Bulbul - Pycnontidae

Return to Index page Go to Bulbul Page 1

When I started preparing this page on Bulbul, was keeping my eyes of the number of species that I could insert into the page. Over a period of time, the list with the pictures was getting too long and making the loading of the page some delay. Now I have them prepared in smaller segment for easier viewing,

Page 2 - List of Bulbuls continues

10. Red-eyed Bulbul - Pycnototus brunneus

Diagnostic markings :- The bird is 19 cm. in length. [1] Distinctive red eyes [2] Very uniformly warm brown with a lighter shade on the under part. Bill is dark reddish brown. Has close resemblances to the Olive-winged Bulbul.
Distribution :- The bird is resident to Sumatra and Borneo island and is a very common bird in our lowland forest. The big problem is that the bird is also mingled around by the Spectacled Bulbul which near identical other than the eyes.
Habitats and preferences :-  This is a lowland Bulbul that frequents forest trails and edges. Look out for low trees which are flowering or fruiting. It will remain feeding on the same tree for a while or return to the same tree each day during the season. Their presence is detected through the congregations of a few birds on the same tree. Same species or mixed group with other Bulbuls.
Where to find them :- Lowland forest trail or edges of secondary jungle in the lowland with flowering trees. There is no need for names of places as the Red-eyed Bulbul is fairly common throughout the various parts of Peninsula.
My field notes :- Unmistakably Bulbul in shape and color, as I said over and over again, look for flowering tree and when a bird resembling the silhouette of  Bulbul is spotted, glue your eyes onto the eyes. At certain angle the red color is very obvious. But it is not easy to look for the Olive patch on the wing or the red eyes which can be seen as a reflection from the Sunlight.

The Red-eyed Bulbul - Here - the calls      & the Videos


Red-eyed Bulbul  # 1

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Red-eyed Bulbul  Bulbul  # 3

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Red-eyed Bulbul  Bulbul  # 6

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11. Red-whiskered Bulbul - Pycnototus brunneus

Diagnostic markings :-  The bird is 20 cm. in length. [1] Tall erected black crest [2] On the face, there is black moustachial line, white ear covert and red ear patch. [3] Upperpart dull brown and underpart white.[4] Undertail is also white
Distribution :- This is a bird of continental India, countries south of the Himalayas and South-west China. Introduced in a few countries like Australia and North America.
Habitats and preferences :-  This is a lowland Bulbul that frequents open country and fields. Now there is a new trend since many of these birds were introduced, they frequent public parks as well as home garden.
Where to find them :- I think almost very very little Red-whiskered Bulbul exist in the wild in Peninsula Malaysia and south Thailand. Their calls are fairly distinctive and easily obtained from pet shop, which makes it easy to lure them
My field notes :- I saw my first Red-whiskered Bulbul in Rimba Kiara some 6 years back and never encounter the bird again. Then early this year, I was in Ampang at the jungle fringes opposite Club Darul Ehsan. There was a keen poachers lying in wait for the bird. Judging from his determination, he must have sighted the bird before. Point to note is that this bird appearing at forest edge, meaning this could be an authentic Bulbul and not an escapee. Again recently, a fruiting tree that attracted Yellow-vented, Striped-throated and Olive-winged Bulbuls also drawn in one Red-whiskered which hurriedly but quietly slipped in and left after a short time feeding of 45 minutes.

Call of the Red-eyed Bulbul - calls of the Red-whiskered Bulbul.     & the Videos


Red-whiskered Bulbul  # 1

Red-whiskered Bulbul # 2

Red-whiskered Bulbul  Bulbul  # 3

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Red-whiskered Bulbul  Bulbul  # 6

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12. Scaly-breasted Bulbul - Pycnototus squamatus

