Fr: Bulbul merle
All: Dickschnabelbülbül
Esp: Bulbul Picogordo
Ita: Bulbul beccoforte
Nd: Diksnavelbuulbuul
Sd: Seychellbulbyl 


Jean-Claude Jamoulle
A la rencontre des Oiseaux

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


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Seychelles Bulbul
Hypsipetes crassirostris

Passeriformes Order – Pycnonotidae Family

The Seychelles Bulbul is endemic of the Seychelles where it is common in forests and woodlands at all elevations. This species is omnivorous and can become aggressive when feeding, chasing away other birds, even larger ones, from its feeding sites.

Length: 24-25 cm
Weight: M: 83g – F: 75g

The adult is a chunky bird. It has olive-brown upperparts showing indistinct mottling due to olive-green-fringed feathers. Wings and tail are olive-brown too, but the tail is narrowly fringed whitish at tip.
On the underparts, chin and upper throat have scaly appearance. Lower throat, breast and belly are paler olive, fading to yellowish in centre of upper belly and undertail-coverts. The lower belly is yellowish-white whereas lower flanks are tinged brownish.
On the head, the crown is black and slightly glossy. Lores are blackish. Cheeks, ear-coverts and sides of hindcrown are scaly olive. There is a shaggy crest formed by loose, pointed, black feathers.
The heavy bill is bright orange. The eyes are reddish-brown. Legs and feet may vary from bright orange or dark yellow to yellowish-brown.

Both sexes are similar, with female slightly smaller than male.
The juvenile has chestnut flight feathers. The crown feathers are fringed dark olive-green. The bill is blackish. The eyes are yellowish-brown. Legs and feet are dark brown.

The Seychelles Bulbul breeds on several islands such as Mahé, Praslin, La Digue and Silhouette, and on some smaller neighbouring islands.

The Seychelles Bulbul frequents forests and woodlands at all elevations, from sea-level to 914 metres on the highest point, Morne Seychellois.
This species can be found in areas with fruiting trees and bushes, and also near habitations with vegetal cover. However, it is rare in towns and in the lowlands of Mahé, mainly in areas dominated by coconuts.

The Seychelles Bulbul is very vocal. When moving from tree to tree, it gives a “cluck” contact call sometimes repeated, and mainly just after take-off. An isolated bird separated from its group utters raucous, bleating calls at intervals of 5/10 seconds.
The pair, or sometimes the family group, gives a rapid “ak-ak-ak-ok-ok-ok-ak” chatter, often involving similar sounds as response from neighbours. These sounds can be used in territorial defence.
The song is a series of clucks, whistles and chatters given by a member of a pair from prominent perch. This song may vary in structure and duration.  

The Seychelles Bulbul feeds on a variety of food items such as fruits and flowers, arthropods and bird eggs. It probably takes nectar too.
Fruits and flowers come from several plant species, both native and exotic. The arthropods include mantids, cicadas (Cicadidae), caterpillars, ants, wasps, orthoptera and spiders.
It usually forages on tree crowns and bushes, rather than in understorey. Insects are taken from branches and tree trunks, and it probes in leaf clusters. Larges insects are snatched from vegetation, branches or large leaves, by swooping flight. But it also catches flying insects in acrobatic flight. It extracts invertebrates from tangles of dead leaves and catches them in mid-air once dislodged.
It is rarely seen on the ground, except to eat fruit broken by fall.

The Seychelles Bulbul is aggressive while feeding, and often chases away other bird species from its feeding sites. But this species is gregarious and usually occurs in pairs or in family groups. They are conspicuous birds, often perching on top of bushes or other prominent sites. They often fly noisily from perch to perch. 

During the breeding season, the Seychelles Bulbul is territorial and defends its territory against intruders. The defence can be performed by the pair or by small group of 3 or more. The third additional bird is often an immature but not always. It is usually tolerated by a pair during the nest-building, but it does not approach the nest.

The courtship displays of this species are not described. The Seychelles Bulbul is usually monogamous. Both mates build the nest, or one member is working while the other remains close by.

The Seychelles Bulbul is sedentary, only performing short movements within 200 metres.
The flight is powerful and sustained, with fairly marked undulation.

The breeding season usually occurs during the wet season, between September and January.
During a period of 6-10 days, both sexes, or only one mate, build the nest, a circular structure made with strips of grass, dead leaves for the base and the lower part of the walls, palm fibres, twigs, bark and moss. The inner part is lined with Casuarina needles. The nest is placed in fork of forest tree, between 2 and 15 metres above the ground.

The female lays 2 eggs, occasionally three. The incubation lasts 15 days, mainly by female, but the male may incubate about one hour per day. The chicks fledge 3 weeks after hatching. They may depend on parents for food for one week more after fledging. Usually, only one chick survives.

The Seychelles Bulbul has restricted range, but it is common and widespread. It is present in several protected areas, and its population appears stable.
This species is not currently threatened.