The red-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) is a member of the bulbul family of passerines. It is resident breeder across the Indian subcontinent, including Sri Lanka extending east to Burma and parts of Tibet. It has been introduced in many other parts of the world and has established itself in the wild on several Pacific islands including Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Hawaii. It has also established itself in parts of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand. It is included in the list of the world's 100 worst invasive alien species.
The red-vented bulbul was originally described by Linnaeus in 1766. Several populations of this widespread species have been named as subspecies (or races). The nominate race is found in southern India. The type locality of Puducherry was designated by Erwin Stresemann. The race in the western part is intermedius and is found in Kashmir and Kohat down to the Salt Range and along the Himalayas to Kumaon. The race bengalensis is found in the Himalayas from Nepal east to Assam. South of these two forms are pallidus to the west south to Ahmednagar and saturatus along the east, south to the Godavari. There are no distinct boundaries to these racial forms and recent works do not recognize saturatus (designated by Whistler & Kinnear, 1932 for the northeastern Peninsular India) but accept the desert form humayuni (earlier named as pallidus) from Sindh and northwestern India, northeast Indian stanfordii (=stanfordi Deignan, 1949) and the Sri Lankan race haemorrhous (=haemorrhousus (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) ). Race melanchimus is found in Southern Burma and northern Thailand.
The red-vented bulbul is easily identified by its short crest giving the head a squarish appearance. The body is dark brown with a scaly pattern while the head is darker or black. The rump is white while the vent is red. The black tail is tipped in white. The Himalayan races have a more prominent crest and are more streaked on the underside. The Race intermedius of the Western Himalayas has a black hood extending to the mid-breast. Population bengalensis of Central and Eastern Himalayas and the Gangetic plain has a dark hood, lacks the scale like pattern on the underside and instead has dark streaks on the paler lower belly. Race stanfordi of the South Assam hills is similar to intermedius. The desert race humayuni has a paler brown mantle. The nominate race cafer is found in Peninsular India. Northeast Indian race wetmorei is between cafer, humayuni and bengalensis. About 20 cm in length, with a long tail. Sri Lankan race haemorrhous (=haemorrhousus) has a dark mantle with narrow pale edges. Race humayuni is known to hybridize with Pycnonotus leucogenys and these hybrids were once described as a subspecies magrathi marked by their pale rumps and yellow-orange or pink vents. In eastern Myanmar there is some natural hybridization with Pycnonotus aurigaster.
Sexes are similar in plumage, but young birds are duller than adults. The typical call has been transcribed as ginger beer but a number of sharp single note calls likened as pick are also produced. Their alarm calls are usually responded to and heeded by many other species of bird.
Habitat and distribution
This is a bird of dry scrub, open forest, plains and cultivated lands. In its native range it is rarely found in mature forests. A study based on 54 localities in India concluded that vegetation is the single most important factor that determines the distribution of the species.
It has been introduced into Hawaii, Fiji and New Zealand. They were introduced to Samoa in 1943 and became common on Upolu by 1957. Red-vented bulbuls were introduced to Fiji around 1903 by indentured labourers from India. They established on the Tongan islands of Tongatapu and Niuafo'ou. They were introduced into Melbourne around 1917 but were not seen after 1942. They established in Auckland in the 1950s but were exterminated and another wild population that was detected was exterminated in 2006. In 2013 more were found, and authorities offered a $1000 reward for information that led to a bird's capture. They prefer the dry lowland regions in these introduced regions. They are considered as pests because of their habit of damaging fruit crops. Methiocarb and ziram have been used to protect cultivated Dendrobium orchids in Hawaii from damage by these birds. These birds learn to avoid the repellent chemicals. They can also disperse the seeds of invasive plants like Lantana camara and Miconia calvescens.
Behaviour and ecology
Red-vented bulbuls build their nests in bushes at a height of around 2–3 m (7–10 ft; two or three eggs is a typical clutch. Nests are occasionally built inside houses or in a hole in a mud bank. In one instance, a nest was found on a floating mat of Water hyacinth leaves and another observer noted a pair nesting inside a regularly used bus. Nests in tree cavities have also been noted.
They breed from June to September. The eggs are pale-pinkish with spots of darker red more dense at the broad end. They are capable of having multiple clutches in a year. Nests are small flat cups made of small twigs but sometimes making use of metal wires. The eggs hatch after about 14 days. Both parents feed the chicks and on feeding trips wait for the young to excrete, swallowing the faecal sacs produced. The pied crested cuckoo is a brood parasite of this species. Fires, heavy rains and predators are the main causes of fledgeling mortality in scrub habitats in southern India.
Their vocalizations are usually stereotyped and they call throughout the year. However a number of distinct call types have been identified including roosting, begging, greeting, flight and two kinds of alarm calls.
