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Pycnonotus nigricans (African red-eyed bulbul, Red-eyed bulbul) 

Rooioogtiptol [Afrikaans]; Mburukutji (generic term for bulbul) [Kwangali]; Hlakahlothoana (also applied to Dark-capped bulbul), Kaka-hlotoana [South Sotho]; Rramorutiakolê [Tswana]; Maskerbuulbuul [Dutch]; Bulbul brunoir [French]; Maskenbülbül [German]; Tuta-de-olhos-vermelhos [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 nigricans (African red-eyed bulbul, Red-eyed bulbul)

African red-eyed bulbul, Rooipoort Nature Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Pycnonotus nigricans (African red-eyed bulbul, Red-eyed bulbul)  Pycnonotus nigricans (African red-eyed bulbul, Red-eyed bulbul) 

African red-eyed bulbul. [photo Neil Gray ©]

African red-eyed bulbul. [photo Sion Stanton ©]

Distribution and habitat

Near endemic to southern Africa, marginally extending into southern Angola and Zambia. In southern Africa it is common across Namibia, Botswana, and central South Africa, centered around the Free State, North-West Province and inland Eastern Cape, also extending in to other provinces. Occurs in a wide variety of arid and semi-arid habitats, such Acacia savanna, semi-arid shrublands, riverine bush and gardens in arid areas.

Distribution of African red-eyed 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.

Movements and migrations

Semi-migratory in the northern areas of its range, with large flocks arriving in the Okavango Delta and Zimbabwe during the during the dry season.


It mainly eats fruit, supplemented with nectar, flowers and arthropods. It typically forages in pairs or large groups, who eat fruit and hawk insects. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Fruit (such as Pheonx reclinata (Wild Date Palm)
  • Flower petals (such as Homeria pallida (Transvaal Yellow Tulp)
  • Nectar of Aloe
  • Arthropods


  • Monogamous and highly territorial, with males aggressively defending their territory against other males. If threatened it lowers its head and crest, while slightly raising its wings. If the standoff escalates it will attack the other male, viciously pecking, beating and scratching, occasionally interlocking feet and falling to the ground.
  • The nest is typically built by the female, and is a untidy cup of fine twigs, dry grass and other small plant fibres, reinforced with spider web. It is usually concealed in the fork of a bush or tree branch, occasionally on a grape vine support frame.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-April, peaking around October-December.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs which are incubated solely by the female for about 11-13 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 12 days (recorded in captivity), and can fly competently roughly a week 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.