Monday, August 18, 2014

Annotated checklist of vagrant Waders ( Family: Scolopacidae and Family: Charadriidae) of Sri Lnaka

      Birds that appear outside their normal range are known as vagrants. This post summarizes up to date published sight records of vagrant waders (Also known as "Shorebirds") belong to Scolopacidae(Sandpipers and allies) and Charadriidae (Plovers) families in Sri Lanka. 

1) Sociable Lapwing [Sociable Plover] (Vanellus gregarius)
W.A. Cave reported it first time in Sri Lanka in 1907. According to him 7 Black-sided or Sociable lapwings (Chettusia gregaria) observed at racecourse during December 1906 and January 1907. “They were very tame and allowed riders to come quite close before taking wing.” (Cave, W.A. 1907). Since then he had only seen a solitary example at the same place in January of 1911(Cave, W.A. 1912). In 1931 Wait noted that few birds used to turn up nearly every year on the racecourse at Colombo (Wait 1931:338). A flock of 12 birds were reported from Wilpattu National Park during September 1972 (Phillips 1978:25 & Hoffmann, T. W. 1974)

      2)Wood Snipe (Gallinago nemoricola)
Wood Snipe was first recorded as having occurs in Sri Lanka from Nuwaraeliya by Hugh Nevill, of the Ceylon civil service, merely saying that, it is found in the “the country  round Nuwara Eliya” (Legge 880:1065). Nevill found it among low bushes at the edge of swampy Patana lands (Nevill, H. 1867-1870). Then after there were several sightings and some birds shot around Nuwaraeliya Lake and Horton plains were doubtfully identified as Wood snipe (Phillips 1978:31). Such as J. Ryan in 1907 reported a sighting of Solitary or Wood snipe only once at Thalawakele (Ryan, J. 1907). However there is a reference of shooting a Wood Snipe in a flooded uncultivated paddy field near Kekirawa on the 12th December 1943 by G.H. Villers.(Villiers, G. H. 1944) He further stated that description and measurements of the specimen are exactly match with that given in Waits ‘Ceylon birds’. However Waits’s appeal of sending head and wing to the Museum if any snipe shooter come across a large snipe (Wait 1931: 368),  was never answered and Phillips repeated it in 1950 again (Phillips, W. W. A.  1950). There is a recent sight record of a single bird at Ambewela in December 1982 (Hoffmann, T. W. 1983).

      3) Swinhoe's Snipe (Gallinago megala)
A Snipe shot in 7th April 1934* at Maduramadu tank near the road from Madawachchiya to Mannar by R.H. Spencer Schrader of Negombo and sent to W.E. Wait was identified as a Swinhoe's Snipe and it is the first instance of its occurrence in Sri Lanka though there were some time to time references by snipe-shooters of a snipe larger than Pintail (Wait, W. E., 1936 & Anon. 1946). Second occurrence of it is two birds shot in a paddy field at Bandaragama by E.C. Fernando Jnr. on the 28th December 1966 (Phillips 1978:32). Another bird was shot by K.F. Dallas in the fields by Periyakulam north of Trincomalee at the beginning of April 1970 (Cameron, R.Mcl.L. 1970.)

Exact date of shooting is rather confusing. It was 8th April 1934 according to the Wait (Wait, W. E 1936) but Phillips give it as 12th April 1934 (Phillips W. W. A. 1940) and again April 1939 and April 1954 (Phillips, W. W. A., 1950 & Phillips, W. W. A., 1978 respectively) While R.H. Spencer Schrader himself given it as 7th April 1934 (Anon. 1946)

      4) Great Snipe (Gallinago media)
On the evening of 15th December 1940 E.C. Fernando secured a bird first time from Ceylon a few miles inland from Kalutara south. He shot two but was only able to collect one which was flushed from long grasses (Phillips, W. W. A. 1941). Second specimen of it is also from E.C. Fernando who collected a single bird at a paddy field near Nadimala - Dehiwela on 1st January 1950. (Norris, C. E. 1950 & Phillips, W. W. A. 1950). Third record is also from west coast on January 1953 (Ebbels, D.L., 1961). Mawell A. Joshep accompanied by Paul M. Modder shot a female bird about a mile from Kurunegala town on 1st April 1961. T.S.U de Zilva confirmed the identification and latter also by C.E. Norris. (Modder E., 1961 & Ebbels, D.L., 1961). In recent time a possible Great snipe was seen at Sansthapitiya tank in March 1995 (Hoffmann, T. W. 1996)

      5) Asian Dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus)
It was first time recorded in Sri Lanka in July 1982 by a foreign ornithologist C. Brewster at Hambantota (Hoffmann, T. W., 1983). The second record of it is from Bundala National Park in November 2002 (Siriwardana, U., 2003). 

