Family’s encounter with pair of nesting bulbuls

on 13th February 2009

“Hi, my name is CK Kim. I have a story to share and my kids can’t wait to share it with others. In it, we have some questions about birds. Can you help us with some of it? I wish to make this my son’s school project later on.

“I just want to share this with everyone. It may not be the most exciting news to the staunch ‘birdies’ but for me, it was extremely interesting. For my family, it was a thrilling and exciting time as the bird came by to make her home. In our home! And what’s more, to lay eggs, incubate them, hatch and see the babies fly away!

“My two kids had first hand experience seeing the entire episode revealing to them step-by-step. From mother bird’s recce to making a nest to laying eggs and till the babies learn to walk (fly) and left the nest.

“For us, that was a ‘National Geographic’ time of our lives. It was even quite a hit with the neighbors and relatives! Amazing!

“Started with a pair of birds frequenting our garage doing their reconnaissance. Not long after, they set their minds on this unattractive plant just outside our living room. I mean there was so much more plants in the garden but they chose this one.

“Next, the construction begun. They were at it for nearly a week. You name it, twigs, dried leaves, even tissue paper was used to make their home! Looking at this newly constructed home is another chapter where NATURE was at its best!

“I quizzed my kids (9 & 5 yrs) if given the same materials, would they be able to do what the birds did with their bare hands? (I couldn’t!)

“I mean the nest was totally smooth and evenly-rounded inside. It was nearly a perfect circular shape. We can’t figure out how they bent and twisted the materials to shape up like that. It was just incredible!

“When it was all completed, the mother bird would lie in her nest every evening. She would stay there till daybreak then go on her usual daily routines. When it got dark, she flew back to her nest and slept there.

“A couple of weeks past and one morning, I was woken up my some commotion. My kids were cheering and dancing because, “she gave birth!“, my son exclaimed wildly as they discovered an egg in the nest! Finally! It was very fulfilling at that moment to see this. Our entire family was elated as if someone had really given birth!

“And on the next day while I was preparing to go to work in the morning, I thought I’ll just peek in to see if the egg was still intact, and viola!

“There were two eggs now! Another one came last night.

“As with all mothers in the world, this mother bird was very protective.

“Anyone who went near the nest would be warned by her loud and shrill chirps. Sometimes, another bird (we think its her husband!) would join in and told us off too! And when they warned you, they did with these loud chirps, their feathers at the top of their heads would stand up probably signaling to the ‘predators’ that they meant business.

“So, the mother came home to incubate her eggs every night without fail. She would leave them in the day, coming back to check once every hour on average. For all you know, she was probably up in the trees watching her nest from afar.

“She continued to do that for about three weeks and finally, the magical day arrived.

“The little ones were hatched and like all babies, sleepy!

“They slept and slept for many days.

“During these times, the mother still came home to nest them. She would climb over them and slept above them which made us wonder how could the young ones breathe or survive with the weight on top of them.

“Anyway, after several days, they woke up, stood on their weak little feet and started to chirp too!

“Mother would come back frequently with food in her mouth and give them a good feed.

“About 10 days later, one chick was perching on the nest’s edge. She had this look in her eyes as if they were reading the distance between the nest and the ground. They looked eager to take flight.

“I remember it was a weekend, we were all at home.

“The baby came out again standing on the edge chirping loudly.

“This time, her looks had transformed into what was almost identical as the adult bird.

“And with a big flap of her wings, she took off but didn’t managed to cover much distance.

“She dropped to the ground and tried a few more times. Each flight no more than just 30-50 cm above ground. And each flight took a toll on her. I could see her tired-out after every sortie.

“But after 15 to 20 mins, she managed to open up the entire span of her wings and flew right into the bushes of our garden. Her parents were seen chirping very loudly at that moment. Probably cheering her on and telling us, ‘go away, she don’t need your help!’

“And with a couple more tries, she took off and was on her own, disappearing into the trees.

“The younger sibling did exactly the same, except in later part of the afternoon. On that day, both kids and parents disappeared into their natural habitat.

“But whatever it is, that was one good experience we had had. In fact, it was rather touching and quite melancholy for us as though our own kids had left home for bigger things.

“That’s probably what prompted us to write this story.

“Once in a while, my children would claimed they sighted two birds of the same kind (not sure it’s the parents or the kids) coming back to our garden to play (or coming home to visit?).

