Bird of the week – Week 8 : Red-eyed bulbul

The African red-eyed bulbul is near endemic to Southern Africa, its range extending only marginally into southern Angola and Zambia. It is extremely common throughout most of Namibia, with the exception of the Namib Desert, inhabiting savanna grasslands, woodland and riverine bush, farmyards, gardens and orchards, preferring to be near water. Its cheerful call is heard throughout the day as the birds are conspicuous and vocal in pairs or small groups, often calling from the tops of trees.
These bulbuls are smallish birds, the males, at 21 cm in length, are slightly bigger than the females. They are vocal and conspicuous, found usually in pairs or small loose groups; the males often calling from the top of a bush or tree – till-pop-peep-peep-tiddlypop or similar. They are quite distinctive with their black heads and bright orange-red eye rings and lemon-yellow undertails. They forage mostly in trees, seldom on the ground and they often hawk insects in flight. Their diet consists mainly of fruit, nectar, and insects; they drink frequently and in consequence are seldom found too far from water.
Bulbuls are monogamous and the males are territorial, aggressively seeing-off other males during the breeding season. Their nest is a neat cup of dry grass and fine twigs usually built by the female although the male may offer encouragement by singing from a nearby bush. The nest is  usually well above the ground in the fork of a tree or bush and often quite well hidden. A clutch of 2 to 3 eggs is most common and the incubation period is about 12 days. They are regularly parasitised by the Jacobin cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus). The African red-eyed bulbul lives for about four years.
They are quite confiding birds and will often visit campsites and gardens in search of tidbits.
The scientific binomial for the African red-eyed bulbul is Pycnonotus nigricans. Pycnonotus is from the Greek “pyknos”, meaning thick back, probably in reference to their thickly feathered backs, and nigricans from the Latin meaning blackish, apparently referring to the bird’s darkly coloured head. Thus a bird with a thick back and a blackish head. Say what!?!

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