Family Bulbuls (Pycnonotidae)

Least Concern

Common Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus)


French: Bulbul des jardins German: Graubülbül Spanish: Bulbul naranjero

Turdus barbatus


, 1789,

“Côtes de Barbarie” = near Algiers, Algeria


Hybridizes extensively with P. nigricans and P. capensis in narrow transition zones. Subspecies form four groups on basis of plumage differences; sometimes treated as four separate species, but differences weak and mainly in form of stepped cline (but with many intermediates); vocal differences appear negligible. Races gabonensis and inornatus intergrade in Nigeria; proposed races nigeriae (S Nigeria) and goodi (N Cameroon) not satisfactorily distinguishable from former and latter, respectively. In addition, a number of other described races are too poorly marked to warrant recognition: thus, minor (upper White Nile and Bahr el Ghazal), fayi (Kenyan highlands) and ngamii (L Ngami, in Botswana) merged with tricolor; micrus (SE Kenya) and tenebrior (Eastern Cape, in South Africa) with layardi; and peasei (Kitunga, in Kenya) with dodsoni. Ten subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. b. barbatus (Desfontaines, 1789) – Common Bulbul – Morocco E to Tunisia. Recently recorded breeding in extreme S Spain (Tarifa)#R.
  • P. b. inornatus (Fraser, 1843) – S Mauritania and Senegal E to N Niger (Aïr), NW & W Chad, N Nigeria and N Cameroon.
  • P. b. gabonensis Sharpe, 1871 – C & S Nigeria and C Cameroon S to Gabon and S Congo.
  • P. b. arsinoe (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – Egypt (Nile Valley), Sudan (S to S Kordofan), N South Sudan and E Chad.
  • P. b. schoanus Neumann, 1905 – highlands of Eritrea and Ethiopia (S to NW Sidamo-Borana, E to Dire-Dawa and Harar) and SE South Sudan.
  • P. b. tricolor (Hartlaub, 1862) – Dark-capped Bulbul – E Cameroon E to South Sudan, W & C Kenya and S to Angola, NW Botswana and N & W Zambia.
  • P. b. spurius Reichenow, 1905 – S Ethiopia (S Bale S to N Sidamo-Borana).
  • P. b. layardi Gurney, Sr, 1879 – SE Kenya (Taveta) and E Tanzania (including Zanzibar) S to E & S Zambia, NE Botswana and E South Africa.
  • P. b. somaliensis Reichenow, 1905 – Somali Bulbul – Djibouti, NW Somalia and SE Ethiopia (NE Bale, SE Arussi).
  • P. b. dodsoni Sharpe, 1895 – Dodson’s Bulbul – NC Somalia and E parts of lowland Ethiopia S to S Kenya (Chyulus, Tsavo).
  • Descriptive notes

    15–20 cm; male 34–49·5g, female 29–42 g (layardi). Conspicuous bulbul with slightly peaked crown, giving distinctive head shape. Nominate... read more


    Song loud and deliberate, consisting of sequentially repeated phrases, each of 3–7 somewhat... read more


    Almost any wooded or bushy habitat with sufficient abundance of fruiting trees or shrubs; absent... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly fruit, also arthropods, nectar, flowers and some seeds; a few small vertebrates. Eats almost any fruit available. In N Africa, fruit... read more


    Season Mar–Sept (mainly May–Jul) in Morocco, May–Aug in Algeria and Tunisia, and Mar–Aug in Egypt; probably all... read more


    Resident across much of range. In N Africa may wander locally, mostly within breeding range,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to abundant across its huge range; one of commonest birds in Africa. Population in Liberia estimated to be at least 1·5 million pairs,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fishpool, L. & Tobias, J. (2019). Common Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus). 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).