Malala - Gem of a Bird Sanctuary
Off the coastline road - just a few kilometres east of the Hambantota
town is the picturesque lagoon known to all and sundry as Malala. It is
a legendary sheet of fresh water set in the flat country, amidst sylvan
Painted Storks, Ibises and Egrets on dry ground beside the
Malala has always been synonymous with migrant birds, especially
aquatic species. There could be a few places in the south-east coast
better suited for watching birds. During the latter months of the year
Painted Storks, Pelicans, Grey Herons, Spoonbills and Ibises congregate
there in their hundreds.
When the water level is at a low ebb, during the height of the dry
season, flocks of Indian Cormorants and Darters literally cover acres of
the shallows to fish in concert, while Little Egrets and Pond Heron
mixed together to share in the abundance of aquatic food supply.
In the reedy margins Little Grebes and Black-winged Stilts would also
The Open Bills are regular visitors in the paddy fields fringing the
lagoon and time and again one would see solitary Black-necked Storks in
Malala to my intimate knowledge is the most favoured winter resort of
the migrant birds in the whole of Hambantota lagoon wilderness. Not only
do commoner species occur there in incomparable numbers but also rarer
ones that the average bird watcher is unlikely to see in the more
reputed places along the east coast.
Between September and November, vast concourses of Golden Plover,
Sand Plover, Courser, Stint etc. invade the open spaces beside the
water, followed by platoons of wild duck, which swim around fishing in
the placid surface.
The majority of the ducks that visit Malala are usually Pintails and
Garganey, but rarer species have also been recorded there. For instance,
in 1974 a pair of Ruddy Shellduck was spotted in the lagoon by the
Ceylon Bird Club.
The Black-tailed Godwit
The Black-tailed Godwit is an annual visitor to Malala during the
drier months and flocks up to a hundred have been recorded there at one
time or another. The Bar-tailed Godwit too, has been reported
After the National Salt Corporation included Bundala in its
development programme, the Greater Flamingo selected Malala as their
undisturbed feeding grounds.
In 1975 a flock of 2000-strong arrived at the lagoon in July and
stayed there, till about the end of September. A flock of these
fascinating creatures in the water, set against the jungle back-drop,
makes a never to be forgotten sight for the visitors to Malala.
The open parkland in the east approaches to the lagoon is the
favourite haunt of the Great Stone Plover, Red-wattled Lapwing, Kentish
Plover and other ground dwelling birds, to mention a few.
The skylarks, finch-larks, bush-larks and pipits are all there
throughout the year, including parties of the Yellow Wagtails, during
the migrating season.
The Indian Pratincole is a breeding resident in the vicinity and the
Little Pratincole has also been seen in fairly large congregation.
If one is lucky, one might be able to plush the Painted Snipe out of
the lush grass on the waters’ edge. Once the writer got the rare
opportunity of doing so with five snipes, one after the other.