“Anyway, the nest is still beautifully intact and we have decided to keep it there as long as we can.

For those who are reading, can I ask anyone for some views to clear my doubts?

• Those same birds coming back, could they be the same birds visiting? Any views or facts on that? [Difficult to tell]
• What is the name of these birds actually? [Yellow-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus goiavier]
• Are they common specie in Singapore? I know of swallows, mynahs, sparrows, etc, but this is really my first time seeing this variety. But I must admit I don’t pay a lot of attention to birds prior to this. [Very common]
• Where do they originate? [resident]
• Why would they want to build a nest within a human-populated area or enclosure? Wouldn’t it be unsafe? Why not on the big trees outside my house or smaller trees at my garden? [Have got used to people]
• Anyone any idea how a nest can be built in such a perfect manner? These fellas only have beaks and maybe a little of the feet to help them pull, push, slide, whatever. How do they managed to make such regularly shaped nest? Any scientific explanations for this? [In their genes?]
• Is it true that humans shouldn’t touch or hold the eggs during incubation time? A myth or true? [Better not to disturb the eggs, least the adults abandon them]
• When the eggs broke and the babies came out, what happened to the shells of these eggs? Did they eat it up? [Removed: see HERE]
• And their droppings. Whatever happened to all these? Because when we looked into the nest while the chicks were still resting in there, it was totally clean. No debris, no dirt, no egg shells, etc. Did the parent take it away? [Initially adults probably took away wastes, later chicks eject faecal matter out of the nest. Click HERE]
• The two adult birds that was flying around during the initial period, are they a couple meaning parents to the chicks? So can we safely say one is male and the other female? [Yes]
• Is it true that other birds would never come to lay their eggs in the same (used) nest ? I mean wouldn’t it save them a lot of hassle to just come and lay the eggs rather than to build them from scratch? [Nest probably infected with mites, etc., so better to build another. See HERE]


K. C. Kim
9th February 2009

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

15 Responses

  1. What a fantastic story. When you said:

    “It may not be the most exciting news to the staunch ‘birdies’ but for me, it was extremely interesting.”

    I would say that the staunch ‘birdies’ got that way as a result of experiences like the one you describe. I think it’s really wonderful that your children had that experience and followed the whole nesting right through.

    In the questions and answers at the bottom, I just have a general comment. I have watched the nesting of various birds for a long time and I really don’t believe that touching eggs leads to abandonment. Birds do not have a good sense of smell, they really can’t know that you touched the eggs. Birds, like anything, have very strong parental instincts, and will do whatever they can, without risking themselves to much, to bring up those babies.

    Repeated disturbance of the nest can lead to abandonment, but that’s only due to the birds fear of predation (i.e. they think you will eat them or their babies because you are there to much) and therefor may abandon because they think the nesting location is now unsafe.

    When viewing a nest with kids, my feeling is to let the birds get use to our presence by not even showing the kids at first (okay, mine are younger, and may disturb the nest to much.) Then, let them see the whole nest, even touch the eggs. But only once. Then leave it alone most of the time. It’s presence at the nest rather than touching, which leads to problems, not only abandonment, but also predations (like a cat seeing where you keep peering and the see the birds getting upset.)

    Thanks for a great story. It’s a great example of what it takes to develop a fascination for nature.

  2. These bulbuls tend to venture from the nest at a very very young age. In my lifetime I have seen quite a few chicks out of the nest and thinking that they will never fly at that stage, only to find the bugger manage to fly well enough to gain height.

    Parents are pretty good at training or encouraging the chick to fly with food offerings

  3. I believe the same pair will be back again. There is a nest below my block. I have seen at least 3 batches for chicks from this nest. These birds are also pretty territorial. So I guess any would be neighbours would be shown the door too.

    These birds also like to have located their nests where they can have a good all round view of as they approach it. When I was a kid, they nested in a small 3m tall juniper tree in our garden. It was the only tree there. But the parents perched on any high point 360 degrees around nest would have a very good view of the place.

    As for the round nest, don\’t discount what the beak can do. It can do much finer work than our own hands. Take a look a the weaver birds nests.

