Family Bulbuls (Pycnonotidae)

Least Concern

Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus)


French: Bulbul noir German: China-Rotschnabelbülbül Spanish: Bulbul negro
Other common names: Himalayan Black Bulbul

[Turdus] leucocephalus

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

Guangzhou, Guangdong, south China


Formerly included in a broad H. madagascariensis. In the past usually treated as conspecific with H. ganeesa (which see, for differences). Races fall into three types (but appear not to form geographically coherent taxonomic groups): (a) largely all grey (psaroides, nigrescens, concolor) in W and SW of range (but concolor separated by two black forms); (b) all-black (ambiens, sinensis, perniger, nigerrimus), the first two separated by white-headed leucocephalus); and (c) white-headed grey-black (stresemanni, leucothorax, leucocephalus), these seemingly continuous across greater extent of China; full review of geographical variation, including adequate sample of recorded songs (not calls), needed to clarify relationships. Proposed race impar (from Langbian Massif, in S Vietnam) treated as synonym of concolor, but may, in view of its geographical isolation, deserve recognition; study required. Ten subspecies provisionally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • H. l. psaroides Vigors, 1831 – Himalayas from NE Afghanistan (Kunar Valley) and N Pakistan E to NE India (Arunachal Pradesh, also S Assam hills), S Tibet, NE & SE Bangladesh and NW Myanmar; non-breeding also at lower altitudes.
  • H. l. nigrescens E. C. S. Baker, 1917 – NE India (E Assam and Manipur) and W, C & S Myanmar (including Chin Hills and Arakan).
  • H. l. sinensis (La Touche, 1922) – S China (NW Yunnan); non-breeding Thailand, Laos and Vietnam (E Tonkin).
  • H. l. stresemanni (Mayr, 1942) – S China (N Yunnan); non-breeding Thailand, Laos and N Vietnam (E Tonkin).
  • H. l. ambiens (Mayr, 1942) – NE Myanmar and S China (Salween watershed, in W Yunnan).
  • H. l. concolor Blyth, 1849 – E Myanmar, S China (S Yunnan), Thailand and Indochina.
  • H. l. leucothorax (Mayr, 1942) – C China (S Shaanxi, Sichuan, Hubei); non-breeding W, N & E Myanmar, N & NE Thailand, N Vietnam (Tonkin).
  • H. l. leucocephalus (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – SE China (S Anhui, Zhejiang and Hunan S to Guangxi and Guangdong); non-breeding E Myanmar and N Indochina.
  • H. l. nigerrimus Gould, 1863 – Taiwan.
  • H. l. perniger Swinhoe, 1870 – S China (Hainan); possibly also N Vietnam (E Tonkin).
  • Descriptive notes

    23·5–26·5 cm. Large, noisy, conspicuous bulbul with expressive, ragged crest, broadly triangular tail notched and splayed somewhat like that of a drongo... read more


    Generally noisy, calling semi-continuously when perched or in flight, and often making thin, shrill... read more


    Broadleaf evergreen and mixed deciduous forest, groves, clearings and edges, visiting more open... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet mainly berries and other fruits, also flower nectar and insects. In Pakistan, thought to subsist largely on berries of Viburnum... read more


    Breeds Apr–Jul. Nest a neat shallow cup, described variously as flimsy and as relatively large and robust, made of roots, twigs,... read more


    Some races resident, others migratory. Migration patterns complex; species usually erratic in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally fairly common to very common. Race psaroides fairly common in N Pakistan, N India and much of Nepal; perniger common on... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fishpool, L. & Tobias, J. (2019). Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 August 2019).