Family Bulbuls (Pycnonotidae)

Least Concern

Grey-cheeked Bulbul (Alophoixus tephrogenys)

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Taxonomy

French: Bulbul à joues grises German: Grauwangenbülbül Spanish: Bulbul carigrís
Taxonomy:

Trichophorus tephrogenys

Jardine and Selby

, 1833,

uncertain, possibly India = Malacca

.

Until recently considered conspecific with A. bres and A. frater, but differs from latter in characters given under that species (see below). Differs from former in its grey vs brown ear-coverts (2); dirtier white and less sharply demarcated throat (2); dirty pale vs strong yellow breast and belly (2); cinnamon vs yellow undertail-coverts (ns[2]); browner, less green, upperparts (ns[1]); divergent call notes (sample size very small, but at least 1). Further, differences in song reported#R. Taxon gutturalis suggested as possibly a separate species, with fairly distinct mtDNA haplotype and striking differences in plumage#R; investigation required. Two subspecies recognized.

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Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. t. tephrogenys Jardine & Selby, 1833 – S Myanmar (Tenasserim S of c. 14° N), S Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia (not Singapore) and E Sumatra.
  • A. t. gutturalis (Bonaparte, 1850) – Borneo.
  • Descriptive notes

    19–23 cm; 29–44 g, male 41–46 g and female 51–52 g (gutturalis). Short-crested, bulky bulbul; crest is less prominent than in A. ochraceus and A. ruficrissus. Adult has lores and face mid-grey, becoming ash-grey on ear-coverts and dark rufescent olive-brown, rest of upperparts mainly brownish olive, uppertail-coverts chestnut-brown, wing-coverts mainly olive-brown, slightly more olive-green on fringes and tips, while tertials and inner secondaries are edged more rufous than mantle; tail chestnut-brown; chin and throat white, breast pale ash-brown, with broad pale yellow feather edges, upper flanks yellowish brown, lower flanks and belly creamy yellow, and undertail-coverts washed orange-tawny; iris rich red-brown, maxilla slaty black, mandible blue-grey, and legs and feet yellowish pink to pinkish brown. Sexes alike, but female averages slightly smaller. Juvenile not well described, but lacks crested appearance, has more uniform face and upperparts, and iris is brown, with mandible partially pale yellow. Race gutturalis has browner, less olive, upperparts, with darker brown crown, greyer cheeks, darker buff-brown breast and belly lacks bright tones.

    ssp tephrogenys  

    Drawing by John Cox
    ssp tephrogenys  
    Descriptive notes:

    19–23 cm; 29–44 g, male 41–46 g and female 51–52 g (gutturalis). Short-crested, bulky bulbul; crest is less prominent than in A. ochraceus and A. ruficrissus. Adult has lores and face mid-grey, becoming ash-grey on ear-coverts and dark rufescent olive-brown, rest of upperparts mainly brownish olive, uppertail-coverts chestnut-brown, wing-coverts mainly olive-brown, slightly more olive-green on fringes and tips, while tertials and inner secondaries are edged more rufous than mantle; tail chestnut-brown; chin and throat white, breast pale ash-brown, with broad pale yellow feather edges, upper flanks yellowish brown, lower flanks and belly creamy yellow, and undertail-coverts washed orange-tawny; iris rich red-brown, maxilla slaty black, mandible blue-grey, and legs and feet yellowish pink to pinkish brown. Sexes alike, but female averages slightly smaller. Juvenile not well described, but lacks crested appearance, has more uniform face and upperparts, and iris is brown, with mandible partially pale yellow. Race gutturalis has browner, less olive, upperparts, with darker brown crown, greyer cheeks, darker buff-brown breast and belly lacks bright tones.

    ssp gutturalis  

    Drawing by John Cox
    ssp gutturalis  
    Descriptive notes:

