Family Bulbuls (Pycnonotidae)

Least Concern

Grey-headed Bristlebill (Bleda canicapillus)


French: Bulbul fourmilier German: Graukopf-Borstenbülbül Spanish: Bulbul hormiguero

Trichophorus canicapillus


, 1850,

#R, Gambia


Acoustic and morphological studies suggest that this species is closest to B. notatus; the two appear to meet in SE Nigeria (Cross River National Park region) and SW Cameroon (Takamanda Forest Reserve). Two races have commonly been recognized in recent times, one for Senegambia and one for rest of range, but reported variation appears to be individual rather than geographical#R. Type locality traditionally listed as Sierra Leone, but this is erroneous, as the type recently shown to be from Gambia#R; as a result, though, when subspecific division was first proposed in 1991, new name morelorum (initially moreli, but justifiably emended) was applied to Senegambian birds, leaving it thus as merely a junior synonym of canicapillus, while the E race, if recognized, would require a new name. Species name sometimes given as canicapilla, but genus is masculine, and in any case this name is invariable. Monotypic.


W Gambia, SW Senegal and Guinea-Bissau E to SE Nigeria (also isolated population on Jos Plateau) and extreme SW Cameroon (Takamanda).

Descriptive notes

20·5–22 cm; male 39·5–46·5 g, female 36–40·5 g. Stocky bulbul with fairly strong bill, well-developed rictal bristles. Nominate... read more


Song far-carrying, with cheerful, ringing quality, typically consisting of loud initial note, brief... read more


Lowland evergreen and semi-deciduous forest, gallery forest, forest-savanna mosaic, woodland... read more

Food and feeding

Arthropods, including orthopterans, termites (Isoptera), ants (Hymenoptera), millipedes (Diplopoda), spiders (Araneae) and similar; small... read more


Birds in breeding condition in Jan in Senegal, Jun in Gambia, May, Aug–Sept and Dec in Sierra Leone, Jul–Aug (and nest-building... read more


Largely sedentary; individual found in a building in Ghana may indicate some local movement.

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Generally common; the commonest and most widespread bristlebill in W Africa. Liberian population estimated to be at least 120,000 pairs. Apparently... read more

Recommended citation

Fishpool, L. & Tobias, J. (2019). Grey-headed Bristlebill (Bleda canicapillus). 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).