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Pycnonotus tricolor (Dark-capped bulbul, Black-eyed bulbul) 

[= Pycnonotus barbatus

Swartoogtiptol [Afrikaans]; Ikhwebula [Xhosa]; iPhothwe, iPogota [Zulu]; Mburukutji (generic term for bulbul) [Kwangali]; Hlakahlotoana (also applied to African red-eyed bulbul) [South Sotho]; Rankgwetšhe [North Sotho]; Bwoto, Chigwenhure, Mugweture [Shona]; Ligibholo [Swazi]; Bhokota [Tsonga]; Rramorutiakolê [Tswana]; Grauwe buulbuul [Dutch]; Bulbul tricolore [French]; Gelbsteißbülbül, Graubülbül [German]; Tuta-negra [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

Pycnonotus tricolor (Dark-capped bulbul, Black-eyed bulbul)  Pycnonotus tricolor (Dark-capped bulbul, Black-eyed bulbul)

Dark-capped bulbul. [photo Jeff Poklen ©]

Dark-capped bulbul. [photo Tony Faria ©]

Distribution and habitat

It occurs across much of sub-Saharan Africa, from Chad to Ethiopia south to southern Africa. Here it is common to abundant across Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Northern Botswana, the Caprivi Strip, the Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. It can occupy any habitat with adequate supply of fruiting trees and bushes, absent only from dense woodland or grassland with few bushes. It is particularly common in gardens, plantations and parks in and around human settlements.

Distribution of Dark-capped bulbul 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 a range of fruit, petals, nectar, seeds and arthropods, foraging in groups and using a wide variety of techniques. These include plucking fruit from trees and bushes, probing the flowers of Aloe for nectar, hawking flying insects, hunting for spiders on buildings and picking up fallen fruit. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Fruit
  • Seeds of Cassia plants
  • Nectar
    • Aloe
    • Grevillea (silky oaks)
    • Sideroxylon inerme (White milkwood)
  • Petals of Aloe ferox (Bitter aloe)
  • Insects
  • Spiders


  • Monogamous and territorial, with males defending their territories against other males by lowering their wings and head and chasing the intruder. If the confrontation escalates into a fight, the males viciously peck and scratch each other, sometimes interlocking their claws in mid flight and falling to the ground.
  • The female builds the nest, which is a tidy and well-built cup built of rootlets, dry grass and twigs with an outer layer of spider web, and lined with finer plant material. it is typically placed on a branch or slung between a few twigs, generally concealed towards the edge of the canopy, often found in suburban gardens.
Pycnonotus tricolor (Dark-capped bulbul, Black-eyed bulbul)  

Dark-capped bulbul nest with a white egg laid by a Jacobin cuckoo, Sericea farm, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from July-April, peaking around September-December.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated by the female for about 12-15 days, while the male regularly brings her food at the nest.
  • The chicks are brooded almost constantly by the female at first, but thereafter both adults leave the nest repeatedly in search of food. The young stay in the nest for about 11-16 days, leaving before they can fly. At first they remain huddled together in the tree where the nest is placed, but soon they join their parents in foraging trips.


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.