The sooty-headed bulbul

Writer: Isaac Cohen   |  Editor: Liu Minxia  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

Two sooty-headed bulbuls, siblings from a clutch, rest on a tree branch by the Dasha River in Nanshan District. Photos by Isaac Cohen

The sooty-headed bulbul

Following up on last weekend’s species, one more member of the bulbul family is yet to be described. The beautiful sooty-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster) is a medium-sized bird measuring 20 centimeters. It has a beautiful black cap that crosses over the eyes and has white patches on the cheeks. Below the black cap, the bird has an attractive ash gray coloration that covers the entirety of its body. The wings are a darker gray, as is its tail, which, however, ends with a white tip. They are a delight to observe when in flight.


A sooty-headed bulbul rests on a rock in Shenzhen Bay Park. 

The Latin name of the animal, aurigaster, comes from the word meaning “golden belly,” referring to a golden coloration on the underbelly of their youngsters. It darkens with the passing days and turns into a reddish coloration. The bill is black, as are the legs.


A sooty-headed bulbul rests on a rock in Shenzhen Bay Park. 

This fascinating bird is widely distributed across the city, especially in the parks or near rivers. It is easily spotted across the Dasha River Corridor, where it feeds on basically anything available. They are opportunistic predators and considered to be a generalist species, which explains their solid adapting capabilities.


Its breeding season runs from March to July in our city, where it lays up to four eggs per clutch.


A sooty-headed bulbul rests on a rock in Shenzhen Bay Park. 

The trio of bulbuls, this one along with the red-whiskered bulbul and the light-vented bulbul, are decorating our beautiful city with their magnificence. Let’s keep working to preserve the natural environment so that our local species can thrive.