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Asian Black Bulbul

Asian Black Bulbul
Photo Information
Copyright: Nagesh Vannur (nagesh) Silver Note Writer [C: 0 W: 0 N: 69] (362)
Genre: Landscapes
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2015-03-26
Categories: Birds
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2015-03-27 6:36
Viewed: 881
Points: 8
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Asian Black Bulbul

The black bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus), also known as the Himalayan black bulbul or Asian black bulbul, is a member of the bulbul family of passerine birds. It is found in southern Asia from India east to southern China. It is the type species of the genus Hypsipetes, established by Nicholas Aylward Vigors in the early 1830s. There are a number of subspecies across Asia, mostly varying in the shade of the body plumage (ranging from grey to black), and some also occur in white-headed morphs (as also suggested by its specific epithet leucocephalus, literally "white head"). The legs and bill are always rich orange-red. The related form from the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka is often treated as a separated species, the square-tailed bulbul (Hypsipetes ganeesa).


The black bulbul is 24–25 cm in length, with a long tail. The body plumage ranges from slate grey to shimmering black, depending on the race. The beak, legs, and feet are all red and the head has a black fluffy crest. Sexes are similar in plumage, but young birds lack the crest, have whitish underparts with a grey breast band, and have a brown tint to the upperparts. They have a black streak behind the eye and on the ear coverts.

Taxonomy and systematics

The taxonomy is complex with this and several other currently recognized species earlier treated as subspecies of Hypsipetes madagascariensis. Within Asia, ganeesa has often been considered as a subspecies of H. leucocephalus, but is here treated as a separate species restricted to the Western Ghats (south of somewhere near Bombay) and Sri Lanka, the square-tailed black bulbul. The subspecies from Sri Lanka humii is then placed under this species.

The nominate race leucocephalus (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) is found north and east of the Himalayas in south eastern China, Myanmar and Indochina. The race psaroides Vigors, 1831 is found along the Himalayas from Afghanistan (Kunar Valley), through, Pakistan and India (Arunachal Pradesh) into northwestern Myanmar. Race sinensis (La Touche, 1922) is found in China, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Race nigrescens Stuart Baker, 1917 is described from Assam, Manipur, Myanmar (Chin Hills). Several other subspecies have been proposed including stresemanni, ambiens, concolor (may include impar), leucothorax, nigerrimus and perniger. Of all the races of this bulbul, stresemanni, leucothorax and leucocephalus have white heads, while all the others are black-headed. One of the white-headed races of this bulbul has been reported from Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India in 2009. The reproductive isolation mechanisms such as vocalization and geographic distributions of these populations still remain to be studied.

Behaviour and ecology

This bulbul is found in broad-leaved forests, cultivation and gardens mainly in hilly areas, but Himalayan populations are known to sometimes descend into the adjoining plains in winter.

Black bulbuls feed mainly on seeds and insects, and they are often seen in small groups, either roosting or flying about in search of food. They are particularly fond of berries. They are known to feed on a wide range of berries including Celtis, Rosa, Melia and Ehretia in the Himalayas. The feed on the nectar of Salmalia, Erythrina, Rhododendron and other species. They make aerial sallies for insects. They can be quite noisy, making various loud cheeping, mewing and grating calls. The Himalayan form has been reported to make a call resembling a goat kid, throwing back its neck when calling.

It builds its nest in a tree or bush; the nest is a cup placed in a fork and made from grasses, dry leaves, mosses, lichens and cobwebs. The lining is made up of ferns, rootlets and other soft material. Both sexes participate in nest construction. Two or three eggs form the usual clutch.


