Straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) at Rifle Range Road

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Straw-headed bulbuls, Pycnonotus zeylanicus, are vulnerable passerines of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore, Sumatra and Borneo. Measuring 28 – 29 cm, they are rather large birds and their unique feather patterns make them stand out.  Their melodious water gurgling songs attract trappers who sell them as cage-birds. Their populations are dwindling and concerted conservation efforts are required to prevent the extinction of this attractive song bird.

Sexes are similar although females may be slightly smaller. Primarily frugivorous taking figs, mistletoe fruits, wild ‘cherries’ also known as ‘buah cherry’ in Malaysia and Singapore (Muntingia calabara),fruits of the Ptychosperma macarthurii palm; nectar and flower buds. They are known to take spiders, beetles, bees, caterpillars, stick-insects, snails and small vertebrates like lizards. Young nestlings are fed quite exclusively a diet of protein-rich soft-bodied insects and fruits added to the diet gradually as the little birds get ready to fledge.  The fledglings are fed by their parents for up to a month.

Video by Dr. Leslie Kuek, taken on 16-5-2022, along Rifle Range Road. A pair of straw-headed bulbuls foraging on a Madagascar almond tree (Terminalia mantaly ‘Tricolor’).


  1. Handbook of the Birds of the World Vol. 10 © 1996
  2. Possible association between plantain squirrels and straw-headed bulbul foraging
  3. Straw-headed bulbul feeding chick
  4. Poaching of straw-headed bulbuls

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