      6) Red-necked Stint [Rufous-necked Stint/Eastern Little Stint] (Calidris ruficollis)
It is first time recorded in Sri Lanka by Rex I. De Silva in 11th February 1996 at Bundala salt pans (De Silva, R.I. 2001). Single bird in breeding plumage was observed among large flock of Little stints. Second sight record is from Kirinda Kalapuwa in December 1997 by Deepal Warakagoda (Hoffmann, T. W. 1999). Later on sights records are – Single bird from Bundala National Park on February 1999 (Warakagoda, D. 2000), single bird from Yala Block 1 on February 2002 (Siriwardana, U. 2003) and two From Palatupana on September 2004 (Siriwardana, U. 2005). Another sighting at Bundala salterns by Deepal Warakagoda and John Sutherby posted in CBC web site on 10th February 2013 (

      7) Sharp-tailed Sandpiper [Asian Pectoral Sandpiper] (Calidris acuminata)
W.W.A Phillips procured a specimen of adult female on 18th September 1955*  at Embililala lagoon of Bundala National Park. While collecting it was feeding busily with large flocks of Curlew-Sandpipers, Little Stints and lesser number of Wood-Sandpipers, Marsh -Sandpipers and several other waders in the shallow water. It was the first occasion of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper recorded in Sri Lanka (Phillips, W. W. A. 1956). It was again reported during December 1998 migratory season from Karagan Lewaya by Jagath Gunawardana and from Kirinda by Deepal WarakagodaChandra Jayawardana also reported it from Bundala in the same season (Warakagoda, D. 1999 & Maduranga, H. G. S. 2002). Sujan Maduranga Henkanaththegedara reported another sight record of a juvenile bird on 2nd March 2001 from Maha lewaya - Hambantota (Maduranga, H. G. S. 2002). It was feeding in shallow waters of one of the two canals which bring water to the Maha lewaya from the sea with a group of waders that consisted of Marsh sandpipersCommon Redshanks, Black-winged Stilts and some Little stintsIn November 2005 one bird was observed at Wirawila (Sirivardana U. & Warakagoda  D. , 2006). A sighting at the Vankalei Sanctuary is given in the Report of CBC for 2008-2011(Warakagoda D. & Sirivardana U., 2011), probably the same sighting posted in CBC web site on 28th December 2011 ([]) as reported by Kithsiri Gunawardena, Deepal Warakagoda and Uditha Hettige.

 1953 - Probably a wrong year is given in Phillip's own later on reference of the same sighting. see Phillips, W. W. A. 1978:33

      8) Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus)
1978 February – Dr. Ben king, an American ornithologist reported a single bird from Bundala National Park for the first time in Sri Lanka (Hoffmann, T. W. 1979). Another bird was observed in the November of the same year at Bentota beach (Hoffmann, T. W. 1979). Kotagama and Ratnavira noted several sightings since 1978 (Kotagama S. & Ratnavira G. 2010: 223)

      9) Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis)
It was first time collected at Kalamatiya in March 1960 by Dr. T.S.U de Silva (Reported in Loris and JBNH) and another one was observed near Trincomalee in November 1974 by J.C. Sinclair an ornithologist from DurbanSouth Africa (Hoffmann, T. W. 1975 & Phillips, W. W. A. 1980). Single bird was observed at Embilikala kalapuwa in January 1985 (Hoffmann, T. W. 1986)

Unconfirmed vagrants:

Species for which there are only one or two sight records exist categorized here as unconfirmed vagrants. Problematic records without sufficient details are also included.

      10) Grey-headed Lapwing (Vanellus cinereus)
Kithsiri Gunawardena observed a Grey-headed Lapwing first time in Sri Lanka at Tirukkovil during the water bird census of 2003 (Warakagoda, D. & Siriwardana, U., 2004). Second record in the country according to the CBC is from Palatupana recorded during 2009 water bird census conducted in January/February (Siriwardana, U. and Senanayake T. 2010). However Kotagama & Ratnawira 2010 noted another sight record from Bundala referring Perera T. 2005.

