Dark-capped Bulbul – Pycnonotus tricolor

Reference species – published on 16th of January 2018
See Pycnonotidae family (bulbuls, greenbuls…)
In French: Bulbul tricolore en français


This bird is one of the most abundant of all! In all its range, mainly in Eastern, Southern and central Africa, it is everywhere as long as there are trees. In the lowlands, in the mountains, along rivers, near the sea… all habitats seem to match its requirements. As expected, it is also opportunistic for food. Its melodious and friendly song is heard everywhere, during the whole day et it brings a nice musical ambiance early morning. 


Illustration of Bird-in-tuition method

The family Pycnonotidae is a large family of birds widespread mainly in Asia and Africa. Genus Pycnonotus is grouping many species, but most are allopatric. A country like Uganda (where both top photos were taken) holds dozens of bulbuls of several genera but only one Pycnonotus. Therefore, species of that genus are usually easy to identify while other species can be a nightmare! We have thus rather a “reference genus” here, helping to identify other genera but no further. It is also a perfect representative to discover the family for those who don’t know it yet. On this page, you can see birds of various ages and learn the usual differences in passerines, between young and adult.

Pycnonotus_tricolor9Dark-capped Bulbul is a bird living easily near and in human settlements. As shown on one photo, we can sometimes see active nests in gardens, balconies or along roads. Like for some weavers, redstarts, swiftlets and others, we can approach nest unconsciouly, and this is not a disturbance. However, disturbance of bird in nest is a major problem link to bird photography, involving mainly more sensitive species in remote areas. This is re-opening the debate. Some people wants that photos with nest seen on it to be banned, hoping photographers will stop getting near nests. Others think that disrespectful photographers will still be near nests, but taking photos of parents when they are waiting, panicked, with beakful away from the nest, so there is no reason to refrain taking photos of nests that bird built obivously unhidden.

Taxonomy and sub-species

This bird is complex as its ancestor spread in Africa and Asia recently. There is thus many sub-population with more or less significant differences. It is not easy to decide if those differences are enough to make a different species or not. Even when phenotype is well distinct, like in Cape and African Red-eyed Bulbuls, hybrids can be common. In another hand, very similar species such White-spectacled Bulbul (almost identical but the eye ring) have never been reported to cross-breed, even in contact zone (in Egypt). Taxonomy can therefore evolve again. The one adopted here, following IOC in 2017 is not accepted unanimously. We consider Dark-capped Bulbul with it 3 weakly differenciated sub-species (see comments below the photos) as distinct from Dodson’s, Somali and Garden Bulbuls.


[Species #16 of the Holistic Encyclopedia of Birds project]

List of other species pages: taxonomicalday per day


All photos and text are © Valéry Schollaert and Marinella Mejia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s