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Native Land: Asia and Africa
Native Habitat:  Tropical, forest
Classification:  Order Passeriformes,
.........................Family Pycnonotidae
.........................about 120 species
Diet:  fruit, insects
Ratings:  Care - easy,
................Space Requirements - med to lg
................Pet Quality - none,
................Voice - medium
Great Beginner Birds
Bulbuls are generally hardy and easy to care for, making them wonderful birds for the beginning   softbiller.   They are active, alert, and    personable    birds    with    attractive   plumage, although most do not
have bold colors.   Most species have nice crests and are  in the lower price range too, which is a plus.
White-Headed Black Bulbuls
In the past five years some interesting species of bulbuls have been imported from Asia, and  we  have  found  the  White-Headed Black Bulbuls to be one of the most attractive.  The   Black   Bulbul   (Hypsipetes     madagascariensis  or  H.  leucocephalus  as  it  is  also referred  to)   has  a wide native range and is found in Madagascar and southeast Asia.  We  have   not  found  much  literature  on the species in the wild and even less in aviculture literature.   What  little  we  have  found,  observed,  or  been told  is  as follows; we are definitely not done with our research!
Just Who are We?
Identifying   softbills  can  be  tricky!   To  make matters worse, of the ten or so subspecies  of  the Black Bulbuls,  there are   several  of  them  that  have  white    heads, thus the commonly called White-Headed    Black    Bulbuls  -   not   to   be   confused with the White Headed Bulbuls (H.thompsoni)!    The   visual   difference between the subspecies  seems  to be the extent of the white.   You  would  think these birds are a completely different species because of their varying appearances!
At least two of these white-headed subspecies occur in Thailand and two in China.   We  have  seen  three  different white-headed subspecies imported in 1998 -2000.   One  is  the subspecies in which the white extends down to completely cover the breast and nape of the neck ( H.m.leucothorax), another in which the white only covers the head and throat (H. m. stresemanni or H.m. leucocephalus),   and   possibly  a  third,  much like the former, but with dalmatian black spotting on the white breast.
Visual Sexing
During  the  past  few years of working with these subspecies, we have discovered that they can be visually sexed accurately.  We have had all our birds surgically sexed to confirm  our hypothesis.  
Males  have dark, solid, black plumage and are heavier bodied.  Females are a lighter, charcoal, blackish-grey color with definite white   edgings   on  the  undertail  covert  feathers.   This  is  different than the  white down feathers that are exposed when plumage is ruffled on either gender.  We also have two immature male birds that have the white edging like the females but the black plumage of the male.  It remains to be seen if the edging will disappear when older.
We  doubt  that  we  are  the first people to notice  this  difference,  but  if  it  is already known, it is certainly not being widely publicized.  We are anxious to hear from any other aviculturists who have these  birds  so we can compare notes and learn more about them.
Bulbuls are very well-groomed birds with typically  immacalute  plumage  when  well  cared for,  but once a year they go through a heavy moult in which they loose most of their head feathers at the same time, as well as so many of their other feathers that they look horribly abused!  In our area of California, this occurs at the end of June and beginning of July.  When purchasing birds at marts or from quarantine, they typically do not have perfect plumage to begin with and when moulting... yuch!  This period of time certainly does not do justice to what beauties these birds will turn into to.
Pictured  right:   A  male H.m.l. coming out of moult with most of the body plumage looking pretty good, but the entire head still covered in pin feathers.
Most  of the bulbul species are excellent flyers and very active thus requiring medium to large aviaries.  We would recommend a minimum size of 3ft x 5ft x 5ft (l x w x ht) for a pair of  smaller  bulbuls.   The  larger  species  such as the Black Bulbuls would need bigger enclosures.  Planted flights are usually well appreciated and encourage breeding, as well as  attract  extra  livefood.   Most  of  the  bulbuls  can be kept in mixed-species aviaries peaceably  although  when breeding some species can be murderous to other adult and young birds.
White-Headed Black Bulbuls are excellent display birds.  The dramatic, Bald Eagle-type coloration  instantly  attracts  the  eyes  of  viewers.   The  birds do not lurk in shrubbery instead  they  perch  high  and out in the open, often on the tip of a vertical branch.  Our bulbuls  are all  kept  in  mixed-species  aviaries with birds of various sizes from finches and up to turacos with no aggression problems.  One of our flights contains two pairs of the White-Headed  Bulbuls  but  we  may  separate  the pairs at breeding time if aggression between them starts.
Bulbuls of all species are generally easy to feed, requiring a base diet of fruits and pellets.  We  feed  ours  the  fruit  & veggie mix, dry and soaked pellets, and variety of livefood as described  on  our Diet  page.   Raised  food  platforms  in  the  flights  are  appreciated but they  will  use  food  bowls  placed on the ground.  The White-Headed Black Bulbuls are such swift and agile flyers that they will hawk insects from the air and will even catch mealworms that we throw to them.
Most  bulbuls  are relatively easy to breed if given the right conditions.   Generally  seasonal  breeders,  they  like nesting inside  shrubbery  or in the high secluded corners of the aviary.  Nests are made with grasses, fibers, and small twigs, building their own or utilizing open-fronted boxes or open finch baskets.  
Both sexes of the White-Headed Black Bulbuls call throughout the  year  although  the  male becomes very vocal at breeding time.   The calls often resemble a human baby crying (Waaa).  The female displays by crouching low with rump up, fluttering her wings while calling softly.
More Information
Information on bulbuls is not common, but there are a few sources out there.  If anyone finds any information on the White-Headed Black Bulbul species, please email us!  The following are but a few that we recommend for more information on bulbuls:
1.  Alderton, David.  Handbook of Cage And Aviary Birds, The.  Sterling Publishing ........................Co., Inc., New York, NY, USA.  1993.
2.  Vince,  Martin.   Softbills - Care,  Breeding  and  Conservation.  Hancock House          .........................Publishers, Blaine, WA, USA.  1996.
3.  Vriends, Dr. Matthew M..  Encyclopedia of Softbilled Birds.  T.F.H. Publications, Inc. .........................Neptune, NJ, USA.  1980.
4.  Rishman, Grant.  "Bulbuls"  The A.F.A. Watchbird.  Aug./Sept. 1993, Pages 56 -57.
5.  Roles, Dr. Grenville.  "Breeding the Collared Finch-Billed Bulbul at the Tracy Aviary"  .........................The A.F.A. Watchbird.  June/July 1991, Pages 32 - 34.

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Copyright 10/98  Kateri Davis