The bird with a beak from ear to ear
By K.G.H. Munidasa
It was believed that the Ceylon Frogmouth or 'Gembi-kata Bassa' is a rare breeding resident in Sri Lanka found nowhere else in the world. However, recent surveys conducted in the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary in the Aanaimalai Hills in South India have recorded that the same bird as ours is found there.

While at least five species of Frogmouths are found in South-East Asia, the Ceylon Frogmouth (Batrachostomus moni-liger) is the sole representative of the family Podargidae in the island.

Frogmouths are characterized by their wide, short, stout beak, with gape extending to almost behind the eye, hence its name. Owing to its bizarre appearance and apparent rarity, very few people have seen it in the wild, since it was first described by Edward Blyth in 1846.

W.E. Wait (1931) describes the Ceylon Frogmouth as "A sluggish, strictly nocturnal bird frequenting thick bamboo jungle or dense forest growths. During the day it lies fast asleep across a branch with its bill turned upwards."

G.M. Henry (1955) has this to say; "It sleeps on a branch with beak pointing upwards. In this position its lichen-like plumage suggests a dead snag on the branch. It sleeps soundly and may sometimes almost be seized in the hand before it awakes." Its call is variously described as "a rapid coorroo, coorroo (Legge); "a loud whistled scream Wheeeeoooo (male) and Wheee-ooo-what (female) (Ben King) or "resembling the screech of a fishing reel running out slowly," (Henry).

According to the Annotated Checklist (1978 revised edition), the Ceylon Frogmouth has a wide distribution, in small numbers, throughout the forests and well-wooded areas of the lowlands and the central hills to altitudes of 6,000 feet, but is seldom seen. Most specimens of the bird have been recorded either from Sinharaja or Bibile, with occasional sightings from a number of places such as Kitulgala, Labugama, Handapanagala, Uda-Walawe, Nilgala and Moneragala.

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