Taxonomic name: Pycnonotus cafer (Linnaeus, 1766)
Common names: bulbul à ventre rouge (French), bulbul cafre (French), red-vented bulbul (English), Rußbülbül (German)
Organism type: bird
Pycnonotus cafer (red-vented bulbul) is a noisy, gregarious bird distinguished by a conspicuous crimson patch below the root of the tail. It is aggressive and chases off other bird species and may also help to spread the seeds of other invasive species. It is an agricultural pest, destroying fruit, flowers, beans, tomatoes and peas. It occurs naturally from Pakistan to southwest China and has been introduced to many Pacific Islands, where it has caused serious problems by eating fruit and vegetable crops, as well as nectar, seeds and buds.
Pycnonotus cafer (red-vented bulbul) is about 8.25 inches in length (Berger, 1972) and weighs between 26 and 45 grams (Long, 1981). In general it is dark and is crested (Pratt, 1987) with a white abdomen and rump and is crimson under the tail coverts (Berger, 1981). The immature bird is like the adult except there is some brownish edging on the feathers (Hawai'i Audubon Society, 1993). The red-vented bulbul is larger than the red-whiskered bulbul (P. jocosus) (Berger, 1981)
The male and female are similar in appearance, although the male tends to be slightly larger, (Stuart & Stuart 1999, in Vander Velde, 2002). "It is usually found in trees (Kumar & Bhatt 2000), a quick flyer with a flight that is recognisable by being somewhat bouncy rather than even." (Vander Velde, 2002) "The nest is cup-shaped, made of plant matter, with spider webs binding the outside. It is lined with soft material. In it are laid 2 to 5 pale pink to reddish eggs marked with darker spots and streaks. There are often two to three broods each year. When not breeding, they tend to form large flocks and gather together in communal roosts. (Islam & Williams 2000)" (Vander Velde, 2002)
agricultural areas, natural forests, planted forests, scrub/shrublands, urban areas
Pycnonotus cafer (red-vented bulbuls) live around secondary growth and shrub, cultivation, parks and gardens. They are also found in forest and agricultural areas. (Dept. of Agriculture - WA)
Pycnonotus cafer (red-vented bulbuls) are reported to destroy fruits, flowers, beans, tomatoes, peas and ripe fruit (e.g. bananas and other soft fruits), (Dept. of Agriculture - WA undated). They may also help in the spread of seeds of other invasive species.
Introduction pathways to new locations
Seafreight (container/bulk): Islam and Williams (2000) describe the red-vented bulbul as nesting in some very unorthodox locations within its native range, including the motor of a ceiling fan and the end of a curtain rod, both within buildings. It could even be speculated that a pair of birds could have constructed a nest in a container on a ship that was readying to come to the Marshalls. (Vander Velde, 2002)
Ship: A fishing boat, originating from an Asian or another Pacific Islands country where the red-vented bulbul is established, could have brought some birds with them. (Vander Velde, 2002)
Local dispersal methods
Escape from confinement: In most parts of the Pacific, introduction is usually blamed on the release, either intentional or accidental, of caged birds. (Meyer 1997, Williams 1983, in Vander Velde, 2002)
Preventative measures: In March 1977, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that Pycnonotus cafer (red-vented bulbuls) be added to the list of injurious species that should not be imported into the United States without a special permit, (Dept. of Agriculture - WA undated).
Pycnonotus cafer (red-vented bulbul) consumes fruits (e.g. bananas, lychees and papaya), berries, insects, flower nectar, seeds and buds, (Dept. of Agriculture - WA undated). "Its primary food is berries and fruit. It is known to also eat plant buds, flowers, but it will also eat insects and small lizards (Islam & Williams 2000) and will come to sugar water. (Ralph 1984)" (Vander Velde, 2002)
Pycnonotus cafer (red-vented bulbuls) are known to breed year round (Hawai'i Audubon Society, 1993), with a peak between January and October (Berger, 1981). The birds can have up to three broods per season (Long, 1981). At any one time about two to four eggs are laid (Hawai'i Audubon Society, 1993). The eggs are pinkish-white base colour and are profoundly blotched with purplish brown (Berger, 1981). The nest is cup-shaped and made of rootlets and sometimes cobwebs (Long, 1981). The incubation period is about 14 days (Berger, 1981)." (Shehata, 1996)
This species has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst" invaders
Reviewed by: Nancy Vander Velde . Biological Consultant. Majuro The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI)
Principal sources: Nancy Vander Velde, 2002. The Red-vented bulbul has come to Micronesia. Aliens - Number 16 2002. ISSN: 1173-5988 (ISSG)
Compiled by: IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
Last Modified: Sunday, 19 August 2007