Filming the ‘Devil Bird’

Tales from an Ancient Land

Filming the ‘Devil Bird’

Back in 2014, I came up with the idea of doing a documentary about owls in Sri Lanka. With my trusty team (including cameramen Dhanusha Bandara and Saman Hewage) we spent nearly a year jetting around the country filming owls. Most of them were hard to film – owls are nocturnal, and it takes a lot of effort to find them during the day amid thick jungle when they are roosting. Nonetheless, we managed to film most of them (there are around 11 species in Sri Lanka; watch our video for more info), including the ‘Devil Bird’…

Out of them all, filming one particular owl left an indelible mark on my mind: the Forest Eagle Owl. Not only is it THE hardest owl to film, let alone photograph, but it also has an eerie call. This call is dreadful when heard at night, causing villagers to dub it as the ‘devil bird’. Some believe it’s the reincarnated spirit of a vengeful woman and its call is an omen of death (find out more about this myth in our video).

Video film crew in Sri Lanka.
My team (from left to right): Saman Hewage, myself and Dhanusha Bandara

CUT TO: Sigiriya forest, 2014. Dead of night. Me, Dhanusha, Saman, my father and Lester Perera (a prominent ornithologist in the country) were at Sigiriya, a rural location in Sri Lanka, searching for the ‘Devil Bird’. I was desperate to film it, what with all the notoriety behind this elusive creature. But the first night was unsuccessful, and we went back home disappointed.

However, on the second night, after searching for hours, Saman pointed out something on a branch nearby – ‘what’s that?’ he said. Lester flashed the light in his hand… lo and behold! It was the Forest Eagle Owl in the flesh! For the next fifteen minutes, Dhanusha filmed the bird successfully as Saman and Lester kept tracking it as it flitted from tree to tree. Finally, the bird flew off into the night, but by then we had filmed it successfully.

Forest Eagle Owl in Sri Lanka.
The super-elusive ‘Forest Eagle Owl’ (The ‘Devil Bird’)

With the resulting rare footage, I made two short documentaries (which can be seen in the ‘filmmaking’ page) that went viral. And it was the very first documentary made about the ‘Devil Bird’ of Sri Lanka. The footage was also featured on Discovery Channel’s ‘Daily Planet’ series, where they did a segment about mythical creatures.

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8 Responses

  1. This is a good piece of documentary on wildlife filming, especially one different species of wild birds in Sri Lanka.
    The Ministry of Tourism could use this documentary as a tourism promotional material and should be able to initiate a Tourism Promotion Window
    (TPW) in all our Embassies in countries from where Sri Lanka is considered an international tourists attraction Centre.
    The young and international fame wildlife film producer and enthusiast, Mr. Thivanka Perera deserves appropriate recognition by the Ministry of Tourism in particular and the Government of Sri Lanka in general and I personally wish him all success in his wildlife filming endeavors in the future.

  2. Pahan dissanayake says:

    This is fantastic

  3. Podibanda Kuruppu says:

    I do hope that your efforts are amply rewarded in time. Best of luck to you and the team.

  4. B Fernando says:

    I think Dr spittle in one of his books, narrates an interesting story about this bird locally known as ulama, the veddhas of damana were terrified of this bird’s howling at night, believing it was an ill omen & a death would occur in the vicinity. Spittle made a valiant effort to identify it.

  5. Maya Kuruppu says:

    It shows srilanka a one of the finest wildlife watching countries in Asia.well done!

  6. Nadira Gunatilleke says:

    This is an excellent effort made to protect the real identity of Sri Lanka, the priceless motherland belong to us. We are in an era where the majority have no idea about the real value of the motherland. Hope all will remember this valuable video when they cast their vote in all future elections. We need to protect our beautiful country. Not to destroy it (by ourselves) or to sell it to foreign countries.

  7. Piyal Liyanage says:

    This is indeed a great documentary on a rare wildlife species provided by a highly talented team headed by Mr Thivanka Perera, the young and internationally famed wild life enthusiast.
    His work is outstanding and definitely deserves the due recognition by the ministry of tourism of SriLanka and the global tourism industry as well.
    I wish him every success in his future endeavors .

  8. Manju says:

    Very well done……. Keep up the great work !!!

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