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.
A Black-headed Bulbul at Bukit Brown.
Swallowing the fig whole.
A Black-headed Bulbul on a fig tree feasting on ripened figs.
Taken at Bukit Brown on 8 October 2011.
A Black-headed Bulbul perching on a tree brach at Macritchie Reservoir.
A Black-headed Bulbul with a recently caught spider that it carried away soon after.
Wells (2007), The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula Vol 2
Lim KS (2009), The Avifauna of Singapore
Early this morning, I made a walk to Jelutong Tower to meet up with a friend who came back for a short visit.
On the way to the tower, there were calls of the Brown Hawk-Owl, Short-tailed Babblers, Asian Fairy-bluebird and the Chestnut-winged Babbler. At the tower itself, there were the usual Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers, Van Hasselt’s Sunbird and the Crimson Sunbird. But the first bird that caught my photographic interest was the Banded Woodpecker (Picus miniaceus) that was calling away loudly.
Just after it flew off, a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus sumatranus) flew past the tower landing nearby.
(Chestnut-bellied Malkoha with an obvious chestnut-coloured belly!)
My last bird at the tower was the Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo (Surniculus lugubris). It was perched momentarily at an interesting branch and was calling loudly.
(Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo with the distinctive white nape patch)
Soon it flew off, but in the process it was mobbed by bulbuls. The pattern was repeated at the next perch and the following one after that. The bulbuls really did not like the presence of the cuckoo. For good reason too. The Yellow-vented Bulbuls1 and the Olive-winged Bulbuls2 are known brood host of the Drongo-Cuckoo. To protect their own nesting, they mob the cuckoo whenever they are seen.
(Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo calling loudly)
After the excitement of the tower, I had a brief walk at the boardwalk. No interesting birds to report, so instead I photographed another Banded species. This time, a Banded Imperial (Eooxylides tharis distanti) butterfly.
1. Photo by Alan Ng
2. Avifauna Volume 24 pg 17
A day-flying moth. Taken at Macritchie Reservoir, August 2012.