The red-vented bulbul was among the first animals other than humans that was found to be incapable of synthesizing vitamin C. However a large number of birds were later found to likewise lack the ability to synthesize vitamin C.
Like most birds, these bulbuls are hosts to coccidian blood parasites (Isospora sp.) while some bird lice such as Menacanthus guldum (Ansari 1951 Proc. Natl. Inst. Sci. India 17:40) have been described as ectoparasites.
Along with red-whiskered bulbuls this species has led to changes in the population dynamics of butterfly morphs on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Here the population of white morphs of the Danaus plexippus butterfly have risen over a period of 20 years due to predation of the orange morphs by these bulbuls.
In 19th Century India these birds were frequently kept as cage pets and for fighting especially in the Carnatic region. They would be held on the finger with a thread attached and when they fought they would seize the red feathers of the opponents.
Indians frequently tame it and carry it about the bazaars, tied with a string to the finger or to a little crutched perch, which is often made of precious metals or jade; while there are few Europeans who do not recollect Eha's immortal phrase anent the red patch in the seat of its trousers.
Being well known in culture they have been referred to by many local names including Kala bulbul (=black bulbul), Bulbuli, and Guldum in Hindi, Kala painju in Himachal Pradesh; Assamese: Bulbuli sorai; Cachar: Dao bulip; Dafla: Nili betom; Lepcha: Mancleph-pho; Naga: Inrui bulip; Bhutan: Paklom; Bhil: Peetrolyo; Gujarati: Hadiyo bulbul; Kutchi: Bhilbhil; Marathi: Lalbudya bulbul; Oriya: Bulubul; Tamil: Kondanchiradi, Konda-lati, Kondai kuruvi; Telugu: Pigli-pitta; Malayalam: Nattu bulbul; Kannada: Kempu dwarada pikalara; Sinhala: කොන්ඩ කුරුල්ලා - Konda kurulla.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Pycnonotus cafer". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Lowe S., Browne M., Boudjelas S., De Poorter M. (2000). 100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Species:A selection from the Global Invasive Species Database.. The Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG).
- Whistler, Hugh (1949). Popular Handbook of Indian Birds. 4th ed. Gurney & Jackson. pp. 68–70.
- Stresemann, E. (1952). "On the birds collected by Pierre Poivre in Canton, Manila, India and Madagascar (1751–1756)". Ibis 94 (3): 499–523. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1952.tb01847.x.
- Deignan, H. G. (1951). "A Substitute Name For a Bulbul, Pycnonotus, of Northwestern India". Auk 68 (1): 110.
- Rasmussen PC & Anderton, JC (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions. p. 338. ISBN 8487334679.
- Dickinson, E.C. & R.W.R.J. Dekker (2002). "Systematic notes on Asian birds. 25. A preliminary review of the Pycnonotidae" (PDF). Zool. Verh. Leiden 340: 93–114.
- Baker, ECS (1921). "Handlist of the birds of the Indian empire". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 27 (3): 41–42.
- Dickinson, E.C., R.W.R.J. Dekker, S. Eck & S. Somadikarta (2002). "Systematic notes on Asian birds. 26. Types of the Pycnonotidae" (PDF). Zool. Verh. Leiden 340: 115–160.
- Sibley, CB; Short, LL (1959). "Hybridization in some Indian Bulbuls Pycnonotus cafer x P. leucogenys". Ibis 101 (2): 177–182. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1959.tb02373.x.
- Sharpe, R B (1909). "A Note on Molpastes magrathi Whitehead". Ibis 51 (2): 302–304. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1909.tb05264.x.
- Ali S & S D Ripley (1996). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan 6 (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 85–92.
- Joshua,Justus (1996). "An albino Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 93 (3): 586.
- Baker, ECS (1915). "An albino bulbul". Rec. Indian Mus. 11: 351–352.
- Berry, P (1894). "A curious instance of melanism". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 9 (2): 224.
- Law, SC (1921). "Melanism in the Red-vented Bulbul (Molpastes sp.)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 27 (3): 629–630.
- Vijayan, VS (1975). The ecological isolation of Bulbuls (Pycnonotidae) with special reference to Pycnonotus cafer cafer and P. luteolus luteolus at Point Calimere, Tamil Nadu. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Bombay.
- Watling, D (1978). "Observations on the naturalized distribution of the Red-vented Bulbul in the Pacific, with special reference to the Fiji islands" (PDF). Notornis 25: 109–117.
- Long, John L. (1981). Introduced Birds of the World: The worldwide history, distribution and influence of birds introduced to new environments. Terrey Hills, Sydney: Reed. p. 300. ISBN 0-589-50260-3.
- Gill, BJ, GR Hunt & S Sirgouant. "Red-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus cafer) in New Caledonia." (PDF). Notornis 42 (3): 214–215.