 Diagnostic markings :- The bird is 15 cm. in length. Very small for a bulbul [1] White colored scale on breast and flank [2] Black head and white throat. Upper part olive yellow with under tail yellow ending with black tail and edge at the tip -white,
Distribution :- This bird is native to South Thailand & Peninsula Malaysia. The bird is seen seasonal with the fruiting trees. In other times, quite difficult to spot them. Appearances is predicable and consistent.
Habitats and preferences :- This may be the smallest of Bulbul. It does not appear that small from a distance. A fairly easy bird to ID. The Scaly-breasted Bulbul is a bird of the hills. Not the top of low hills but rather lower slopes of mountain. Prefers the upper storey and feeding on flowering and fruiting trees.
Where to find them :- Best chance are the public roads on the lower part of mountain. Not on low hills but at low attitude of mountains. Such roads are plentiful around Selangor as the higher portion of Old Gombak Road, Road passing The Gap and in Bukit Tinggi itself.
My field notes :- You may not spot the scaly breasted at the first glance but typical of Bulbuls, a brown bird with bright yellow, then spot the white throat. They may feed as a group but usually only a couple of birds at different part of the tree. 

More on the Scaly-breasted Bulbul - calls of the Scaly-breasted Bulbul. & the Videos

Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 1 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 2 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 3
Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 4 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 5 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  #  6
Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 7 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 8 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 9
Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 10 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 11 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 12
Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 16 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 17 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 18
Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 19 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 20 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 21
Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 22 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 23 Scaly-breasted Bulbul  # 24


13. Spectacled Bulbul - Pycnototus erythropthalmos

 Diagnostic markings :- The bird is 17 cm. in length.[1] Same looks as the Red-eyed Bulbul but instead of the red eyes, this one has orange to golden eye ring. Upper part very much the same warm uniform brown in color
Distribution :- This bird is native to Sumatra & Borneo but now are in Southern Thailand and Peninsula Malaysia. same comment as in Red-eyed Bulbul.
Habitats and preferences :-  The Spectacled Bulbul is a bird of the forested hills. In places where the forest is continuous and there are open country and forest edge. It is another bird that prefers canopy and patronizes low flowering and fruiting trees.
Where to find them :- Jungle tracks and forest edge with little or no cultivations and human presence. The bird do come into the gardens of solitary kampong houses within the jungle. Their presence is quite widespread and fairly common bird in Peninsula.
My field notes :- I have seen them among the Jambu Trees taking on fruits in the Wildlife Research Station in Sungkai. Otherwise, this Bulbul would be sharing habitats and food with the Red-eyed Bulbul.

More on the Spectacled Bulbul - calls of the Spectacled Bulbul.   -  & the Videos  


Spectacled Bulbul # 1

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14. Straw-headed Bulbul - Pycnototus zeylanicus

 Diagnostic markings :- The bird is 29 cm. in length.[1] crown & cheek - Golden-yellowish very prominent [2] nape, mantle, scapulars and the breast with fine and short white steaks. Throat is white and not puffed but the thick black submoustachial ordering the throat is obvious
Distribution :- This bird is native to Peninsula Malaysia, used to have them in Southern Thailand as well. Not maybe not! This is a very much sort after bird by the breeders. it's presence easily told by its loud and distinctive calls.
Habitats and preferences :-  A lowland bird that prefers forest edge with human presence. Among which are plantations, public parks and along major country roads. Mangrove forest is also one of its preference. Somehow all these spots have one property in common - water source. Usually a stream or river, even a fair size pond will do. A common bird in FRIM, Kepong and also in Bagan Sungei Buloh by the sea side.
Where to find them :- This is a discreet bird heard often but hardly seen. It's presence in the area is denoted by its loud melodious calls. Continuous for some time before it flies off to another perch. The calls distinctive could be directly overhead but yet takes a while to spot its position.
My field notes :- This is the largest Bulbul and a very well sort after caged bird. So it is a poachers favorite. The Striped-throated Bulbul has some resemblances with this bird but easily told apart. The Straw-headed is obviously a large bird when compared to an average Bulbul, the golden marking are more widespread and more distinctive. No way to get confused in the ID for the both.


