Tropical & Subtropical Dry (Deciduous/Monsoon) Forest

The tropical and subtropical dry deciduous and monsoon forest of tropical Asia...

Distribution of Indo-Malayan Dry Forest (By Terpsichores - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

This map shows the distribution of dry forest on the south-east Asian mainland, but it also extends to patches in Java and Bali. Dry forest further east of here belongs to the Wallacean dry forest. 

the granite outcrops of Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

As with any biome, there are many variations within the habitat. Even small differences in conditions such as geology & soil, altitude, latitude and rainfall can result in different plant species dominating, and thus we have various vegetation communities.

Lunugamvehera National Park, Yala, Sri Lanka.

The physical structure can also vary; at the drier end of the open forest, the trees are further apart and the fields are more extensive, and the biome segues into a savanna grassland or dry xeric shrubland. At the wetter end of the scale (such as along rivers as in the image below), the trees start to form a canopy and become a riverine forest; in even wetter areas, it becomes a rainforest.   


The tropical deciduous woodlands of south-east Asia at the end of the dry season, just at the start of the first rains. At this time of the year, many of the dominant trees are leafless.

The first rains of the summer monsoon season produce the initial carpet of bright green grass.

For the page on Plants of the dry forest & woodland of tropical Asia

kulen-flowers-yellow(Kulen Promtep, Cambodia)

For the page on Invertebrates, Amphibians, & Reptiles of the dry forest & woodland of tropical Asia

beetle-dung-yala-2(Yala, Sri Lanka)

The largest ground birds of the open woodlands are the pheasants of the family Phasianidae. The most spectacular native is of course the Pavo cristatus, 'Indian Peafowl'. Endemic to India and Sri Lanka, but introduced to many other places around the world.

Tall, but still and dull to blend in with their habitat are the 'Thick-knees' of the family Burhinidae, such as the below Burhinus indicus, 'Indian Stone-Curlew/Thick-knee'.

udawelawa-thick-kneeIndian Thick-knee (Udawalawa National Park)

Several species of Ibis of the family Threskiornithidae have evolved to live in the dry woodlands of tropical Asia rather than their usual wetland habitat. Both the 'Giant Ibis' and the 'White-shouldered Ibis' are considered rare today.

tamatboey-white-shouldered-ibisWhite-shouldered Ibis, (Kulen Prontemp, Cambodia)

The family Accipitridae contains the Hawks, Kites, and Eagles. These are major predators, as below with the '(Sri Lankan Crested) Changeable Hawk-eagle', Nisaetus cirrhatus ceylanensis.

yala-bird-of-prey-eatingDon't you hate it when the strands of pizza cheese are so sticky? (Yala National Park, Sri Lanka)

The bee-eaters of the family Meropidae are, as the name suggests, insect eaters, often perching on branches in the open and flying out to catch prey such as dragonflies. They are among the most colourful and obvious of small bids in the tropical Asian woodlands. Below is the 'Blue-tailed Bee-eater', a species that is widespread in open habitats throughout Indian region and south-east Asia.

bee-eater-blue-tailed-yala(Yala. Sri Lanka)

Another classic and colourful bird of the tropical open woodlands is Coracias benghalensis, 'Indian Roller', which is found from the middle east, across India, to tropical south-east Asia. 

bundala-indian-rollerIndian Roller (Bundala, Sri Lanka)

The woodpeckers of the family Picidae are surpisingly diverse in the more pristine open woodlands of tropical Asia. They range in shape, colour, size and ecological niche. They include the largest definitely extant Woodpecker the 'Great Slaty Woodpecker'.

tmatboey-woodpecker-black-headed'Black-headed Woodpecker' (Kulen Prontemp, Cambodia)
kulen-woodpecker-slasty'Great Slaty Woodpecker'.

The family Psittaculidae includes the Old World Parrots. In the tropical open woodland, species include:

bundala-parrot'Rose-ringed/Ring-necked Parakeet' (Bundala, Sri Lanka).
kulen-parakeet-red-breasted'Red-breasted Parakeet', (Kulen Prontemp, Cambodia)

For the page on Songbirds of the dry forest & woodland of tropical Asia

sunbird-purple-sri-lanka(Sri Lanka)

For the page on Mammals of the dry forest & woodland of tropical Asia

Places to experience dry forest & woodland of tropical Asia

India has the largest most intact areas of dry woodland, including the famous Kanha National park in the centre of India, and Periyar National Park in the tropical south. Off the tip of India is the less populated Sri Lanka. For woodlands, go to Lunugamvehera National Park, Udawalawa National Park and Yala National Park.

Mainland south-east Asia is rapidly losing its drier woodlands. Protected areas in Cambodia include: Florican GrasslandsKulen Prontemp, and one of the few places to stay is Tmatboey Lodge. One of the more accessible protected areas is Khao Yai National Park in Thailand, just a few hours outside of Bangkok.

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