- "Red Vented Bulbul, Ministry for Primary Industry Pests and Diseases". Retrieved 2013-07-25.
- Labour angry at $1000 angry bird reward. 3 News NZ. 15 November 2013.
- Williams, R.N; Giddings, L.V (1984). "Differential expansion and population growth of bulbuls in Hawaii" (PDF). Wilson Bulletin 96 (4): 647–655.
- McAllan, Ian AW and Hobcroft, D. (2005). "The further spread of introduced birds in Samoa" (PDF). Notornis 52: 16–20.
- Cummings, JL; Mason, J.R.; Otis, D.L.; Ohashi, J.E. Davis T.J. (1994). "Evaluation of methiocarb, ziram, and methyl anthranilate as bird repellents applied to Dendrobium orchids". Wildl.Soc. Bull. 22: 633–638.
- Bhatt, Dinesh & Anil Kumar (2001). "Foraging ecology of Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer in Haridwar, India" (PDF). Forktail 17: 109–110.
- Medeiros, A. C.; Loope, L. L.; Conant, P. and McElvaney, S. (1997). "Status, ecology, and management of the invasive plant, Miconia calvescens DC (Melastomataceae) in the Hawaiian Islands" (PDF). Bishop Mus. Occas. Pap. 48: 23–36.
- Berger, A. J. (1975). "Red-whiskered and Red-vented Bulbuls on Oahu". Elepaio 36: 16–19.
- Johnson, J. M. (1989). "Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer (Linne) eating petals of Magnolia". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 86 (1): 103.
- Bharos,AMK (1999). "Attempt by Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer to feed on a young House Gecko Hemidactylus flaviviridis". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 96 (2): 320.
- Sharma, Satish Kumar (2000). "Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer feeding on tail of House Gecko Hemidactylus flaviviridis". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 97 (2): 284.
- Marathe, S (1989). "Fly-catching bulbuls". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 29 (9&10): 10–11.
- Balasubramanian, P (1991). "Bulbuls feeding on the pulp of Cassia fistula pod in Pt. Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 88 (3): 456.
- Siromoney, Gift (1963). "Bulbuls eating flowers". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 3 (6): 12.
- Kumar, Satish (1995). "Sugary exudate of Sorghum Sorghum bicolor as food of Large Grey Babbler Turdoides malcolmi (Sykes), Purplerumped Sunbird Nectarinia zeylonica (Linn.) and Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer (Linnaeus)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 92 (3): 421–422.
- Dixit,D (1963). "Notes on a case of the redvented bulbul, Pycnonotus cafer (linnaeus) nesting indoors". Pavo 1 (1): 19–31.
- Inglis, CM (1922). "Curious site for nest of the Bengal Redvented Bulbul (Molpastes haemarrhous bengalensis)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 28 (4): 1135–1136.
- Lamba, BS (1976). "Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer nesting in a hole in a mud bank". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 73 (2): 395.
- Nanjappa, C (1989). "An hitherto unrecorded nesting site of a Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer (Linnaeus)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 86 (1): 102.
- Urfi, Abdul Jamil; Jethua, Keshubha (1998). "Unusual nest location of Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer (Linn.)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 95 (1): 116.
- Sivasubramanian, C; Sundaramoorthy, T (1992). "Additional nesting sites of Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer (Linn.)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 89 (2): 257.
- Jerdon, TC (1863). The Bird of India Volume 2. Part 1.. pp. 93–96.
- Lamba, BS (1968). "Wire nests of Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer (Linnaeus)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 65 (1): 222–223.
- McCann, Charles (1932). "Notes on the nesting habits of the Red-vented Bulbul (Molpastes cafer)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. (3): 680–681.
- Tooth, EE (1902). "A Pied-Crested Cuckoo's egg Coccystes jacobinus found in the nest of the Bengal Red-vented Bulbul Molpastes bengalensis". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 14 (1): 172.
- Prabhakarachari, N ; Ravikumar, R ; Ramamurthi, R (1990). "Ecobiology of redvented bulbul Pycnonotus cafer cafer in a scrub jungle at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh". Journal of Ecobiology 2 (1): 45–50.
- Kumar, Anil (2004). "Acoustic communication in the Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer" (PDF). An. De Academia de Ciencias 76 (2): 350–358. doi:10.1590/S0001-37652004000200024.
- Mishra, R.M., Gupta, P. (2005). "Frugivory and seed dispersal of Carissa spinarum (L.) in a tropical deciduous forest of central India". Tropical Ecology 46 (2): 151–156.
- Roy, RN; Guha, BC (1958). "Production of experimental scurvy in a bird species". Nature 182 (4650): 1689–1690. doi:10.1038/1821689b0. PMID 13622627.
- Nelson and Cox (2000). Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. New York, NY: Worth Publ. ISBN 1-57259-931-6. OCLC 247815983.
