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Yellow-vented Bulbul
Pycnonotus goiavier

Merbah Kapur (Malay)

Among the most common birds in Singapore; it is said that it is almost impossible NOT to see Yellow-Vented Bulbuls.

They are found nearly everywhere except in the deep forest. Originally from the mangroves and coastal scrub, they have adapted to become one of the most common birds in cultivated areas (parks, gardens, plantations).

The success of the Yellow-Vented Bulbul is probably due to their wide ranging diet of both plants and animals.

They are fond of berries and small fruits, especially figs and cinnamon tree fruits. They sip nectar, nibble on young shoots, and snack on insects. They forage in bushes and trees for berries and insects, and may even catch swarming insects on the wing.
Mangrove and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Main features: Small (20cm); slight crest; white face; yellow under tail coverts.

Adult: Olive brown crown, nape, underparts; white side of head, eyebrow, throat, belly; lores black; breast whitish streaked brown; black bill, feet, eyes. No white on tail.

Genders look alike.

Juvenile: Sides of head brownish; throat greyish.

Call: Described as a pleasing liquid bubbling chatter; loud harsh alarm call chweit-chweit.

Status in Singapore: Very common resident throughout the island and North and South offshore islands.

World distribution: Southeast Asia from Myanmar to the Philippines and Java. Not found in Australia.

Classification: Family Pycnonotidae. World 137 species, Singapore 10 species (1 introduced).
They also investigate bark for titbits. Unlike other Bulbuls, they forage on the ground, picking grass seeds and titbits, even from roads and pavements.

Yellow-Vented Bulbuls are solitary and feed alone or in pairs, although fruiting trees may attract a flock of them. But they roost in small communities in dense bushes or trees.

Breeding: Yellow-Vented Bulbuls breed widely in Singapore in February to June. Courtship involves wing and song displays. They raise and lower the crown crest as they sing.

Yellow-Vented Bulbuls build well-camouflaged but flimsy, loose, deep, cup-shaped nests. They use grass, leaves, roots, vine stems, twigs. The nest may be untidy on the outside but are neatly lined with plant fibres. They nest in a wide range of places from low bushes, creepers to high trees. They are so used to humans that they may even nest in ornamental plants in residential gardens and even balconies! 2-5 eggs are laid, variable in colour from white to pinkish, with lots of reddish-brown to lavender spots. Both parents incubate and raise the young.

Migration? Yellow-Vented Bulbuls don't migrate seasonally, but they appear to be high nomadic, moving from place to place regularly.

Status and threats: Yellow-Vented Bulbuls have adjusted well to humans and are not at risk. However, as a family, the Bulbuls are at risk. About 30% of the Bulbuls originally found in Singapore are extinct and 40% are at risk. These include the Straw-headed Bulbul (P. zeylanicus), Black-headed Bulbul (P. atriceps), Red-eyed Bulbul (P. brunneus) and Buff-vented Bulbul (Hypsipetes charlotte). This is particularly sad because Bulbuls are not only delightful birds, but also play an important role. As fruit eaters, they disperse the seeds of plants. As insect-eaters, they keep the population of damaging insects under control.

  To buy these references & others, visit
Nature's Niche
  • Morten Strange, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000 (p. 240: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
  • Morten Strange, "Tropical Birds of Malaysia and Singapore", Periplus Editions, 2000 (p. 46: habits, habitat, photo).
  • Lim Kim Seng and Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 107: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
  • G W H Davison and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995 (p. 83: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
  • Morten Strange and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing, 1993 (p. 54: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
  • Clive Briffett, "A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science Centre,1992 (p. 99: habit, habitat).
  • Christopher Hails, "Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 118: habits, description, status in Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1992 (p. 13: status of the family, with more details on individual endangered Bulbuls in the rest of the book).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay names).
  • M W F Tweedie, "Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970 (p. 45: description, distribution, habits, habitat, drawing).
  • G C Madoc, "An Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947 (p. 162-163: description, habits, habitat).
  • Sir John A S Bucknill and E N Chasen, "Birds of Singapore and South-East Asia", Tynron Press, 1927, edition 1990 (p. 181-182: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, field notes on habits, drawings).
  • Dr. Harold G Cogger (et. al), "Encyclopedia of Animals"; Bulbuls and Leafbirds by P A Clancey, 1993 (p. 397-8: habits).
  • Prof. Dr. Yong Hoi Sen (ed.), "The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Animals"; Songbirds by Siti Hawa bt Yatim, Editions Didier Millet, 1998 (p. 46-47: habits, habitats).
By Ria Tan, 2001