Few birds can have made such a
contribution to softbill aviculture as
the 120 species belonging to the
bulbul family. They are very hardy
and are quite easy to manage. The
Red-whiskered Bulbul is undemanding
and. makes a perfect bird for the
beginner, while there are also much
rarer species to interest the more
experienced aviculturists.
Bulbuls have a wide distribution
throughout tropical Africa and Asia,
with some species venturing as far
north as China and Japan in the east
and southern Turkey in the west. They
are usually found inhabiting lowland
and hill jungles, gardens and evergreen
forests. Some species ascend
the mountains to about 13,000 feet
where they are often found moving
through the trees in mixed species
flocks with small babblers. Some species
are very familiar, living in parks
and gardens, while others are very
secretive living in dense forests.
The African bulbuls are just as common
as their Asian cousins in the wild
but appear to be much rarer in captivity.
The exporters from Africa tend to
concentrate on the more beautiful
finches and exotic reptiles.
When compared to other softbills
the bulbuls are quite somberly colored,
many have crests and show
shades of brown, olive and yellow.
However, it is their industrious,
inquisitive and friendly nature that
make them so popular in captivity.
Many have pleasant little songs, while
others are quite noisy and chatter constantly.
When not breeding, the
smaller species can be safely housed
with other birds and I have even
housed them with small finches.Some
of the larger species, such as the Black
Bulbul, need to be checked for
aggressiveness in almost any mixed
species flight.
Bulbuls are classified as "fruitbiased
omnivores" and will thrive on a
diet that includes various soft fruits,
berries, soaked mynah pellets, insectile
mix and insects. Some fanciers
argue that they are frugivores and only 

require fruit, however, I feel they
would all suffer from malnutrition if
maintained purely on fruit for any
extended length of time. They do not
like descending to the ground so all
food and water should be offered
from a platform a few feet up.
Members of this family are among
the easiest softbills to breed but they
should not be compared to the seedeaters.
Although their breeding stimuli
are still largely unknown, more information
will hopefully become available
as more aviculturists specialize
with this family. One major problem is
that they are almost impossible to sex
visually. As a general rule, the males
are slightly larger and broader than
their mates. This is not a very reliable
method as it does not take into
account the various subspecies.
When serious breeding is attempted,
it is best to house each pair
separately in a planted aviary. As the
male displays he can be seen sitting
next to his mate with his crest held
down against his head and with his
wings and tail lowered. The sound he
makes could be likened to the
"meow" of a cat. If they are housed
with smaller birds, in the breeding
season the male bulbul may become
overly aggressive and if they are
housed with larger birds they are
often intimidated themselves.
My bulbuls have always built a
shallow nest near the aviary roof
(about seven feet up). The nest is a
loose structure consisting of grass and
coconut fibre. There are some reports
of nest boxes being used, but this has
not been the case in my experience.
The two or three, sometimes four, offwhite
eggs are almost one inch long
with the blunt end being covered in
dark reddish markings. The hen does
most of the incubating but the male
may relieve her occasionally. The
brooding bird lies very low in the nest
with its crest held flat against the head
and may easily be overlooked.
The eggs hatch after 12 to 14 days.
For the first two or three days the
adults will feed only livefood which is
swallowed and then regurgitated to
the chicks. From three days onwards
the livefood is carried back to the nest
in the parent's bill and is fed direct to
the chicks. Large quantities of suitable
livefood (mealworms, crickets, caterpillars,
etc.) should be supplied at this
time. The young develop quickly and
fledge after two weeks. At this time

they are being fed the adult diet and
remain dependent on their parents for
another 2-1/2 weeks. When they are
independent they should be removed
from the breeding aviary before they
are attacked by the adult male. Two or
three nests in a season are not
The following paragraphs contain
descriptions and other information on
some of the interesting members of
this family.
Red-whiskered Bulbul
(Pycnonotus jocosus)
Eight inches long; bill black; head
and crest black; cheeks white with a
red ear patch superimposed; upperparts
brownish grey; throat white;
undertail coverts red; legs and feet
dark grey. Sexes similar.
This common bulbul has five different
races coming from India. Three
have white tips to their tail while the
others lack these markings. It is the
most frequently bred member of this
family and usually raises its young
without too much difficulty. They are
very hardy and can overwinter with
minimal heat. Other names: Red-eared
Red-vented Bulbul
(Pycnonotus cafer)
Eight inches long; bill black; crest
and throat black; cheeks brown;
upperparts and breast dark brown, the
feathers are edged with white which
gives a scale-like appearance; abdomen
white; vent area red; legs and feet
dark grey. Hen is slightly duller.
Another ideal softbill for the beginner,
they are very hardy and easily
maintained. These birds are cheerful
and confident, quickly becoming tame
and confiding. Their song is the same
- cheerful and confident - and not too
melodious! This spec-ies may use a
wooden box or basket when breeding.