A Yellow-vented Bulbul chick fell from above…

on 13th August 2013

“I have recently ‘acquired’ a Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) chick that dropped out or was evicted from its nest – I suspect due to nest robbery by crows or koels nearby. I estimate it to be about 3 days old, eyes were still shut. That was on 11th July 2013, nearly 4 weeks ago.

“I found the empty nest up in the tree and placed it there and kept watch for any signs of it’s parents… to no avail. I brought it in, nest and all when a storm broke about a couple of hours later.

“I have since been feeding and caring for it and it has grown into a juvenile and has imprinted on us – my two daughters and wife have been helping out. I bought a large cage and kept it in and on a daily basis took it out to my room to ‘play’ with it. It does try to fly, up to our (stationary) fan, on top of our cupboards, etc but invariably would fly to us and perch itself on our heads or shoulders.

“I feed it mealworms, fruits (he loves papayas, mangoes, rambutans, also apples, bananas… things we think it would have access to in the wild, excuse the apple) as well as soaked puppy biscuits and hard boiled chicken eggs for protein and vitamins as recommended by a knowledgeable friend.

“It has been doing well, we even take Bullet (our name for it) to our bathroom and give it a small water dish for it’s bird bath. It’s fascinating to see it splashing around and we get wet watching it. Then I would put it back into the cage and take it outside to sun dry and keep watch against any crows or koels that may want to attack it.

“Any inputs, advice and suggestions from you and your readers would be a great help. I am happy to send you some pictures of Bullet…”

Ch’ng Geam Liang
Penang, Malaysia
7th August 2013

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

32 Responses

  1. I desperately need your help,

    a family of yellow-vented bulbul nested at my house and a storm came and destroyed the nest.

    For 2 days the parents came back but since today the parents have gone MIA.

    I’ve been told it’s impossible to care for it, but you succeeded.

    Mine’s still a nestling as well, could you please tell me how you cared for it and if I can’t, who can I turn to for help?

    Thank you

    1. Dear Ri et al,
      Firstly, I’m sorry but I’m from Penang… not Singapore. Not sure what this might mean but in response to Ri (and you should check out Chiu San’s article on feeding baby YVBs although I’ve yet to read it) allow me to share what me and my daughters did. Firstly we figured that it needed warmth (when I took it down from the nest with its parents ‘no show’ and when it started to storm – it would not have survived that stormy night on its own) so I placed it back into its nest, added some old (washed) socks to trap heat, placed everything into a shoe box and added warmth by placing a reading lamp (fixed on an incandescent bulb) over the lamp and placing a cardboard to block out the light but not the warmth – I suspect such a strong light would harm the chick’s yet-to-open eyes. There wasn’t much to be done that night, so we waited till next morning to get some advice and suitable bird feed from a nearby ‘fish and bird’ store. Ended up with some chicken feed! We mixed it with water and smoothen out the lumps and took a blunt pair of pincer (I would recommend plastic ones, which you can ‘shape’ to resemble adult Bulbul beak) and fed the chick with it. It takes a lot of patience, ‘chirping’, prodding, and when it finally opened its beak – we found out that if you tap or slightly move the nest it will auto-trigger the chick to rear up and open its mouth. I suspect (with eyes not yet open) this is how the chick in nature would detect the return of its parents with food… So we fed it.. almost round the clock. From hindsight I would say, every 20-30 mins based on what we have experienced. Yup, momma and papa bird has a handful! it’s good that my daughters (one goes to school in the morning, the other in the afternoon) can take turn and my wife chips in while I’m away at the office. Will stop here… this should tide you over for a couple of days at least… before you ‘add’ meal worms to the menu. BUT remove the heads first as it might hurt the gut of the bird. In the wild, the parent would hold the worm in its beak and flick it against a branch or any hard surface to kill/quash it before feeding it to the chicks… I happen to have a handy pair of mini shears so, it’s blunt tweezer + shears.