    I am lucky that for this current nest downstairs, I can approach it pretty much without the birds noticing. After the mother flies away, its perch is also not in good view of the nest and I am hidden by the bushes. So my kids and I were able to remove the eggs to have a look at them before putting them back. Even the chicks. But if the chicks are too old and they are able to make distress calls, then that would be too much of stress on the parents. They might abandon the nest and may not even use it again. The fact that they keep coming back to the same nest means that they are pretty happy with the place so far.

    We have decided to adopt one chick this time round. It is doing very well with meal worms and grapes. It has not imprinted on its parents yet so it is very very attached to us.

    We also rescued another fledgling that probably had an accident flying into the window. Although it is now feeding well and recovering. It is very fierce and will bite and attack my hand violently when feed it. At least it has regained strenght and that is a good sign that it is recovering. It was dehydrated and very weak when we took it in last over the weekend. I suspect that it has a broken or dislocated wing. Even then it was very very fierce. It will never be a tame bird and we hope it will recover well enough to go back to the wild.

    As for the other chick. It might get used to us, but eventually we will keep the cage door open so that it has the option to return to the wild when it is comfortable.

    Progress is blogged at

  4. I am from Kerala , India.Almost same experience like urs .Two bulbuls visited our home and set up their nest inside the house between the grill and pane of my window.And two eggs are already laid.Wating for the eggs to hatch.

  5. Just had the same experience. Its so interesting and we enjoyed watching the whole process. Its now gone after chick started it’s first flight on Day 13. We really miss it so much. Keeping the nest which was weaved on top of my hanging fern. Hoping it will return soon.

  6. This is the 2nd time bulbul bird came n added more twigs to old nest .. not sure it’s same bird. Nevertheless 2 eggs were laid. Bigger one hatched after 2-3weeks. Mother bird came back every now n then sometimes bringing food for the chick and sitting trying to hatch the smaller egg. After 1 week still no sign of 2nd egg hatching. Yesterday on checking noticed that 1st chick missing from nest. Looked all over but can’t find missing chick. Next now left with unhatched egg. Why did mother bird come back? What happened to the other chick… still no feather.

  7. It’s happening in my garden right now in Mumbai, India. A Bulbul pair laid eggs which have hatched. My big worry is keeping my pet cat at bay! He gets all fluffed up and threatening at the sight of the parent birds and keeps eyeing the nest. It’s become a full time task for me. Am worried about the point at which the little ones start trying to fly. They will be so vulnerable. Hope I can see them fly off safe and sound. Please wish us luck. Watching the birds in action has been a great joy – we feel part of a miracle. Nature is so beautiful and generous.

  8. We have a small garden patch in front of our ground floor flat in Gurgaon India.We have a grape vine and I use the vine to cover our frond varandah for protection from the Indian summer sun.By now we have hosted 5 Bulbul nesting s in our grape vines:
    last to last year one nesting and three eggs hatched
    last year we had one nesting and three eggs hatched
    current year already two nestings and 6eggs laid and 3hatched,Surprisngly another nesting is happening and hopefully three more Bulbuls will be added to nature.
    I t feels so good!

  9. We had a Bulbul and a bird called Spartan Munia nesting on our ficus plants for almost 14 years. We changed 5 houses in that period in the same city but different locations. The distances were around 30 km. Away. I still don’t know if it is the same pair or different pair of the same variety. But yeah, we consider it lucky. Right now I have an Indian parrot nesting in one of our air conditioning in let and a Bulbul building her nest. Very excited!

  10. Hi, I am Vinay from Bangalore. Right now Bulbul birds have laid eggs in our garden, righy next to our door, its been a week. Waiting for eggs to hatch and see how it grows. Excited!! 🙂

  11. The same thing happened with me today.. The baby bulbul keeps on flying in my rooms whenever we take it to her nest… But today was something other day. The baby flew in my rooms gaining toppest height of the room.. I thought this is her time. I opened a window and she flew off and flew for 10 seconds and then again sat on a road lonely road. It was around 50 mtrs from my house.. I thought this is her time.. I grabbed him with two fingers took him near a tree and he flew off disappearing in the green bushes.. The was so heart breaking for me.. I mean she just left us😕😢.. By the way her parents were watching😁.. And now they are chipping out loudly with their baby…

  12. The adults will always be around their recently fledged chick. The chick may look like it needs help from us but do not interfere as the adults will always look after the chick. Happy ending!

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