More on the Straw-headed Bulbul - the calls   -  & the lone Video 


Straw-headed Bulbul   # 1 Straw-headed Bulbul   # 2 Straw-headed Bulbul   # 3
Straw-headed Bulbul   # 4 Straw-headed Bulbul   # 5 Straw-headed Bulbul   #  6
Straw-headed Bulbul   # 7 Straw-headed Bulbul   # 8 Straw-headed Bulbul   # 9
Straw-headed Bulbul   # 10 Straw-headed Bulbul   # 11 Straw-headed Bulbul   # 12
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15. Streaked-ear Bulbul - Pycnonotus blanfordi

Diagnostic markings :- The bird is 18 cm. in length.[1] Typical of Bulbuls with brownish upper part. The throat and belly pale in color. and dull yellowish vent. [This yellow on some birds appeared off colored] Best distinguished by the whitish streaks on its ear coverts. Another feature not consistently seen is the brown bill with pink at its base. The Olive-winged Bulbul have streaks too on its ear covert but less pronounced. Grey eyes - adult while juvenile has brown eyes.
Distribution :- This bird is native to a belt stretching from Myanmar, Thailand, northern Peninsula Malaysia and into Indo china. Even hanging around places like Perlis will not guarantee sighting of this bird. My meeting and pictures were accidental.
Habitats and preferences :- The bird prefers arid bush land with sparse and low vegetation. Then public parks, gardens and wasteland with scrubs. While the terrain preferred sounded urban, this bird was never spotted. This is a lowland bird.
Where to find them :- True to what is described, the bird was spotted is a little patch of open field littered with lalang in an overgrown grassland in Rengit. According to Robson, more likely in northern Peninsula. But it is extremely difficult to find them now.
My field notes :-  It is difficult to to say for sure the ID for this bird in the field as it is hardly seen. Only at home, slowly evaluating it's markings and ensuring that the bird is not a Olive-winged. Then on the spot there were no 2 Bulbuls at the same place and time for comparison of the size.

Streaked-ear Bulbul  # 1

Streaked-ear Bulbul   # 2

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Streaked-ear Bulbul  # 16

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Streaked-ear Bulbul  # 24

16. Striped-throated Bulbul - Pycnototus finlaysoni

 Diagnostic markings :- The bird is 19 cm. in length.[1] Broad yellow streaks across the forehead, ear, throat and the upper part of breast. Lower breast grey with similar streaks in white. Upper part same as Olive-winged Bulbul
Distribution :- This bird is native to South-west China, South Yunan. This is actually a very common bird of the forest edge in Malaysia
Habitats and preferences :-  This is a versatile hill bird seen in the largest variety of altitude. Essentially a hill bird of low attitude. It prefers middle to lower storey and feeding on fruits from low scrubs. More seen at forest edge where such fruiting trees are found and with very little human traffic. The bird itself is not disturbed by human presence
Where to find them :- Lowest altitude are the hills in FRIM and Bukit Kiara and the highest is Awana and Bukit Tinggi. Only seen during the fruiting season. Must be familiar with their preferences in fruits.
My field notes :- The bird normally moves around in pair. As compared to the Black-crested or Black-headed found in the same spots, this bird continued to feed undisturbed by my presence, all the time. Surprising also to see Striped-throated Bulbul feeding on the road like a domestic chicken, feeding on droppings from trees, ripen seeds. I am surprised to note that the bird is native to south China and is a very common bird down in central Malaysia

 Striped-throated Bulbul - The calls     & Videos  


Striped-throated Bulbul   # 1

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17. Yellow-bellied Bulbul - Alophoixus phaeocephatus

Diagnostic markings :- The bird is 20cm. in length.[1] Bright yellow under part [2] Grey head with white face below eye and white throat. Upper part typical of brown Bulbul.
Distribution :- This bird is native in Sumatra and the Borneo Island. I am still looking for them. All meeting up were accidental.
Habitats and preferences :-  Lowland deep forest bird. It frequents the lower to middle storey. The bird hunts alone or in group. It stay in perch for some time and when calling, the white colored puff throat is prominent. Their favorite hang out are very dark places under canopy area.
Where to find them :- While it is difficult to meet up with them but once establish where they normally hang out, not difficult to spot. They could be in group. Very difficult to photograph with poor lighting but also given lots of chances as they stay. I have seen them often in the hills at Pangsoon. More definite will be the forested area in Taman Negara, the trail next to Lubuk Simpon.
My field notes :- While it is not difficult to find them, I do not get the chance to meet them that often, except in Taman Negara. Almost on all the trails I get to see them effortlessly. Need not travel that far, they are spotted in the forest of Pangsoon & Congkak as well. meeting up with them is seasonal. If they are around, chances of seeing them is very good.