    2. Dear Ri (my mtg was pushed out by 30 mins so I can write a bit more)
      If you are successful in keeping the chick alive by feeding it (would suggest that you get bird feed vs chicken feed – I now know better) and adding bits of cut fruit – mine loves papayas and mangoes and since I have a rambutan tree in fruit, he gets lots of rambutans as well. Recently we added custard apple (back garden) and some nangka (purchased). Bullet (that’s what we call our baby Bulbul..) somehow don’t quite like bananas.
      OK. Bird poop. We observe that upon being fed, the chick would rear up and poop into the nest so I’d suggest while you feed you also should do some waste disposal – use a different and separate tweezer or whatever, else the poor chick would be literally wallowing in its own s***! It’s fascinating to watch as the chick grows bigger, at one point it’s length is almost equal to the size of it’s nest (I can’t imagine 2 or 3 chicks squashed together in the same nest) but upon attaining that size, when it rears up to poop, the poop falls OUTSIDE of the nest – that’s when we figured the size of the nest is such because of or at least in part due to waste disposal needs. Feeding can be messy. 1 out of 3 times, the feed don’t get into the mouth and falls inside the nest. I try to pick up after but it’s gooey stuff and when dried it becomes sandy and grainy and soon, the bottom of the nest is filled with it. One day, about 10 days into this, I asked my daughter to pick up the chick while I took the nest outside and ’empty it out’ – gave it a good shake and all the uneaten grub and stuff fell out.. then we put it back. You have to take care of they hygiene as well. Wash all the pincers, your hands, etc.. Don’t give water. It gets enough through the fruits but until it takes fruits, you may dribble a few drops into its mouth – at least, that’s what we did. I actually got a small syringe but then thought better of it as I figured the mother bird wouldn’t have done that…at some point I find myself thinking like a mother bird… =D

        1. BESG – Thanks! I learn something more today about waste disposal. So I guess what I stumbled upon by accident is already part of what the parent birds would be naturally doing in any case… valuable info for those who are caring for chicks.

  2. Dear Ri and Ch’ng,

    In the “Search” box at the top of this website, type “Angry Bird”. This will open an earlier post of mine. Open the post, and click on the first LINK. It will then re-direct you to a comprehensive article on feeding baby birds, with specific reference to Yellow Vented Bulbuls.

  3. Dear commentators on this post.

    Chicken feed is quite acceptable as a diet for certain types of baby birds, among them YVB. Good quality chicken feed is well formulated, and if it is deficient, you can be sure that the chicken farmers will make their feelings felt to the manufacturer. Trouble is, chicken feed is a low-cost product, and bird shops do not sell large quantities of it. Since it is often not stored carefully, what you get is often stale and has few nutrients. Smell the chicken feed before you buy it. If it smells like bread or corn, it is OK. If it smells stale or musty, or there is dust or what look like spider webs in it, reject.

    1. Bullet has now been with us for 5 weeks – since July 11. Things are more or less settled into a routine until yesterday when both my daughters packed up and went for a 3-day camp. I’m at work and my wife is always in and out of the house. I’ve bought a packet of bird feed (got the ‘best’ one in the shop… i think)earlier this week and I’ve added this to the feeding receptacle that is hung at the side of the cage. While I continue to feed him meal worms (decapitated), soaked puppy/dog biscuits, fruits (small bits of papaya, banana, duku, nangka, rambutans), the occasional hard-boiled egg (he doesn’t like it, so far only successful in feeding him the egg white, not the yolk) and even a cricket (he doesn’t know how to eat it… relatively big actually although I’ve squashed it before putting it in the cage) I’m now concerned if I’ve done more harm than good. I’m sure he does feed by himself but am just not sure if he eats enough coz when I get back from work, I feed him before I do anything else – and he eats as though he is famished. Up to 8, sometimes 10 meal worms and pieces of fruit before he withdraws. I’ve ‘hung’ ripe bananas, placed papayas, cable-tied half open rambutans to the cage but he doesn’t seem to eat them although I do see his beak marks on some of these fruits – I remove them after half a day. Any ideas how to train a Bulbul to feed itself?

  4. Many aviculturalists know that baby birds can become free-loading bums that refuse to learn how to feed themselves. Yes, some pet owners think that it is very cute to have birds that demand to be hand fed even when they are up to a year old, but you are not doing yourself or the bird any favours by this.

    How to wean a baby bird? First – make sure that it is old enough to be weaned. Forcing birds to wean when they are not ready will result in underweight and undersized adults with poor plumage. I would continue hand feeding a baby bird a bit longer than necessary, but not forever. Look at the corners of the mouth. Wean it only when all traces of fleshiness are gone from the corners of the beak, and the beak itself is hard and horn-like.

    For a bulbul, papaya is a very good, but very messy, weaning food. Cut a slice of papaya, smear it with a liberal amount of the dry food that you have been feeding to the baby, and hang it as close as you can to the perch, so that the baby bird can easily reach it. Keep this up for a few days, and be prepared to have bits of papaya splattered all over the place.

    When it starts to peck readily at the papaya, the next step is to cut small pieces of the fruit, and offer it in a cup together with the dry food. When the bird starts eating this mash, you can slowly reduce the amount of fruit until it is eating mainly dry food.

