I first kept Red-Vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus cafer) as “filler birds” to take up space in a huge, planted aviary I maintained at the Bronx Zoo. However, their confident, inquisitive natures soon led to their being among the exhibit’s most popular inhabitants with visitors. I find them to be among the most easily-kept of the softbills (a term applied to a loose collection of “non-typical” cage birds such as Bulbuls, Pekin Robins and others), and a great species with which to start when seeking to add variety to one’s collection.
Description and Range
Red-Vented Bulbuls inhabit a huge range that extends from India east to Vietnam and south to Java; they have also been introduced to Hawaii and many other places. They inhabit open woodlands, scrub, farms, villages and cities, pairing off while breeding but otherwise going about in small groups.
Among the most readily available of their 120+ relatives, Red-Vented Bulbuls have a subtle beauty. Their plumage is a pleasing mix of light to chocolate browns, tan, white and black, with a purple-tinged red patch at the vent. When excited, angry or otherwise stimulated, bulbuls raise the head feathers into a crest, which is most amusing to behold.
Keeping Red-Vented Bulbuls
In my opinion, the Red-Vented Bulbul’s chief selling point is what can only be described as a “friendly personality”. As long as they are not crowded or stressed, Red-Vented Bulbuls are very curious about people – I was able to induce several to feed from my hand in a very short time. They really do make the most engaging pets, and in parts of Asia are kept and treated much as are parrots.
These little fellows are quite hardy and fare well on a high-quality insectivorous bird food (please write in if you have difficulty in locating this) into which has been mixed a bit of Softbill Select and Egg Food. Hard boiled egg and some cooked ground beef should be offered regularly.
However, a highly varied diet, packed with insects and other invertebrates, is essential if you want to keep your birds in peak color and breeding condition. I’ve always maintained insect traps, such as the Zoo Med Bug Napper, to help meet the needs of the softbills under my care.
Wild and Canned Invertebrates
Red-Vented Bulbuls relish grasshoppers, katydids, crickets, spiders, sow bugs, beetles, flies, termites, moths, mealworms, waxworms, fly larvae, silkworms – almost any invertebrate, in other words! Please see my articles on Collecting Feeder Insects to learn more about increasing dietary variety.
Canned Invertebrates marketed for use with captive reptiles and amphibians are a convenient means of increasing the nutritional content of bulbul diets.
Dried Shrimp, a food favored by old-time bird keepers for insectivorous birds of all types, should also be offered.
Although we aviculturists appreciate the Red-Vented Bulbul, it makes quite a pest of itself when introduced into foreign environments. Read about the trouble it is causing on Hawaii here.
I’ll cover the popular Red-Whiskered Bulbul and some others in the future.
Red-vented Bulbul image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by JMGarg