Birds on the Notes

Updated: Apr 30

The Sri Lankan avifauna is given special recognition by featuring on our contemporary currency notes. This is the eleventh series of notes issued in 2010 by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and it is themed “Development, Prosperity and Sri Lankan Dancers”.


5000

Featured on the front side of the highest currency note of Sri Lanka, the Yellow-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus penicillatus) (ශ්‍රි ලංකා කහ-කැන් කොන්ඩයා) is an endemic beauty that is fairly common in the hills above 1000m in the middle of the country. They are not a shy species.

I had a close encounter with one in Horton Planes where this beauty was feasting upon some type of red berries. Featured as the image on my home page, it remains one of my favourite photographs to this day.

Yellow-eared Bulbul feeding on wild berries at Horton Plains.
Yellow-eared Bulbul feeding on wild berries at Horton Plains.
Yellow-eared Bulbul feeding on wild berries at Horton Plains.

1000

The next spot on the green 1000 rupee note goes to Sri Lankan Hanging Parrot (Loriculus beryllinus) (ශ්‍රි ලංකා ගිරාමලිත්තා). Found fairly commonly in the wet lowlands and mid-hills this small parrot prefers forest and wooded areas.

My first encounter with this beautiful species is a special one. I had the opportunity to observe them gorging on ripe yummy Rambutan at my ancestral home in Bulathsinhala. I was on the roof of the house while these ones were feasting on the Rambutan tree next to the house.

Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot gorging on ripe, yummy Rambutan.
Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot gorging on ripe, yummy Rambutan.
Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot gorging on ripe, yummy Rambutan.

They are fairly common in the outskirts of the Sinharaja rainforest also.

Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot eating seeds on a coconut flower on the outskirts of Sinharaja rainforest.

500

The purple 500 note is taken up by another endemic beauty that underlines the special place parrots play in our culture. Sri Lankan Emerald Collared Parakeet or more commonly known as Layard’s Parakeet (Psittacula calthropae) (ශ්‍රි ලංකා අලු ගිරවා) is a fairly uncommon bird that ranges only in the wet lowlands to mid-hills and foothill areas of the dry lowlands. Found in forest and wooded areas they can be seen in small flocks or as pairs.

I was able to photograph a few of them feasting on flowers in the outskirts of the Sinharaja rainforest. In all my good pictures, I have only taken the females as the upper mandible are black in all of them.


100

The orange 100 bill is one of the most widely used notes and is fittingly featured with the Orange-billed Babbler. (Turdoides rufescens) (ශ්‍රි ලංකා රතු දෙමලිච්චා) This native is only found in the wet lowlands and adjoining hills. They keep in flocks and there is constant chatter among them. Fairly common in areas such as the Sinharaja rainforest.

My photographs of this beauty are exclusively from the outskirts of the Sinharaja rainforest.

Orange-billed Babbler photographed at Sinharaja rainforest.
Orange-billed Babbler photographed at Sinharaja rainforest.
Orange-billed Babbler photographed at Sinharaja rainforest.

50

The blue 50 rupee note is adored by the special Sri Lankan Dull Blue Flycatcher (Eumyias sordida) (ශ්‍රි ලංකා නීලන්-මැසිමාරා). This endemic beauty is found in mid-hills and above and are fairly uncommon. They are usually found as pairs but they do spend considerable time apart also. Both sexes pretty much look the same although the female is a bit duller.

I was able to take some good pictures of them at Horton Plains National Park despite the low light in the cloud forest.


20

The last note of the series, the red-pinkish 20 rupee note features the last of the endemic species to be added to the list of endemic species in Sri Lanka, the majestic Serendib Scops Owl. (Otus thilohoffmanni) (පන්ඩුවන් කන්බස්සා) Considered endangered, this rare owl is nocturnal and territorial. Found in the wet lowlands and in mid-hills, they prefer dense rainforest and submontane forests. Usually, hang out as a pair but when I came across one inside the dense Sinharaja rainforest, it was alone.

After a hectic track up the thick rainforest, my tracker was able to spot this beauty resting during the day. The tick forest prevented me from taking better photos but still, what a beauty.

Serendib Scops Owl photographed in the Sinharaja rainforest.
Serendib Scops Owl photographed in the Sinharaja rainforest.
Serendib Scops Owl photographed in the Sinharaja rainforest.
Serendib Scops Owl photographed in the Sinharaja rainforest.

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