More on the Yellow-bellied Bulbul - calls of the Yellow-bellied Bulbul.   -  & the Videos


Yellow-bellied Bulbul   # 1

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18. Yellow-vented Bulbul - Pycnototus goiavier

 Diagnostic markings :- The bird 20 cm long. [1] Above eyes white with white throat & a dark crown, lores and bill. [2] The vent or anus yellow. Upper part greenish brown while under part faintly streaked on light grey belly.
Distribution :- This bird is native to The Greater Sundas & The Philippines. Not the most common of all the Bulbuls! but most common bird in Malaysia.
Habitats and preferences :-   This Yellow-vented Bulbul is one of the commonest birds in cultivated areas, next to the Oriental Magpie Robin. It is very hardy and thrives on and small fruits. They also take some insects. Their presence in large numbers in Malaysia prompted us to label it as "trash bird" while birders from Thailand go crazy upon sighting them.  Supposing to originate the mangroves and coastal scrub, they have adapted well to become one of the most common birds.
Where to find them :- You need not find them. they find you. Joking, just stay in the Park or garden, the bird will fly in.
My field notes :- I have a pair feeding the young and another preparing nest in my car porch. For us in Malaysia, we have taken this common bird for granted, just because it is so readily available. That brings to my mind the difficulties in me trying to get pictures of the Red-whiskered Bulbul, where in other countries would come by easily. This is the first bird that calls in the morning between 6.30-6.45 am depending on the time of the year. Then followed by the Magpie Robin.

The Yellow-vented Bulbul - calls   , , , , -  & the Videos


Yellow-vented Bulbul  # 1

Yellow-vented Bulbul   # 2

foraging on the road   # 3

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Yellow-vented Bulbul   # 8

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fledglings  # 10

new born in my garage   # 11

adult  # 12

adult  # 16

albino Bulbul   # 17

Yellow-vented Bulbul   # 18

Yellow-vented Bulbul  # 19

A pair   # 20

Yellow-vented Bulbul   # 21

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Yellow-vented Bulbul  # 24

sub-adult  # 25

sub-adult   # 26

sub-adult  # 27


So there many pictures here and the birds themselves shown through a large varieties of angles. I tried to make sure that the distinctive markings on each bird would appear so that these could be equated with the pointers given on bird book. To those not so conversant with Bulbuls, there are just one too many species, just getting acquainted with their names itself is already a daunting task.

Likewise , please do not get intimidated by the many more species as mentioned in the Bird Guide or confused by the colors and unclear shades as shown in the Photographic Guide book.  On top of this page, I have narrowed down the Species known to exist in Malaysia into 2 groupings. This list itself, guides you to narrow down and set aside the many Bulbuls that you are unlikely to meet up with.

Next, while you are in the field - be confident, the chances  that you will bump into a rare species of Bulbul is very very low. You are unlikely to see all of them in one single location. Before venturing out, prior knowledge of what to expect from the few species you have short listed for that area is imperative. In this page I have added some hints about the sightings of more common Bulbuls and the terrain that they are likely to be found hanging around.

You could see that I am really successful in collecting the desired amount of pictures too. Many of the birds supposedly should be seen in that terrain are no where to be seen. There are just too few birds and those forest birds around the place are pushed further away from places of human habitats. Deeper into the inaccessible forest.

Remember, the first principle would be to understand where your location is, the probable couple of species of Bulbuls that you are likely to meet up with, note their names and memorize the diagnostic markings. That preparation itself really hone your understandings of the Bulbuls. It's real practices, inevitably after long times practicing this skill, going for the birds diagnostic marking without hesitation  become your second nature.

Even with skills, you are likely to get into trouble is when you are meeting up with Bulbuls in the low land forest. I could feel that I do not know enough myself. e.g. The few common Bulbuls in the lowland forested edges that are likely to be encounter could be any of the three - Olive-winged, Red-eyed or Spectacled Bulbuls. The best way out of this quandary would be to hope that they call before seeing them. That could help to alert you into focusing into their features in situation of a flashing moment.

Happy birding