Family Bulbuls (Pycnonotidae)

Least Concern

Sooty-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster)


French: Bulbul cul-d’or German: Rußhaubenbülbül Spanish: Bulbul ventridorado

Turdus aurigaster


, 1818,

Caffraria; error = Java


Sometimes treated as conspecific with P. cafer (which see). Several variable populations in Myanmar and S China reflect a hybrid origin; further review necessary, and some listed races may not be valid. Subspecies form two groups: “aurigaster group” with chrome- to orange-yellow vent (some thais red; apparently no orange-vented hybrids) and “chrysorrhoides group” with red vent. Proposed races deignani (SE Thailand) and innitens (SC Thailand) indistinguishable from thais; and chrysorrhoeus, crocorrhous (both Java) and martini (Sumatra; based on introduced birds) inseparable from nominate. Races chrysorrhoides and resurrectus formerly known respectively as atricapilla and insularis, but these two names preoccupied. Nine subspecies provisionally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. a. latouchei Deignan, 1949 – S China (SW Sichuan and W & S Yunnan E to S Hunan and NE Guangxi) and E Myanmar E to NE Thailand, N Laos and N Vietnam (W Tonkin).
  • P. a. chrysorrhoides (Lafresnaye, 1845) – Northern Sooty-headed Bulbul – SE China.
  • P. a. resurrectus Deignan, 1952 – N Vietnam (E Tonkin, N Annam) and SE China (W Guangdong, Nao Chow Tao).
  • P. a. klossi (Gyldenstolpe, 1920) – SE Myanmar and N Thailand.
  • P. a. schauenseei Delacour, 1943 – S Myanmar (C Tenasserim) and SW Thailand.
  • P. a. dolichurus Deignan, 1949 – C Vietnam (C Annam).
  • P. a. thais (Kloss, 1924) – C & SE Thailand and C Laos.
  • P. a. germani (Oustalet, 1878) – extreme SE Thailand, Cambodia and S Indochina.
  • P. a. aurigaster (Vieillot, 1818) – Southern Sooty-headed Bulbul – Java; Bali (possibly introduced).
  • Introduced (nominate race) in Singapore, Sumatra, Borneo (Kalimantan), Sulawesi (in anthropogenic habitats in all mainland provinces#R), Butung I, Sumbawa, Semau I, Timor#R, Ambon I and Biak#R.

    Descriptive notes

    19–21 cm; 40–50 g. Medium-sized, garrulous, conspicuous bulbul with short crest. Nominate race has lores and face to below and around eye dull black, cap slightly... read more


    Song chatty and cheerful, a shrill, gurgly sequence as “whi-wi-wiwi-wiwi”, usually with stressed... read more


    Scrub, second growth, grassy areas, forest clearings, woods, towns, gardens, cultivation; favours... read more

    Food and feeding

    An opportunist and generalist, probably ecologically similar to P. cafer but much less studied. In pairs during breeding season;... read more


    Generally Mar–Apr in SE Asia and Mar–Jul in S China; throughout year, but most often in Mar–Jun and Aug, in Java; multi-... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common in Hong Kong, and fairly common over a broad range in S China; fairly common in SE Asia. Common in Java, despite heavy... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fishpool, L. & Tobias, J. (2019). Sooty-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster). 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 June 2019).