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the web of life in southern Africa

Pycnonotus capensis (Cape bulbul)

Kaapse tiptol [Afrikaans]; Kaapse buulbuul [Dutch]; Bulbul du Cap [French]; Kapbülbül [German]; Tuta do Cabo [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 capensis (Cape bulbul) Pycnonotus capensis (Cape bulbul)

Cape bulbul. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

Cape bulbul. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to South Africa, where it is very common Across much of the Western Cape, extending along the coast to the Northern and Eastern Cape. It generally prefers thickly vegetated fynbos and succulent karoo, as well as coastal scrub, Acacia karoo (Sweet thorn) woodland, suburban parks and gardens.

Distribution of Cape 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 mainly eats fruit, supplemented with arthropods, seeds and nectar. It usually forages in pairs or small groups, plucking fruit from the foliage of trees and bushes, while occasionally hawking invertebrate prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Fruit
    • Rhus crenata (Dune crow-berry)
    • Acacia cyclops (Rooikrans)
    • Chrysanthemoides monilifera (Bushtick-berry)
    • Rapanea gilliana (Dwarf cape beech)
    • Nylandtia scoparia (Dune-berry)
  • Seeds
  • Nectar
  • Arthropods


  • The nest is built solely by the female in about 2-10 days, while the male watches intently. It consists of a sturdy but messy cup built of twigs, grass stems and rootlets, built on a foundation of larger twigs and lined with finer planter material. It is typically placed on a horizontal branch near the edge of a bush's or tree's foliage.
Pycnonotus capensis (Cape bulbul)  

Cape bulbul at its nest, Anysberg, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from August-March, peaking, peaking from September-November.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 11-13.5 days. It leaves the nest about 20-40 times a day to go foraging, in fact it only spends about 60% of the day incubating.
  • For the first few days the chicks are mainly fed arthropods, but thereafter fruit dominates their diet. Both parents feed the chicks, who leave the nest before they can fly, at about 10-13 days old. They fledge a few days after leaving the nest, but remain dependent on their parents for food for at least two weeks more after leaving. They eventually become fully independent at about 50 days old, at which point they start to sing and call.


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.