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Common Bulbul - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Dark-capped Bulbul)

Alternative names: Garden Bulbul; Somali Bulbul; Dodson's Bulbul; Dark-capped Bulbul; Black-eyed Bulbul

Subspecies barbatus
Photo © by Momo
Ourzazate, Morocco
Pycnonotus barbatus


The only Pycnonotus bulbul in most of its range and therefore generally easily identified.

15–20 cm (6-7¾ in)

  • Distinctive head shape, due to slightly peaked crown
  • Dark brown head and upperparts
  • Grey brown below
  • White or yellow vent according to subspecies

Sexes are alike, though female usually smaller. Juvenile similar, with duller grey-brown face, slightly paler upperparts, entirely white vent.


Europe, Africa and Arabia
Europe: Canary Islands, Extremadura
North Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Egypt
Western Africa: Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola
Eastern Africa: Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania
Middle East: Syria, Arabian Peninsula, Oman

Subspecies layardi, Dark-capped Bulbul (see taxonomy)
Photo © by Sal
Kruger National Park, South Africa,


Sibley and Monroe propose to split this species into 4 species:

  • Garden Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus from Northern Africa south to Congo-Brazzaville and Ethiopia, with the exception of the Sahara and other arid regions where generally absent.
  • Dodson's Bulbul Pycnonotus dodsoni
  • Dark-capped Bulbul Pycnonotus tricolor
  • Somali Bulbul Pycnonotus somaliensis

However, neither Howard and Moore nor Clements accept this split, neither does the Handbook of the Birds of the World.
This split is mainly based on morphology, especially in colour of vent (whitish or yellow), presence/absence of a white patch on the auriculars, and exact chest pattern. They interbreed widely at most localities where they meet.

Juvenile Subspecies inornatus
Photo © by gambirder
Fajara Golf Course, Gambia, July 2010


Clements accepts 10 subspecies[1]:

  • P. b. somaliensis: White undertail coverts and whitish hindneck
  • P. b. spurius: Yellow undertail coverts and dark hindneck
  • Southern Ethiopia (southern Bale to northern Sidamo-Borama)
  • P. b. dodsoni:Yellow undertail coverts and whitish hindneck
Ethiopian subspecies from left: Spurius, dodsoni, schoanus, somaliensis
Photo © by volker sthamer
Click on image to enlarge


P. b. dodsoni
Photo © by the_kenyanbirder
Diani Beach, Kenya, 01-11-2020

Virtually any habitat with some fruiting trees, but they generally avoid dense forest. They are common where the forest has been fragmented by human settlement and is in the first stages of regeneration.


An adaptable and very bold bird which readily adapts to life alongside humans.


Breeding times vary with location, but are generally March to September in North African locations, e.g. March-August in Egypt. In the central and southern countries of Africa, the range is July to April, e.g. August-March in Botswana.

The birds are monogamous, solitary nesters. The cup nest (7.5-12 cm in diameter and 5-6 cm deep) is built by the female, from small twigs, rootlets and dry grass and lined with animal hair and plant fibres. It is built on twigs or a branch 1-5 m above the ground, often close to human activity, but screened by vegetation.

2-5 eggs are laid, 1 a day, and incubation begins on completion of the clutch. Male feeds female on the nest during incubation, which is 12-15 days. The young are fed by both parents, fledging in 13-16 days. They can barely fly so they keep together on a branch where the parents continue to feed them, until they can fend for themselves.

Brood parasitism by Jacobin Cuckoo is frequent, with occasional activity from 3 or 4 other species of cuckoo.


The diet consists mostly of a variety of fruit. They also eat insects, arthropods, small vertebrates such as geckoes, nectar, flowers and some seeds.


Song: loud doctor-quick doctor-quick be-quick be-quick. Alarm call: loud kik-kik-kik (like the noise of a machine-gun)


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Fishpool, L. and J. Tobias (2020). Common Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.combul2.01
  3. Wikipedia

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1