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 Post subject: Black Bulbul: active, gregarious and noisy
 Post Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2005 1:24 am 
Black Bulbul: active, gregarious and noisy

by Jagath Gunawardena
@ The Island / 2000

The bulbuls belong to the family Pycnonotidac which has a large number of species distributed throughout Asia, Africa and parts of Europe. They have soft plumage, short round wings, short, painted beaks, short legs and long tails. This family is represented in Sri Lanka by six resident species, two of whom are endemic. The largest member of this family in Sri Lanka is the Black Bulbul. In Sinhala it is known as the Kalu-Kondaya (which has the same meaning as the English name) and the Keta-Kondaya (jungle bulbul).

The Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucicephalus humii) is 25 cm (10 inches) long or about the size of a Common Mynah but has a slender, more elongated body. The long tail adds upto the slim appearance. The beak is slender and painted. The legs short. The wings are short and round. The long tail has a notched end. The forehead, crown and nape has a short, shaggy crest. The body is generally a dark dull grey with lighter underparts. The crest is black, the only really black part of the plumage. The wings and tail are tinged with brown. The beak is deep bright orange or a bright orange-red, legs and feet orange. Males and females are similar in appearance, with the eyes a dull deep red. Juveniles have a poorly developed crest, paler in colour. Their beaks are a dull, brownish-yellow and the legs and feet are yellowish.

It is a noisy, active bird that is always on the move, flitting from branch to branch or flying from one tree to another. They usually associate in small flocks that have about a dozen individuals. Larger gatherings are sometimes seen. The flight though strong and fast is often confined to a short stint between trees. It has a wide variety of loud calls that includes a long drawn "creek-creek", a whistling "kee-kee", a short "khew-khew" and a chattering of several notes. It usually haunts the upper branches or the canopies of tall trees, and seldom descend to lower branches. Unlike other members of the family found in Sri Lanka, it has never been seen on low bushes or on the ground. It is shyer than the others and seldom syay for long at open places.

Their food consist mainly of fruit. Smal-ler berries are gulped down whole and chunks are pecked off from larger ripe fruit. It is a greedy feeder that consumes a large amount and takes a wide variety of fruits. In addition, the Black Bulbul is quite fond of nectar and are drawn in large numbers to trees such as Erabadu or Coral Flower (Erythryne spp) and the Red Cotton (Bombex melabaricum) and can be sipping nectar along with others like the Hari-keet, the Gold fronted and Jerdan’s Chloro-psies. A certain number of small creatures such as insects and worms are taken off the branches, flowers and fruit. It can also be seen making short flights to catch flying insects. This is often seen in evenings or after a bout of rain which makes large numbers of small insects come out. It is peaceful, both towards members of the same species and others. Though they can be often seen chasing one another, it is done in a playful way and is not. The breeding season of the Black Bulbul is from January to September with a break during May and June when the South-Western Monsoon is heavy. According to G. M. Henry (1971) the main breeding season is from March to May with second broods being raised from July to September. The nest is shaped like a cup as in other bulbuls but larger. It is made out of small twigs, creepers and leaves. The nest is placed on the fork of a branch high on a tree. The two eggs are white with brown blotches. Both parents share the tasks of nest building, incubating and the feeding of young. Observations are made difficult because the nests are on tall branches and also because they are made in well-concealed places.

The Black Bulbul is distributed throughout the Western, Southern, Sabara-gamuwa, Central and Uva Provinces. It is found in the low country and in the hills up to 1,800 meters and ascends to even higher elevations in some places. It needs forests with tall trees. Although it ventures into home gardens that have some tall trees, it does not reach far out from forest habitats. The destruction of many forests in the range of distribution, coupled with the degradation and fragmentation of forests has led to reduced distribution and numbers. It is seen that this bird does not survive long in isolated forest patches. This reduction in range and number has not drawn much attention, but the trend continues. The form found in Sri Lanka (H. Leucice-phalus humii) is endemic to Sri Lanka and has been named after A. O. Hume, a British Civil Servant who was a naturalist and is well-known as the founder of the Indian Congress Party. The species has a wide distribution from the Indian sub-continent to China.

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