Locally known as the Merbah Kapur, the Yellow-vented Bulbul (Picnonotus goiavier) is a familiar friend to many, being one of the commonest garden birds in Malaysia. A native of Southeast Asia, it is also found widely in plantations, parks, towns and generally all open country.
The Yellow-vented Bulbul's success in co-existing with humans is probably due to its fondness for cultivated plants, such as papayas and the horticultural Melastoma and Lantana flowers. They also feed on insects, and unlike other bulbuls, it doesn't think twice about foraging for tidbits on roads and pavements.
Brown above, this bird has a chalky-white head with a dark crown, and a dark stripe through the eye. The underparts are white, with a brownish-grey tinge on its breast. It gets its name from the under tail-coverts, which is pale yellow. The crest on the head is often raised into a short peak. Both males and females are alike in appearance.
Yellow-vented Bulbuls are solitary birds, although they may feed in pairs. During breeding season, the males engage in song and wing displays, raising and lowering the crown crest as they sing. They have a cheerful, simple song, described as a brief, bubbling series of notes.
The nests of the Yellow-vented Bulbul are well-camouflaged, deep cups of twigs and grass, and may even be found in ornamental plants in resident gardens. The eggs are pale, varying from white to pinkish, with reddish-brown spots. Both parents take responsibility to incubate and raise the young.
Yellow-vented Bulbuls have an important role in urban ecology, as they keep insect populations under control, as well as disperse the seeds of fruits. A huge plus point is that they have adapted to humans, and seem to coexist in harmony!
Nevertheless we shouldn't be too complacent about our role in the environment. Diversity is always better than a single species, and we have to encourage and attract other bird species to live among us, from planting fruiting trees, to providing safe habitats for birds.