The Ceylon Bird Club
The Ceylon Bird Club

Origin The Ceylon Bird Club was founded in 1943 with seven members, including G. M. Henry and W.W.A. Phillips, two of Sri Lanka’s foremost ornitholo­gists. Ini­tially, its purpose was to share and record members’ observations.

Objectives Since then, the club has continu­ously been active in collecting, recording and providing informa­tion on the birds of Sri Lanka, their status and distribution. This is effected mostly through its journal and the annual waterbird census (see below).

The objective of the club widened over the years to promoting the protection of bird species and subspecies, and the conservation of their habitats, in Sri Lanka. Towards this, the club strives to find out which bird taxa are threatened, monitors their sur­vival and habitats, and conducts surveys. The Bundala National Park, the Annaiwilun­dawa Sanctuary and the Vankalai Sanctuary were designated as such and/or Ramsar Sites mainly owing to the club’s pro­posal, information and per­suasion. Other sites are presently receiving similar attention by the CBC.

Membership For many years now the membership of the club has stood at about 95. The chief requirement in a member is compe­tence and reliability in the identification of the birds of Sri Lanka, so that the accuracy and integrity of the club’s data are maintained. Among non-nationals several eminent ornithologists are members and several leading institutions involved with ornithology subscribe to the club’s journal.

Activities In the 1960s the club carried out the first bird ringing pro­grammes in Sri Lanka.
Since 1984 the CBC has annually conducted a countrywide waterbird census, in asso­ciation with Wetlands International (and their predecessor).
From time to time, the club presents lectures relating to the avifauna of Sri Lanka, usually of general interest and with attendance open, and organises field trips.

The club regularly receives queries relating to ornithology, birdwatching and nature conservation in Sri Lanka, and these are answered by appropriate members. From time to time the CBC is invited by State bodies, international bodies concerned with ornithology and conservation, the media, etc. to provide advice or information, pre-sent lectures or produce papers in relation to the avifauna of Sri Lanka.

Journal The Ceylon Bird Club Notes (CBCN) has been published for every month since the club’s inception to date. It carries reports of observations, articles and other information relating to the birds of Sri Lanka. The reports, which form the major part of the journal, are submitted by members of the club. Indexes are printed annu­ally. For more than 50 years the information provided in the CBCN has been integral to the greater part by far of all work done in Sri Lankan ornithology. It is the only source for the evaluation of the distribution and status of Sri Lanka’s bird taxa.

Avifaunal list The club has since its inception been maintaining the list of the birds authen­tically recorded in Sri Lanka. The Ceylon Bird Club Rarities and Records Committee (origi­nally the CBC Rarities Committee) was formed in 1985 and consists of field experts for Sri Lanka and for the region. The only such body, it examines, evaluates and records reports of rare species and new migrant species of birds in the country, and maintains the country list of birds.

Publications by CBC The club’s publications include the following. The Checklist of the Birds of Sri Lanka, 1994 by zoological taxonomist D. P. Wije­singhe, a member, was the first standard work of its kind. The club has published, or been associated with, each authentic checklist of the birds of Sri Lanka to date; another is to be published soon. Threat­ened Birds of Sri Lanka: National Red Data List, 1998, was a revision of a work in 1984. Written by T. W. Hoff­mann, a former chairman of the club, these were for many years the most valuable works on the subject. Usable vernacular names for the birds of Sri Lanka were a long-felt need. Sinhala names were compiled or created by a special sub-com-mittee of the club chaired by a Profes­sor of Sinhala. They are included in a newer edition of a classic work by G. M. Henry, revised by three members of the club, and in the book mentioned below. Siyot Vitti, 2001 was written by Joint Secre­tary Kithsiri Gunawar­dena for use in school work on birds, in response to requests from the club by hun­dreds of students. The club printed on sponsorship, and distrib­uted free, copies to all 1,866 schools in the country with GCE AL classes in Sinhala, and hopes to publish and similarly send to relevant schools a Tamil translation.  In preparation by member Guenter Lamsfuss is a set of analyses and distribution maps for selected species from all the information in the CBCN for the period 1981-2000.
Since 2003 the e-mail bulletin service CBC Birding News provides to members quick information on observations of unusual interest.

Input to other publications To reach a wider readership, for several decades the club has published annually in Loris, the journal of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka, a summary of the most important records in the CBCN, an overview of avifaunal news and of the status of bird habitats, a report on the waterbird census with its tabulated data, and a review of wetlands.

The club has made major contribu­tions in respect of Sri Lanka to the following: A Directory of Asian Wet­lands (1990) IUCN; Directory of South Asian Protected Areas (1990) IUCN; Threat­ened Birds of Asia (2001) Birdlife International; Waterbird Population Estimates (2002, 2007), Numbers and Distribution of Water­birds and Wetlands in the Asia-Pacific Region (2004, 2007) and Status of Waterbired in Asia (2009) Wetlands International;Birds of South Asia: the Ripley Guide (2005) Rasmus­sen & Anderton; The 2007 Red List of Threatened Fauna and Flora of Sri Lanka (2007) IUCN and Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

Projects: examples The CBC was the official collaborating institution in the project to study the new species of owl discovered in Sri Lanka in 2001 by Deepal Waraka­goda, the club’s Joint Secretary.

Pictorial and text material was commissioned and expert advice obtained from the club on migrant waterbird species pertinent to avian influ­enza by the Department of Animal Production and Health in 2006.

General For more than 25 years the CBC was the representative in Sri Lanka of the Interna­tional Council for Bird Preservation, until the latter was reconstituted in 1993. The club is the associate body in Sri Lanka of Wetlands International.

The Ceylon Bird Club is a non-governmental, non-profit organization. All its work is done by its members, voluntarily and without remuneration, except that non-members participate in the waterbird census.

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