White-browed Bulbuls zeroed in on our Java Apples!

Pycnonotus luteolus (White-browed Bulbul) goiavier (Yellow-vented Bulbuls)

[Note: Recently discovered in April 2014 that this bird is actually Pycnonotus goiavier (Yellow-vented Bulbul). Sorry for the wrong ID]

A pair of Yellow-vented bulbuls at our backyardThese lovely birds, commonly found in our tropical country, can teach us humans a thing or two about love and romance! They’re regular visitors to our garden and are always sighted flying in pairs, although distancing a few feet from each other as if on a reconnaissance mission!

Ever watchful and always cautious, they’ll take off at the slightest human movement, action or noise.

So you can just imagine how difficult it was to capture an image of them. Their babbling is loud and is especially louder when one bird senses a meal and babbles to its mate cheerily! Hehe, that’s what I heard and noticed when they zeroed in to attack the juicy fruits of our Java Apple at our backyard!

This last fruiting season had been dismal due to weeks of rainy depressing weather since early March, resulting in lots of fallen Wax Jambu that were about to ripen! Yikes!! On top of that, we noticed that someone had been pinching some fruits. Initially, we thought the starlings were the culprit. We ruled out the Magpies as they prefer all sorts of kitchen scraps and bird foods instead. Then one morning in mid March, I saw the ‘Burung Merbah Kapur’ as are locally known in Malay, nipping at the Jambu fruits! I had never known that these lovely White-browedYellow-vented Bulbul are fruit-eaters. Instantly an idea formed in my mind! God knows how I long I’ve waited to capture an image of a White-browed Yellow-vented Bulbul, so why not use these fruits as baits, I envisaged! Thus, our wax jambu tree became our bird feeder, where semi-ripened as well as ripened fruits (normally wrapped with plastic bag to obstruct the birds feeding on them) were left unwrapped on the tree just to attract these bulbuls and hope to zoom in for a capture!

Weeks of monitoring went by with lots of fruits pecked and vanished, but not a single shot yet! These Pycnonotus luteolus goiavier are really elusive – they seem to know when I’m watching, but the moment I moved away, I hear their loud babbling nearby! Then I’d run hurriedly to the kitchen gate that leads to the backyard where the fruit tree is with my camera and they take flight. Humph!! Gradually, I learnt to be less hurried and excited, to creep slowly forward from the hidden angle and finally on April 9 of Easter Monday, I managed to zoom in on them feasting merrily on the remaining fruits! I was in seventh heaven, :D having resourcefully captured four decent snapshots of these elusive beauties! It was really worthwhile sacrificing all those mouth-watering Java apples after all! In giving, I’ve received my best ever Easter gift! How blessed! Praise The Lord!

Java Apple (Syzygium samarangense / javanicum) as 'Birdfeeder' Yellow-vented bulbul on recce mission Yellow-vented bulbul babbling to its mate to come hither for lunch! Yellow-vented bulbul feasting on the juicy fruits of Wax Jambu

I had always been fascinated with these White-browed Yellow-vented Bulbul! They’re gorgeous creatures indeed! Measuring about 20 cm in length, they have a sort of olive brown crown and nape, white side of head, throat and belly, white breasted with a mix of yellow and lovely brown-tones on their feathery back. Lores, eyes, bill and feet are black. I recalled us having a lush and bushy 8 feet Dracaena Surculosa plant more than 15 years ago that really attracted the attention of a pair of these birds! And we had the pleasure of seeing them actually built their nest with small branches and twigs there on at least 3 occasions. Then the hen lays and incubates its eggs, maybe its mate also helps along alternatively with the brooding, I think? When hatched, it was wonderful seeing the nestlings (usually only two) being fed by their parents and eventually grow and leave the nest. Such sweet memories! :)


  • Scientific name: Pycnonotus luteolus goiavier
  • Common name: White-browed Yellow-vented Bulbul
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Aves (Birds)
  • Order: Passeriformes (Perching Birds)
  • Family: Pycnonotidae (Bulbuls)
  • Genus: Pycnonotus
  • Species: luteolus goiavier

Habitat: Subtropical to tropical moist lowland; secondary vegetation.

World Distribution: Southeast Asia from Myanmar, southern Thailand and Cambodia to Java, Borneo and the Philippines.

Check Wikipedia for more information.

Updated 20080605: At long last, there’s a pair of Bulbuls nesting in our garden again. How wonderful!
And to watch from nest-building to the final nest-leaving of 2 fledglings is simply an awesome experience, indeed! :)

Last edited: May 27, 2016

Jacq's Signature

Tags: , ,

Welcome! You are valuable to us and we love to hear from you. Leave us a comment or share your experiences. Also, please inform us if you find a broken link in any of our articles. Thank you.