The Black-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus atriceps) is a species of South-east Asian bulbul that is considered a rare resident bulbul species in the forest of Singapore. They have never been seen in large numbers, yet have persisted over the years.
Currently, the main flock is restricted to the Central Catchment Nature Reserves as well as the adjacent Bukit Brown cemetery area. There have been a single sighting at Pasir Ris Park recently, although their origin from the bird trade cannot be ruled out, as previous presumed escapees were found in Pulau Ubin, Sungei Buloh and Botanic Gardens (Lim KS 2009). Having said that, (Wells 2007) reported that they may have wandering behaviour.
There is however one place at Bukit Brown that the bulbuls have been regularly seen, Bukit Brown. A particular fig tree there had regularly attracted the bulbuls when the fruits are in season. I had the opportunity to observe a small flock of 3-4 birds eating the figs. They hungrily devour these figs whole and picked only the reddest, most ripe ones.
Another encounter was a single bird at the Macritchie boardwalk where it was observed hunting repeatedly for food among the tall grass that grew at the bank of the reservoir. Upon closer inspection, it was discovered that it was hunting for spiders. At least a pair were reported there for extended period of time. The hunting for and carrying away nutrient-dense spiders suggest that there was breeding nearby but we could not locate the nest. Little is known on the breeding habits locally, due to the scarcity of records.
The Black-headed Bulbul is considered nationally threatened and they are seldom seen by anyone in Singapore, other than the committed birder. However we believe that with more eyes and better identification, we can track them better and get a more accurate distribution map and count. This will be a first step in conserving this species locally.
Wells (2007), The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula Vol 2
Lim KS (2009), The Avifauna of Singapore