A delightful member of the bulbul family of passerines, the Red-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) are highly vocal with a sweet melodic voice. The red colour of their name is difficult to see hidden beneath their tale. They are classified as “Least Concern” in the IUCN Redlist with an ever-increasing population.
The call of the often gregarious bird, a frequent wake-up call to many people in the Indian subcontinent, was very popular to hundreds of young men belonging to a generation of suitors in the 1960s and 70s. This particular whistling sound was the call often given to bring the desired girl to the balcony by the young men. This was the call of the Red-vented Bulbul.
The red vented Bulbul is a common bird seen in gardens across the Indian subcontinent. This bird used to give me a wakeup call at 6:30 am at Nhava Sheva.
The Red-vented bulbul is blackish-brown in colour. The head is black. The body is brownish white. The main feature is the red turf on the underside, just below the tail.
Their diet comprises of juicy fruits, nectar, insects, caterpillar, ants etc. The bulbul’s nest is like a well-made cup. It is made of roots and twigs, lined outside with cobwebs. The modern-day bulbul also uses plastic fibre scraps. Such nests are likely to repel predators more easily. The nests are built around human settlements and sometimes also inside houses. Sites may include rolled window blinds, pelmets, switchboards, even parking lots. Chicks are vulnerable to ants, cats and dogs. Ants may literally chew the young hatchlings to death.
The sound of these gragrious birds enlivens up the ambience. A relaxed bulbul may utter pitt- chacha. If a cat or a crow or other predators venture near its nest, a peep peep peep peep alarm call is made to warn all those around. Hearing the bulbul’s alarm call, the ashy prinia, sunbirds, flowerpeckers, tailor birds, magpie robins and mynas all assemble at one spot and join the chorus. But the conductor of the orchestra protest party is the bulbul, as he controls the show.
The young ones separate from parents after one season. Due to their friendly nature, the young birds are adapted to human proximity, and often venture in houses. Bulbul chicks may even eat banana, chickoo or papaya from human hands and sit on human shoulders.