    19–23 cm; 29–44 g, male 41–46 g and female 51–52 g (gutturalis). Short-crested, bulky bulbul; crest is less prominent than in A. ochraceus and A. ruficrissus. Adult has lores and face mid-grey, becoming ash-grey on ear-coverts and dark rufescent olive-brown, rest of upperparts mainly brownish olive, uppertail-coverts chestnut-brown, wing-coverts mainly olive-brown, slightly more olive-green on fringes and tips, while tertials and inner secondaries are edged more rufous than mantle; tail chestnut-brown; chin and throat white, breast pale ash-brown, with broad pale yellow feather edges, upper flanks yellowish brown, lower flanks and belly creamy yellow, and undertail-coverts washed orange-tawny; iris rich red-brown, maxilla slaty black, mandible blue-grey, and legs and feet yellowish pink to pinkish brown. Sexes alike, but female averages slightly smaller. Juvenile not well described, but lacks crested appearance, has more uniform face and upperparts, and iris is brown, with mandible partially pale yellow. Race gutturalis has browner, less olive, upperparts, with darker brown crown, greyer cheeks, darker buff-brown breast and belly lacks bright tones.

    Voice

    Seems to vocalize semi-constantly, producing wide range of melodious whistles. Song of clear, well-structured, ringing, mournful phrases, variously as “whi’u wiu iwi”, “you yuwi”, “cheeru cheeu cheeriu”, “prii chiu chew chew” and similar, often followed by higher-pitched discordant notes (e.g. “iiu”); throughout range, song phrases usually interspersed with harsh scolding notes or rattled “trrit” notes. Also gives muted “chirret”.

    Habitat

    Mature broadleaf evergreen, tidal swamp and mixed deciduous forest, also edges, logged and secondary forest, overgrown plantations of exotic species, e.g. Albizia, cocoa and oil-palm; also second growth with a layered, more or less closed-canopy structure, and where young regrowth stands alongside primary forest. At Pasoh research forest, in Negeri Sembilan (Peninsular Malaysia), one-third more individuals trapped in mature forest than in 20-year regenerating forest, suggesting preference for former. Lowlands from sea-level up to 1150 m, rarely to 1500 m; S of lowland range of A. ochraceus in Peninsular Malaysia, the commonest Alophoixus of submontane slopes.

    Food and feeding

    A generalist, eating large amounts of both fruit and invertebrates. Various shade-layer fruits taken, including Eurycoma longifolia, also figs (Ficus) e.g. banyans, and nine of 25 Ficus species (mean minimum diameter in range 5·4–15·5 mm) in study at Kerau, in Peninsular Malaysia. Stomachs of specimens from Sumatra contained insects, including a cicada (Cicadidae). Usually forages singly, in pairs or in small groups; no groups that may exceed potential family size reported. Gathers at fruiting shrubs and trees in lower and midstorey. Often joins (or forms nucleus of) roving mixed-species flocks, suggesting that animal prey is an important component of intake; of 38 individuals encountered in one study at Gombak, in Malaysia, 14 (37%) were attending flocks. Fruit probably harvested opportunistically while travelling with mixed flocks. Visits forest streams and pools to drink. Apparently maintains fairly limited feeding territories, but this yet to be investigated directly.

    Breeding

    Breeds Apr–Jul in N Thailand and Jan–Jul in Peninsular Malaysia; on Borneo, in breeding condition in Feb, Apr, May and Jun. Nest a standard cup-shaped structure placed in low vegetation; clutch usually two pinkish eggs blotched purplish and reddish. No other information.

    Movements

    Resident; appears unusually territorial for a bulbul.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Sometimes uncommon and regarded as Near Threatened in Peninsular Malaysia, but usually common to very common throughout much of range, including Greater Sundas (Sumatra, Borneo). Densities of 14·5 individuals/km² and c. 10 individuals/km² in logged forest recorded in Borneo and Sumatra, respectively. Its tolerance of degraded and submontane habitats suggests that it is not at any immediate risk, and the population is currently believed to be stable, but trade for cagebirds is a potentially much greater threat.

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2017). Grey-cheeked Bulbul (Alophoixus tephrogenys). 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 https://www.hbw.com/node/1343915 on 17 November 2017).