BirdLife International (2012). "Hypsipetes leucocephalus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
Jump up ^ Gregory, Steven M. (2000). "Nomenclature of the Hypsipetes Bulbuls (Pycnonotidae)". Forktail 16: 164–166.
^ Jump up to: a b Ali, S & S D Ripley (1996). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan 6 (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 109–113.
Jump up ^ Blanford WT (1889). The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Birds. Volume 1. Taylor and Francis, London. pp. 259–263.
Jump up ^ Baker, ECS (1924). The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Birds 1 (2 ed.). Taylor and Francis, London. pp. 368–373.
Jump up ^ Warren BH, Bermingham E, RP Prys-Jones & C Thebaud (2005) Tracking island colonization history and phenotypic shifts in Indian Ocean bulbuls (Hypsipetes: Pycnonotidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 85:271–287 PDF
Jump up ^ Khacher, Lavkumar J (1979). "Northward extension of the range of the South Indian Black Bulbul Hypsipetes madagascariensis Sykes". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 76 (2): 364–365.
^ Jump up to: a b c Rasmussen PC & JC Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx Edicions. pp. 342–344.
Jump up ^ Srinivasan, U., Dalvi, S., & Yobin, K. (2009). "First records of ‘white-headed’ Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus from India". Indian Birds 5 (1): 28–30.
Jump up ^ Dickinson, E.C., R.W.R.J. Dekker, S. Eck & S. Somadikarta (2002). "Systematic notes on Asian birds. 26. Types of the Pycnonotidae". Zool. Verh. Leiden 340: 115–160.
Jump up ^ Raza, RH (1993). "Sighting of Black Bulbul Hypsipetes madagascariensis (P.L.S. Muller) in Gaya, Bihar". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 90 (2): 291.
Jump up ^ Gaston,AJ (1972). "Black Bulbuls Hypsipetes madagascariensis (P.L.S. Muller) in Delhi". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 69 (3): 651–652.
Jump up ^ Narang,ML; Rana,RS (1999). "Black Bulbuls association with Melia azedarach". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 38 (6): 104.
Jump up ^ Page, WT (1903). "The Himalayan Black Bulbul. Hypsipetes psaroides". Avicultural Magazine 1 (6): 209–211.
Jump up ^ Hume, AO (1889). The nests and eggs of Indian birds 1 (2 ed.). R H Porter, London. pp. 164–168.
All Information Wikipedia - Sources
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Exchangeable image file format (Exif)
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420.0 mm
Flash (off, did not fire)
Location: The Western Ghats are a mountain range that runs almost parallel to the western coast of Indian peninsula. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight "hottest hotspots" of biological diversity in the world. It is sometimes called the Great Escarpment of India. The range runs north to south along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, and separates the plateau from a narrow coastal plain, called Konkan, along the Arabian Sea. A total of thirty nine properties including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests were designated as world heritage sites - twenty in Kerala, ten in Karnataka, five in Tamil Nadu and four in Maharashtra.

The range starts near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, south of the Tapti river, and runs approximately 1,600 km (990 mi) through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala ending at Kanyakumari, at the southern tip of India. These hills cover 160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi) and form the catchment area for complex riverine drainage systems that drain almost 40% of India. The Western Ghats block southwest monsoon winds from reaching the Deccan Plateau. The average elevation is around 1,200 m (3,900 ft).

The area is one of the world's ten "Hottest biodiversity hotspots" and has over 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species and 288 freshwater fish species; it is likely that many undiscovered species live in the Western Ghats. At least 325 globally threatened species occur in the Western Ghats.
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  • tuslaw Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2754 W: 282 N: 4931] (19883)
  • [2015-03-27 19:09]

Hello Nagesh,
A nice shot of this attractive Black Bulbul. I like the over the shoulder glance it is giving you while it's dark slate bluish gray plumage shows up nicely from this angle. The lighting in the BG seems to be quite harsh, but you managed the exposure very well.
Something that interest me as much as the bird is the fruiting tree it is perched in. It's fruit appears to stem out right from the branch, which seems a bit unusual. I have never seen anything quite like it. The fruit reminds me of the gooseberries I have growing in my side yard.

Hello Nagesh,

A very nice composition of the bird amidst the fruiting branch. Though the fruits look very inviting to me, the bird I think got annoyed by your presence..hahahahaha!!! You also have managed the exposure superbly.. very nicely done.

Warm Regards,

Beautiful composition in extremely colourful settings.
Very impressive capture.
You ought to be selective in your note; there is no point in copying and pasting entire stuff from Wiki.

Bonjour Nagesh,
Agréable valorisation du sujet dans une belle et étrange lumière.
A bientôt sur TN pour de nouvelles aventures.

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