped the wood with a hammer to loosen the inner bark – it would be this which would become the familiar spice. Since the exterior woody bark is a byproduct, this is what was used for the cladding of Tri’s constructions. It’s quite captivating to observe these curved sticks of raw cinnamon being peeled off and proficiently rolled into the more familiar brown quills.

We didn’t feel like tourists in a group expedition as we sat with our new Sinhala friend in his front yard and discovered from him how this time-tested tradition endures. It felt as though Douglas has taken us to meet  his extended family who was only too happy to spill the secrets to a technique he had proudly mastered over a lifetime. And we were only too delighted to be able to spice up our lives by buying some aromatic Ceylon cinnamon oils and sticks from source to take home.

The Tri Cinnamon Experience (1.5 hours): a private dhoni boat on the lake takes you to visit a cinnamon island where a family live and produce cinnamon products. They demonstrate peeling and let guests touch and taste. (Cost US$25 per person.)


BIRD Travel PR | Press Release 2015

Opening late 2015, Tri is a whorl of geometric ingenuity and awe-inspiring beauty – Sri Lanka’s first truly contemporary, sustainable luxury design hotel. Mirroring nature’s ubiquitous Golden Ratio, Tri spirals 10 unique suites around an island hill flanking Sri Lanka’s serene Lake Koggala. Living walls, green roofs, solar arrays, recycled wood and entirely local materials will unify accommodations and landscape. Sequential spaces emanate from a central water tower that captures spectacular 360-degree views. Creative experiences will stimulate body, mind and soul, proudly showcasing Sri Lanka’s finest ingredients, materials, services and facilities. Guided by nature, evolved by aesthete individuals and fortified by an all-encompassing sustainable philosophy, Tri will be a masterpiece of forward-thinking flair, where mathematical marries artistic and intelligence embraces emotion.

Tri: At a Glance

  • 10-suite sustainable luxury design hotel opening in the Summer of 2015
  • A hillside haven on Sri Lanka’s Lake Koggala 25-mins from Galle Fort
  • Evolved by photographer, entrepreneur and aesthete, Rob Drummond, and award-winning architect, Raefer Wallis of A00 Architects
  • Ingenious design inspired by the spirals of the ‘Fibonacci sequence’
  • Eight suites, three with private pools, nestled in the landscape and a further two elevated on the top deck of the central water tower
  • Spectacular 21m cantilevered pool with multiple decks and terraces
  • Combine peaceful lakeside living with day trips to the beach nearby
  • Treetop yoga shala; treatment rooms and steam cavern
  • Library, study and entertainment room
  • Dining room with private and communal seating
  • Dramatic 360-degree summit viewing deck
  • A contemporary, organic approach to Sri Lanka’s finest elements: food, materials, services, facilities and experiences
  • Cultural, active and intellectual immersions, from lake kayaking, beach trips and natural exercise stations to talks, temple visits and whale watching
  • Creative and cutting-edge; serene and energising; intellectually stimulating; ethically, culturally and authentically minded; stylish and responsible; fun!

Tri: The Experience

  • Arrive by boat across Sri Lanka’s largest lake.  Unwind as you ascend the spiral hillside setting with accommodation suites, sequential spaces and central water tower. Discover a living, energising design hotel, evolved by aesthete individuals and peppered with creative, contemporary experiences for body, mind and soul. Experience the transformation of time – the magic of the here and now – immersed in nature’s infinite perfection.”

Getting There:

  • Via Land: 1.5 hours from Colombo International Airport. 25 minutes from Galle
  • Via Air: sea-plane service lands directly on Lake Koggala
  • Via Lake: 10-minute boat transfer from the coastal highway

Tri: Sustainable living, ingeniously crafted

Opening 2015

Media Enquiries: BIRD
T: +44 (0)20 7112 8824