      11) Long-billed Plover (Charadrius placidus)
The sight record from the Chilaw sandpits on 10th January 1993 by Rex I. de Silva and Lester Perera is the only recorded occurrence of this wader in Sri Lanka. (De Silva R.I & Perera l. 1993). However as per Wijesinghe 1991 it is a sight record of inadequate or otherwise problematic (Ranasinghe, D. B. 1997)

      12)Oriental Plover (Charadrius veredus)
First recorded by Deepal warakagoda in 24th January 1994 at Kirinda lewaya (Hoffmann, T. W. 1995) Second record in Sri Lanka is the single bird recorded with a photograph from Kalametiya by Pathmanath Samaraweera in 2006 (Siriwardana, U. 2007)

     13) Little Curlew (Numenius minutus)  
Single sight record by A.J. Vincent at Hambantota is the only record. (Kotagama S. & Ratnavira G. 2010: 214). Probably the same sighting recorded in 12th March 1994 under ‘List of Rejections’ of CBC (

     14) Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris)
Reported a single bird first time in Sri Lanka on 13th February 1985 at Koggala. Second sight record is from Ambalangoda-Hungama road, again a single bird on 15th April 1994. Both reports were categorized under ‘List of Rejections’ of CBC ( However Kotagama S. & Ratnavira G. 2010 mention about several sight records base on personal communication of Rex I. De Silva and the first sight record published in CBCN 1985, Feb: 13.

     15Spotted Greenshank [Nordmann’s greenshank/Armstrong’s Sandpiper] ( Tringa guttifer)
It was recorded first time in Sri Lanka from the tidal mudflats off the northern margin of Hevativu Island at the southern end of Puttalam lagoon on 23rd February 1991 by Rex. I. De Silva (De Silva, R.I. 1992).
However CBC decided to remove it from Sri Lanka list as having been accepted on misleading data (Warakagoda, D. 1999 &

      16) Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)
Only record is the observation made by a group of British and American ornithologists at Bundala in December 1979 of 20+ birds of both Solitary sandpiper and Wilson’s phalarope (Hoffmann, T. W. 1980).  Solitary sandpiper breeds in North America and considered as a rare stragglers in Europe. Occurring of them in our region was explained as the result of taking of wrong western route along the pacific in their southward winter migrations. However later on John and Judy banks came up with acceptable evident with field observations that those birds are not Solitary Sandpipers but Green Sandpipers which is very similar in the field and can be easily misidentified by an observer who is not familiar with Green Sandpipers but Solitary Sandpipers as with those American bird watchers (Banks, J. & Banks, J. 1981)

      17) Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)
Sight record of A.J. Vincent at Yala in March 1993 is the only record so far of the occurrence of Spotted Sandpiper in Sri Lanka (Kotagama S. & Ratnavira G. 2010: 219).

      18) White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis)
Sight record at Thennadi Bay in October 1980 is the only record so far of the occurrence of White-rumped Sandpiper in Sri Lanka (Kotagama S. & Ratnavira G. 2010: 222 Quoting CBCN 1980, Oct: 50).

      19) Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)
Sight record of Alan wheeldon of an adult bird in non-breeding plumage at Weerawila in March 2002 is the first and only record of it in Sri Lanka (Siriwardana, U. 2003 & Kaluthota C.D. & Kotagama S.W. 2009)

      20) Wilson's Phalarope (Steganopus tricoor)
Only record is the observing of 20 + birds of both Solitary sandpiper and Wilson’s phalarope at Bundala by British and American ornithologists in December 1979 (Hoffmann, T. W. 1980). However later on John and Judy Banks suggested with acceptable evident that these birds might be swimming Marsh Sandpipers and it is hardly to be Wilson’s Phalaropes (Banks, J. & Banks, J. 1981). So it is most unlikely that American migrant birds which have never been observed anywhere in Asia would suddenly appearing in Sri Lanka just when a party of American bird watchers are here to identify them (Hoffmann, T. W. 1981)

      21) Red Phalarope [Grey Phalarope] (Phalaropus fulicarius)
Single sight record at Hambantota in November 1985 is the only record available of its occurrence in Sri Lanka (Kotagama S. & Ratnavira G. 2010: 225 Quoting CBCN 1985, Oct: 50). This sight record of a single bird at Karagan lewaya on 16th November 1985 is listed under Appendix 2 of CBC country list ( since report lacks sufficient diagnostic detail or, where necessary, sufficient comparison with ‘confusion’ species or subspecies; and there is therefore doubt as to the identification of the birds concerned.


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