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Nicator gularis (Eastern nicator, Yellow-spotted nicator) 

Geelvleknikator [Afrikaans]; Bruinkopnicator [Dutch]; Bulbul à tête brune [French]; Bülbülwürger [German]; Tuta-malhada [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

Nicator gularis (Eastern nicator, Yellow-spotted nicator)  Nicator gularis (Eastern nicator, Yellow-spotted nicator) 

Eastern nicator. [photo Hugh Chittenden ©]

Eastern nicator, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

For information about this species, see birdinfo.co.za.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in the lowlands of East Africa, extending from Kenya to northern Mozambique and Zambia, south to southern Africa. Here it is uncommon and retiring, silently descending to the undergrowth if disturbed although it sometimes perches prominently near its nest to call. It is found across Mozambique, Swaziland, northern and south-eastern Zimbabwe, eastern Limpopo Province and KwaZulu-Natal. It generally prefers lowland secondary, evergreen and coastal forest, dense undergrowth of miombo (Brachystegia) woodland, moist thornveld and riverine forest.

Distribution of Eastern nicator 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.  


The source of much debate, it is has been placed with the bush-shrikes (Malaconotidae) and with bulbuls (Pycnonotidae). As it resembles both of these families in many aspects, it might also be best to place it in its own family.


It eats insects, mainly foraging in the tree canopy, gleaning prey from leaves and branches while occasionally flicking its wings. It may also descend to the ground to feed, occasionally plucking ectoparasites from large mammals or hawking the insects they disturb. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • grasshoppers (Orthoptera)
  • mantids
  • skinks (Scincidae)
  • caterpillars (larval stage of Lepidoptera)
  • ticks, taken off mammals such as:
    • Phacochoerus aethiopicus (Warthog)
    • Tragelaphus angasii (Nyala)
    • Aepyceros melamphus (Impala)
    • Equus burchelli (Burchell's zebra)
    • Cephalophus natalensis (Red duiker)


  • The nest (see images below) is an untidy platform of twigs, tendrils and stalks
Nicator gularis (Eastern nicator, Yellow-spotted nicator)  Nicator gularis (Eastern nicator, Yellow-spotted nicator) 
Adult at nest with a skink to give to the chick. [photo Hugh Chittenden ©] Adult removing a faecal sack from the nest. [photo Guy Upfold ©]
Nicator gularis (Eastern nicator, Yellow-spotted nicator) 
Adult performing distraction display near the nest. [photo Hugh Chittenden ©] Young chick in the nest. [photo Hugh Chittenden ©]


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. 

  • H. Chittenden and G. Upfold. 2008. Eastern Nicator. [Online] (Updated 14 June 2008)
    Available at: http://www.birdinfo.co.za/landbirds/45_eastern_nicator.htm [Accessed 12 March 2009].