AppearanceThe red-whiskered bulbul is about 20 centimetres in length. It has brown upper-parts and whitish underparts with buff flanks and a dark spur running onto the breast at shoulder level. It has a tall pointed black crest, red face patch and thin black moustachial line. The tail is long and brown with white terminal feather tips, but the vent area is red.
The loud and evocative call is a sharp ''kink-a-joo'' and the song is a scolding chatter. It is more often heard than seen, but will often perch conspicuously especially in the mornings when they call from the tops of trees. The life span is about 11 years.
Hybrids have been noted in captivity with ''Pycnonotus cafer'', ''Pycnonotus leucotis'', ''Pycnonotus xanthopygos'', ''Pycnonotus melanicterus'' and ''Pycnonotus leucogenys'' and leucism has been recorded. Several avian malaria parasites have been described from the species.
NamingThe populations found across their range show a range of plumage variations and some of these are recognized as subspecies:
⤷ ''P. j. jocosus'', the nominate form is found in Hong Kong
⤷ ''P. j. fuscicaudatus'' of peninsular India has nearly complete breast band and no white tip to tail
⤷ ''P. j. abuensis'' of northwestern India is pale and has a broken breast band and no white tip to tail
⤷ ''P. j. pyrrhotis'' of the Terai is pale above with white tail tips and widely separated breast band
⤷ ''P. j. emeria'' of eastern peninsula and Ganges Delta is warm brown above with a slim bill and a long crest
⤷ ''P. j. whistleri'' is found in the Andaman Islands and has a warm brown above, a heavier bill and a shorter crest than ''emeria''
⤷ ''P. j. monticola'' is found in northeastern India and has darker upperparts than ''pyrrhotis''
⤷ ''P. j. pattani'' is found in Thailand
⤷ ''P. j. peguensis'' not always recognized was described from southern Burma
DistributionThis is a bird of lightly wooded areas, more open country with bushes and shrubs, and farmland. Irruptions have been noted from early times with Thomas C. Jerdon noting that they "periodically visiting Madras and other wooded towns in large flocks."
It has established itself in Australia, Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Florida in the United States, and in the Mauritius, Assumption Island and Mascarene Islands. In Florida, it is only found in a small area, and its population could be extirpated easily.
The red-whiskered bulbul was introduced by the Zoological and Acclimatization Society in 1880 to Sydney, and became well established across the suburbs by 1920, and continued to spread slowly to around 100 km away. It is now also found in suburban Melbourne and Adelaide, although it is unclear how they got there.
BehaviorThe red-whiskered bulbul feeds on fruits, nectar and insects.
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