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Icterine Greenbul - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Lesser Icterine Greenbul
Includes Liberian Greenbul; Spot-winged Greenbul

Phyllastrephus icterinus


15-16 cm, 5.9-6.3 inches. Males: 16.5–24.5 g, 0.58-0.86 oz. Females: 15–22 g, 0.53-0.78 oz.
A slender, small Greenbul with a yellow throat.


  • Lores and ear-coverts pale greenish-yellow with yellow streaks
  • Faint yellow eyering
  • Indistinct darker yellowish-green eyeline starting in front and reaching slightly behind the eye
  • Pale greenish-yellow supercilium above the eyering
  • Dull yellowish-green forehead, crown nape and upperparts
  • Bright yellow throat
  • Dull reddish-brown uppertail-coverts and retrices
  • Drab greenish-brown greater and median upperwing-coverts and primaries
  • Sides to breast and flanks pale green to yellowish-green
  • Centre of upper breast yellow washed with greenish-yellow
  • Remainder of underparts are the same bright yellow as the throat
  • Iris light brown or greyish-brown
  • Culmen black or brownish-black
  • Lower mandible grey to greenish-grey with pale cutting edges and tip
  • Gape yellow
  • Legs blue-grey to blue-green

Sexes similar, females a bit smaller than males.


Juveniles have greener upperparts and washed brownish breast and throat.

Similar species

Very similar to slightly smaller Xavier's Greenbul. Also a weaker bill and slightly brighter uppertail-coverts and tail. Can only be separated reliably by voice in the field.


Western and Central Africa: from Sierra Leone east to Guinea and Ghana. One record from Togo. Also from southwest Nigeria east to Central African Republic and south to Gabon, Republic of the Congo, northern Angola, DR Congo and east to Uganda and extreme northwest Tanzania.
Widespread and generaly common to abundant in its range.


This is a monotypic species.
Liberian Greenbul seems to have been a plumage variant of Icterine Greenbul and is included here.
Very similar and sibling species of Xavier's Greenbul.


Found in primary, old secondary evergreen and semi-deciduous forest, forest-savannah and swamp-forest. Mainly in forest interior, but occasionally reaching forest edge
Mostly in the lowlands, recorded up to 1260 m in Cameroon, 1250 m in Uganda, 1430 m in DR Congo and 900 m in Liberia.


Usually seen in small family groups and commonly in mixed flocks where it can take a leading role.


This moderately shy species takes Arthropods, including ants (Hymenoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), bugs (Hemiptera), caterpillars, mantids, moths (Lepidoptera), neuropterans, orthopterans, spiders (Araneae) and termites (Isoptera) by gleaning from small branches leves, twigs and thickets. Takes also some fruit and seeds.

Forages the undergrowth and low shrubs, 1-20 m (PR Congo) and 2-15 m (Liberia). Feeds in family groups of thee to five, thought to include an adult pair and the previous year's offspring. Groups of up to 15 have been recorded.

Frequently follows diurnal mammals, including squirrels and small antelopes, catching insects flushed out by mammals. Occasionally visits swarming Dorylus ants.


A monogamous species. Both parents build nest, which is a small cup made of dried leaves, some twigs and rootlets bound and on occasion lined with hyphale of Marasmius fungus. It may be camouflaged by dried leaves.

The nest of external diameter 5–9 cm, 2-3.5 inches, depth 4–7 cm, 1.6-2.8 inches, internal depth 3–6 cm, 1.2-2.4 inches, is suspended hammock-like, by cobwebs or Marasmius 0.65-11 m, 2 ft-36 ft, above the ground close to the end of shrubs or liane. Lays 2 eggs, seldom 1 egg.

The female incubates for 14 days. When disturbed, she drops to the ground to perform a distraction display that resembles a running rodent.
Feeding by both parents. The chicks, who leave the nest at day 12 before they are fledged, hide in undergrowth. They join a mixed flock after 20-25 days.

This territorial species defends it's nest mainly by song, but also with a display flight where the wings and tail are spread out. Occasionally will fight to defend territory.

The breeding season varies within range but occurs thoughout the year.


This is a resident species.


Song a quiet, fast nasal chattering, “chirrrup-chup-chup-chup-chup-chup”, slowing at the end, alarm call is a nasal trill.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Avibase
  3. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved December 2016)

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