Cat, koel, myna and bulbul

posted in: Interspecific | 1


This is the breeding season. The Yellow-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier) are not building their nests in my garden but in my back neighbour’s (left). I have yet to locate it but it is definitely there. Everyday I see a pair in my curry-leaf tree (Murraya koenigii), perching separately or close together, sometimes preening, at other times calling loudly and ceaselessly.

Just the other morning (10th April 2007) the pair was crying repeatedly, belting off a series of chic-chic-chok-chok or chic-chic-chok, sometimes a combination of the two. They were perching together on a branch not moving except their tails flapping up and down. The crest feathers were somewhat raised in anger.

On looking closer I noticed the neighbour’s cat, a regular visitor, was lazing nearby (below). The birds were obviously scolding the cat. Their nest must be around somewhere as I have not heard such scolding before. After some five minutes or so, the cat moved off but the birds followed and kept on scolding it.


The cat moved on to the front part of the garden and there, a Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus) took over the scolding. This time the cries were harsh – kreak-kreak-kreak repeated many times until the cat moved away. If there was a squirrel, it would definitely have joined in the scolding.

Four days later, the pair of bulbuls was at it again in the same tree. This time the cries were different form before, cherok-cherok-cherok, it went on repeatedly.


At the sound of the alarm, I investigated. Perching on a branch and casually picking on the fruits of the curry-leaf tree was a large, black, male Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) (left). The koel moved slowly from branch to branch, seeking out the choicest fruits and completely ignoring the bulbuls. This time the bulbuls were not together but perched on different branches, some one metre from the koel. They were agitated and scolded the koel incessantly. Whenever the koel approached one of the bulbuls, it scuttered further away but kept on scolding. All the time the birds did not try to mob the koel, only scolding it.

A Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) was on the same tree but it did not appear to be agitated, chirping quietly on and off. Also there was a female Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis), again part of the scene but not part of the action.

After about ten minutes, the koel flew off to a nearby waringin tree (Ficus benjamina). The bulbuls followed and maintained their scolding until the koel left the tree.

A week later I again heard the bulbuls’ scolding. This time the scolding came from the waringin tree. There, moving slowly around was another Asian Koel, this time a female. She remained in the tree for at least 20 minutes, all the time apparently deaf to the continuous noise generated by the bulbuls. In both instances the koels remained totally silent all along, not making a sound.

I am not sure how dangerous the koels can be to the nesting bulbuls, but the cat can be deadly. Even with all the alarm calls sounded by the bulbul and the myna, and even the squirrel, the cat gets to catch its prey once in a while, as seen in the dead Javan Myna I found under the curry-leaf tree.

YC Wee
April 2007

  1. Edmund Lee

    Thanks for the images and the good work on your site. It never fails to amaze me how diverse avian life in Singapore really is. Keep it up!

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