- Gillespie D. S. (1980). "Overview of Species Needing Dietary Vitamin C". The Journal of Zoo Animal Medicine 11 (3): 88–91. doi:10.2307/20094480. JSTOR 20094480.
- Boughton, Donald (1938). "Avian Hosts of the Genus Isospora (Coccidiida)". The Ohio Journal of Science 38 (3): 149–163. hdl:1811/2942.
- Price, Roger D. (1977). "The Menacanthus (Mallophaga: Menoponidae) of the Passeriformes (Aves)" (PDF). J. Med. Entomol. 14 (2): 207–220. PMID 606822.
- Stimson, John & Mark Berman (1990). "Predator induced colour polymorphism in Danaus plexippus L. (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in Hawaii". Heredity 65 (3): 401–406. doi:10.1038/hdy.1990.110.
- Anonymous (1998). "Vernacular Names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent" (PDF). Buceros 3 (1).
- Bellary, Sadananda A; Desai,RN (2000) Unusual nesting activity of the Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer: two peculiar features. Newsletter for Birdwatchers 40(6):83–84.
- Berger AJ (1964). "The breeding seasons of Indian birds". Pavo 2 (2): 121–122.
- Chowdhury, SR; Bhattacharyya, SP (1989) Circannual variation in the alveolar histodynamics and secretory activity of the uropygial gland of the male Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer (Linnaeus). Pavo 27(1&2), 5–14.
- Dasgupta, P; Bhattacharyya, SP (1988) Circannual changes in the testicular activity of the Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer (Linnaeus). Pavo 26(1&2):37–48.
- Deignan,HG (1949) Races of Pycnonotus cafer (Linnaeus) and P. aurigaster (Vieillot) in the Indo-Chinese subregion. J. Washington Acad. Sci. 39(8):273–279.
- Desai, RN (1993). "Two unusual nesting sites of the Redvented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)". In Verghese, A; Sridhar, S; Chakravarthy,AK. Bird Conservation: Strategies for the Nineties and Beyond. Ornithological Society of India, Bangalore. p. 190.
- Desai, RN (1995). "Incubation pattern in the Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer in relation to atmospheric temperature and the phase of development of eggs". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 35 (2): 35–36.
- Desai, RN (1997). "A case of an unusually delayed breeding activity of the Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 37 (2): 27.
- Dhamke Hemant A (1997). "Possible feeding on an unhatched egg by young one of Redvented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 94 (2): 413–414.
- Ganguli U (1963). "Some notes on the nesting and nest behaviour of a pair of redvented bulbuls". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 3 (10): 2–5.
- Lal, P; Thapliyal, JP (1982). "Thyroid – gonad and thyroid – body weight relationship in the red-vented bulbul, Molpastes cafer". General and comparative endocrinology 48 (1): 98–103. doi:10.1016/0016-6480(82)90042-9. PMID 7129090.
- McCann C (1932). "Notes on the nesting habits of the Red-vented Bulbul (Molpastes cafer)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 35 (3): 680–681.
- Mummigatti UG, Desai RN, Desai Sarayu (2001). "Some aspects of the developmental biology of the Red Vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer; The nestling's food and feeding pattern, and the feeding behaviour of their parents". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 41 (2): 20–21.
- Rana BD (1976). "Drought food of Pycnonotus cafer and Psittacula krameri in the Rajasthan desert". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 16 (10): 5–6.
- Richards BD (1918). "Food of bulbuls". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 25 (3): 503.
- Shivnarayanan N, Naik RM (1963). "Does the male redvented bulbul, Pycnonotus cafer (linnaeus) incubate?". Pavo 1 (2): 128–129.
- Short LL (1964). "Notes on the behaviour of the Bulbuls, Pycnonotus cafer (Linnaeus) and P. leucogenys (Gray) in captivity". Pavo 2 (1): 26–36.
- Thirumurthi, S; Annamalai, R; Gunasekaran, V (1993). "Impact of stone crushing units on the populations of Redvented Bulbul, Pycnonotus cafer". In Verghese, A; Sridhar, S; Chakravarthy, AK. Bird Conservation: Strategies for the Nineties and Beyond. Ornithological Society of India, Bangalore. pp. 137–138.
- Vijayan, VS (1975) Ecological isolation of bulbuls (Family Pycnonotidae, Class Aves) with special reference to Pycnonotus cafer cafer (Linn.) and Pycnonotus luteolus luteolus (Lesson) at Point Calimere, Tamil Nadu. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Bombay, Bombay.
- Watling D (1983). "The breeding biology of the Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer in Fiji". Emu 83 (3): 173–180. doi:10.1071/MU9830173.
- Watling D (1986). "The timing of the moult in native and naturalised populations of the Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer (Aves, Pycnonotidae)". South Pacific J. Nat. Sci. 8: 104–124.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pycnonotus cafer.|