    A word of warning. Whatever else the bird shop operators tell you – softbilled birds (and that includes YVB) CANNOT live on a diet of only dry food. Zoo keepers, serious bird breeders and aviculturalists will tell you that this will lead to eventual kidney failure, maybe not immediately, but in two or three years, which means that the bird lives only a quarter of its natural lifespan.

    You must offer fruit and some animal protein. Yes, that makes the droppings messy, but it’s something you have to do if you want to take proper care of the bird.

  5. Hey! It was so useful to read the article! But please tell me how can we judge that the bird is alright if it’s poop is a little bit like a mucous? And what can we feed it if it’s too small and has not open its eyes yet?

    1. Many birds excrete poop that appears mucous-like. We should not judge bird’s poop based on ours. First and foremost, one should never remove young birds and bring it home to “care for”. Unless of course it is injured. When encountering a “helpless” young bird, place it away from direct access to potential predators like above ground. Its parents will be around to care for it. Having said that, if you have such a bird in your care, you need to feed it soft food like fruits… And should you succeed in raising it until it can fly off, you are doing potential predators a great favour. The helpless bird will not be able to recognise danger and fly off – its parents are not around to guide it through its early life. Invariable it will be food for such predators.

  6. hello friend, I found a baby red vented bulbul, he is healthy, loving and active. he is more than 1 month old (I don’t know the exact age) , just wanted to know what should be the maximum weight of a baby bird and an adult bird? and when he will learn to fly?
    thank you 🙂

    1. Sorry, I have no idea about the maximum weight of the bird at different ages. When will it learn to fly? When the wing feathers are fully developed. Since you have the bird, why not you take note and let us know later?

  7. A RVB laid 3 eggs in my house a while back.
    Almost been 5 days since the babies have hatched out. I tried to click the babies today while the bird was away. While I was up clicking, the bird came back and kind of freaked out. It has been around 6 hours since this happened. The bird hasn’t com back yet. This is the longest it has been.

  8. Hello. I’m angelina,
    I just want to know, how to feed a baby yellow-vented bulbul.
    I found it yesterday and the mother wants her nestling back,but I don’t know how to give it to her. Because the nestling can’t really fly that high. So I was thinking to take care of the baby bird and feed it. How did u feed them with fruits and egg? Did you do something to it, so it can eat it properly?
    Thank you.

    1. Give the nestling back to the mother. Place it in a box raised up, somewhere near where you found it so that wandering cats etc. cannot reach it. The mother will feed and care for it. However, you can feed it soft fruits, worms, small insects, that you have taken it from the mother. Once it is strong (and fat) enough to fly. Then some predator will say thank you after catching and eating it! The mother can teach the baby to recognise and avoid predators. But in caring for it you did not do so (or cannot). So it becomes vulnerable to predators. People should never pick up a baby bird on the ground and bring it home. Just place it somewhere up and away from the path… and let the parents take over…

  9. A rescued common bulbul, almost a month old, has started walking on both of its fibula. Though it is active, eating well and hops around the place, it cannot fly. I fear as the fibula is not meant to bear body weight, it might worsen further. Please advise how to treat this.

      1. Hi BESG, thanks for replying. I hd shown it to a vet who prescribed calcivet as calcium supplement and some vitamin supplements citing undernourishment. Also it has no feathers on its belly, flank and its tail is not growing properly. Claws in one leg has started twisting against each other. The vet is ruling out fracture as a reason for its abnormal walking behaviour. On such a small bird cn xray be done? Whats the method to find out it hs fractured its legs? Please advise what all can i feed it and how can i comfort it as in nesting or bedding. I may need another vet.

  10. To anyone out there, I would appreciate some advice. I have been caring for a yellow vented bulbul since it was a few days old (a squirrel destroyed its nest and it was found on the floor). Since growing up, it has been communicating to the other YVBs in the area. The YVB is about a year old now, and today it flew away (it’s wings are slightly clipped).

    I am wondering its chances of survival and whether it would be able to find a mate? Thanks.

  11. Human rearing of bridling, away from its parents, usually end in tragedy. Firstly, there is no one to teach the bird how to look for food, how to recognise and evade potential predators, etc. Invariable the bird, once released, will be predated. Unfortunately this is the way it is. Nature can be cruel at times.

