The Bird of the Week – Week 103 – Dark-capped bulbul

The Dark-capped bulbul used to be known as the Black-eyed bulbul, which made a lot of sense as it is really only the colour of the eyes and the eye-rings that distinguishes it from the Red-eyed bulbul. Nevertheless, it is now known as the Dark-capped bulbul in spite of the fact that the Red-eyed bulbul (now known as the African red-eyed bulbul) also has a dark cap.

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In the southern African region the range of the Dark-capped bulbul is restricted to the wetter east and north. In northern Namibia, along the Kunene River, its range overlaps that of the Red-eyed bulbul and hybrids of the two are known to occur. They are common throughout most of their range and frequent almost all areas, including suburban parks and gardens.

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The Dark-capped bulbul has predominantly grayish-brown upper parts and white under parts, with its head being darker and the breast also being grayish-brown. Its vent is bright yellow; eyes are dark brown; the short bill, legs and feet are black. The sexes are alike in plumage colouration and the males are slightly larger than the females, with a length of approximately 20 cm.

Dark-capped bulbuls feed mainly on fruit, but also on insects, which they may catch while in flight, and nectar. They are usually found in pairs or in small groups. They are quite conspicuous birds and are often to be seen perched atop a small bush or post.

Dark-capped bulbul

Dark-capped bulbuls are monogamous and build a neat cup nest of dried grass and twigs which they usually conceal very well in thick foliage. The female lays a clutch of two or three brown-speckled eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 15 days. Their nests are sometimes parasitized by the Jacobin cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus).

Dark-capped bulbul

The scientific binomial for the Dark-capped bulbul is Pycnonotus tricolor; Pycnonotus from the Greek for “thick back”, apparently a reference to the thickly feathered backs of these birds; and tricolor from the Latin for “three colours”. Thus a bird in three colours with a thickly feathered back, which can really only be a useful description if you have the bird in hand.

Dark-capped bulbul

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