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the web of life in southern Africa

Andropadus importunus (Sombre bulbul)

Gewone willie [Afrikaans]; Inkwili [Xhosa]; iWili [Zulu]; Vale buulbuul [Dutch]; Bulbul importun [French]; Kap-grünbülbül [German]; Tuta-sombria [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Pycnonotidae

Andropadus importunus (Sombre bulbul) Andropadus importunus (Sombre bulbul)

Sombre bulbul, Wilderness, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Sombre bulbul, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo David Robertson ©]

Andropadus importunus (Sombre bulbul)

Sombre bulbul, Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Kenya through eastern Tanzania and northern Mozambique to southern Africa. Here it is common across Mozambique, eastern Zimbabwe, Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga, Swaziland, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern and Western Cape. It generally prefers coastal scrub and forest, or well-wooded valleys further inland. It also occupies thornveld, dry woodland thickets along drainage lines in the Karoo and gardens in well-wooded suburbs.

Distribution of Sombre greenbul in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Jacobin cuckoo.


It eats mainly eats fruit, foraging in the foliage of trees and bushes, regularly singing its distinctive call. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • fruit
      • Azima tetracantha (Needle bush)
      • Carissa (num-nums)
      • Cussonia (cabbage trees)
      • Ficus (wild figs)
      • Hippobromus pauciflorus (False horsewood)
      • Rhus (wild currants)
      • Scutia myrtina (Cat-thorn)
      • Sideroxylon inerme (White milkwood)
      • Viscum (mistletoes)
      • Lantana camara (Cherry-pie)
    • succulent leaves
      • Senecio (a type of creeper)
      • Cotyledon orbiculata (Pig's ears)
    • flowers and buds of Aloe and Cassia
    • nectar of Aloe
  • Invertebrates
    • insects
    • snails


  • The nest is built solely by the female, consisting of an open, flimsy cup built rootlets, twigs, grass and other plant material. It is usually placed in the fork of or at the end of a tree or bush branch, 1-4 metres above ground, typically attached with spider web.
Andropadus importunus (Sombre bulbul)  

Sombre greenbul nest with eggs, Haroni-Rusitu, Zimbabwe. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from September-April, peaking from October-December.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 12-13.5 days, the male regularly bringing her food. At first it is quite skittish when disturbed at the nest, but later in the incubation period it sits tight, not even deserting when touched.
  • The chicks are fed and brooded by both adults, leaving the nest after approximately 10-14 days, becoming independent a few weeks later.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

  • Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree. A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds). 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 2: Passerines. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.