  12. I grew a Baby Bulbul The parents had built a nest on my roof and 2 out of 3 eggs hatched, when the two chicks were ready to fly from the nest the last egg hatched .The parents had enough to see to with the two chicks flying into all kind of dangers and abandoned the last one. I took it and fed it.Mainly flies. The way to catch flies is using a transparent Sandwich plastic bag.Turn it upside down and hold it over a resting flie . The flie will fly into the bag. I kill the flie when the chick is very tiny, like one or two days old. But it will only eat it alive when it gets older. But this is the best and natural food for them. If you don’t have any flies. Put out a small piece of meat, after few minutes a big flie will come. I did catch all kind of flies for my Bulbul chick and it grew from that. I fed it every 5 minutes in the beginning. It decides when it is hungry and when not .I only kill the flies when it is hungry- They can stay alive 4-5 hours in the plastic bag. You can see pictures of my bulbul on the Internet But writing NYP Bulbul in google images. I went in and outdoors with it so it got used to being outdoors, I wanted it to be wild. I left the windows open so it could fly in and out also. It would come when I called it. It is good with a short name because it is easier to remember for the bird. It still comes visiting almost every second day.But it is not tame any longer and will only come as close as 1 meter from me. A way to keep the chick warm at night is letting it sleep on a plastic water bucket that has lukewarm water in it. I change the bucket at night so it doesn’t get cooled too much down.When the chick is very young I carry it in my hand all day long, They have a higher temperature than us. And after eating well, their temperature goes up. You can check if the baby bird gets the right type of food.The stool should come out like in a little transparent bag. If it is too watery or to hard it is a problem. If the chick is only one or two days old it might not have learned to shit yet, so you should after giving it food, massage the anal lips with a wet ear stick to make it wanting to defecate! I have 3 cats now and the new little Bulbul chick a nephew brought me 3 days ago is 4 days old. I let the cats smell it ,but not touch it.So they wont be too curious or Jealousy. It was a problem with my first Bulbul chick to teach it to be afraid of Cats. But it finally learned it by me shouting like an angry bird each time my cat came close. I also worried that my first bird would land on some stranger and he would hit it or steal it. So I had to scream this warning sounds each time it came close to an unknown person. But it learned well and is a happy bird today I believe. It comes with a spouse and greets me with a special sound and waving the wings in a special way, I have never seen another bird do. I think of my old and new bird as good luck for both of us. It takes much work, 2-3 weeks but after that you will feel very happy that you did it because they are so sweet and affectionate. Mine liked to sit on my shoulder under my ear.And it would nibble and pick on my hair.Or try to pull of my gold chain. It would pick at absolutely everything in my home, being extremely curious. At one time it ate a bee that stung it inside the neck. I thought my bird would died .NYP got totally purple all over and the neck swelled up ,then it got very weak and kind of fainted, but 2-3 hours later it got well again. The grown up birds live from bees and get immune to the bites. But first time was scary! They also eat fruits but you should read about which kind to give the bird and cheek it’s stools after feeding it.
    Good luck to all of you who start with small chicks.

  13. There’s so much to read…i too have adopted a nestling which turned out to be a yellow vented bulbul. His/her parents abandoned her n flew off with her 2 other sibling chicks. She has been with me n my family for abt 1 month n a half now. She has been a delight…now a juvenile (*i think thats what u call it) she will call out to us when we leave her sight. I live in SG i wonder what’s their lifespan like? Wd love to connect with others who hve such birds.

  14. The bulbuls that are frequently kept by aviculturalists are known to live for between 8 to 12 years. These include the Red Whiskered, the Red Vented, and the Straw-headed bulbuls.

  15. Hi,
    About 10 days ago, we saved a pair of the yellow vented bulbul chicks from being eaten by crow.
    My guess is they were about 3~5 days old before we took them in (together with their nest).
    We intend to let them go once they are old enough to fly away and fend for themselves.

    About 3 days ago, the chicks always get out from their nest (maybe they are growing and find the nest is a bit crowded), so we got a small branch and let them stand on it without any problem.

    Yesterday, one of the chick (the bigger one) seems to eat less.
    About a couple of hours ago, while feeding them, it fall off the branch which is about 10″ high from the bottom of the basket that we put them, and I think it hurt itself. Now, it is less active then usual.

    Will it heal itself or am I just worrying too much?

    Thank you.

  16. When birds are young, they should not be put on a branch or anything high that they can fall from. You leave them in a box with paper towels or newspapers on the bottom, and you change the paper whenever it gets soiled. Also, you should (though not always necessary) provide a heat source, as I showed in my article entitled “Angry Bird” on raising baby birds that is on this website.

    As to whether or not the chick will recover, I cannot tell without examining it. Just trust to luck.

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