Bulbuls are forest dwellers beta number of species have adapted to a
Variety of other habitats; it is perhaps this adaptability that has made them so popular with man. They make pleasing cage birds and many of them are cheery songsters, which probably explains why they have been introduced to so many parts of the world, either intentionally or accidentally, and why so many of these introductions have been successful.
Two species have adapted particularly well, the Red-whiskered bulbul, which has established itself in the USA, southern Malaya, Australia, Mauritius, Singapore, and the Nicobar and Hawaiian Island groups, and the Red-vented bulbul, which has been successfully introduced to several Pacific islands.
Bulbuls are a well-defined, somewhat primitive group of Old World birds. Their most notable feature is a group of hair-like feathers that spring from the nape. These are often long and in many species form a distinct crest.
Bulbuls have short wings, usually rather more curved from front to back than those of most birds, comprising zoo primary feathers, the first of which is very short. The tail, which is made up of 1 2 feathers, is medium to long and is square, rounded, or slightly forked. They have assorted necks and very well-developed bristles around the gape. Almost all species have relatively slender, slightly down-curved bills with longish narrow, or oval nostrils.
(There are two exceptions: the finch-billed bulbuls.)In size, bulbuls vary from that of a House sparrow to that of a large Istle thrush. One species widespread in North Africa and the Middle East has now been reclassified as two. Viz. the Common Bulbul of North Africa and the Black-headed Bulbul of the Middle East. The latter has yellow under-tail covert feathers and a darker head.
Although bulbuls are now probably most familiar in Asia the family originated in the Ethiopian region: it is in Africa and Madagascar where they have attained their greatest development. Here all but two of the 16 genera occur. As one would expect from birds with such short rounded wings they are feeble flyers and not very migratory the majority of species do not migrate at all, while others only migrate from one altitude to another, especially in Asia, where they occur from 3,000m (Io, 000ft) up in the Himalayas down to sea level. Only one species appears to be a true migrant that is the Brown-eared bulbul. This occurs in Japan, and even then it is only the more northern populations that are migratory, wintering as far south as Korea. They migrate by day, often in large flocks of up to a thousand.
Nearly all bulbuls are active, alert, noisy, gregarious birds, full of character and move-mint. They often feed in flocks with other species and are almost always the first to give warning of a predator, whether it be a hawk in the air or a snake or cat on the ground, and they often attract the natural sites’ attention to rarer birds such as owls which they discover roosting and then mob and torment with shrieks and screams.
The nesting of bulbuls is relatively straightforward. Many are hardly territorial or aggressive to others of their kind, even during the breeding season, though some, such as the Red-vented bulbul, are quite pugnacious. (In Asia they are even kept as fighting birds on which sums of money are placed, fights occasionally continuing until one bird has killed the other.) The nest is usually built in the form of a tree or bush, often poorly concealed.
Because of this many species are often taken by such predators as cats, crows, and lizards and are often parasitized by various species of cuckoos. Most nest at a height of 1.5-9m (5-3oft) although the nest of the Black bulbul has been recorded at over 15m (50ft), while the Pale-olive greenbelt nests between 0.5 and1.6m (2-4ft) and conceals its nest in thick undergrowth such as brambles.
The incubation period is usually 4days, with both sexes taking turns on the eggs, which in some species are extremely beautiful; many have unusually thick hard shells for birds of their size. Normally more than one brood is reared in a year, and the young are fed by both parents.
Although bulbuls are not noted for their nuptial displays, these can nevertheless be quite attractive and certainly make the most of what distinctive features they have. The male Red-vented bulbul, whose mating dies-play is one of the best documented, depresses and spreads his tail laterally to show off his bright crimson tail coverts while fluttering his spread wings up and down above his head. This is not only used to attract females but to warn off rivals when it is accompanied by a series of defiant calls. Many bulbuls are probably cooperative breeders but this is not documented.
Although bulbuls have been introduced to many different parts of the world it is debatable whether this was a wise policy. They damage valuable crops. especially fruit, and probably cause severe damage when liberated where their natural foods are in short supply.