Significance to humans

It is not surprising that these vocal birds, many well adapted to human-made habitats, often figure in the folk tales and songs of the regions in which they live. In each region where bulbuls are common, local lore is often associated with the more conspicuous birds. In Ghana, the noisy swamp greenbul is known as the "talky-talky bird," and children purportedly refuse to eat the flesh of these birds, for fear if they do they will never stop talking. The red-whiskered bulbul is mentioned in many local songs of the Lanna people in Thailand, and is considered a symbol of the old Lanna kingdom. Sadly, like the highly prized straw-headed bulbul, the red-whiskered bulbul is seen less and less in Thailand, as more and more are captured for the southern Thailand bird market. Known as "Nok Krong Hua Juk" (the caged bird with a crest), the red-whiskered bulbul was frequently entered in fighting contests in the early 1960s. Owners would put two of these fiercely territorial birds in a cage until one almost killed the other. In the early 1970s these contests were replaced with the less bloody singing contests, in which two caged birds are placed next to each other and both sing effusively, as though defending their territory. Although the Thai government began requiring permits for owning these birds in 1992, they are still widely traded. As recently as June 2001, 500 captured bulbuls were discovered in transport to the south of Thailand. Seen as a symbol of wealth and prestige, owning these birds has been described as a way of broadcasting the owner's status to the neighborhood, and unless attitudes surrounding their ownership change, they will continue to be captured for the caged bird trade.

1. Crested finchbill (Spizixos canifrons); 2. Black-collared bulbul (Neolestes torquatus); 3. Yellow-throated nicator (Nicator vireo); 4. Eastern bearded greenbul (Criniger chloronotus); 5. Ashy bulbul (Hypsipetes flavala); 6. Icterine greenbul (Phyllastrephus icterinus); 7. Red-tailed greenbul (Criniger calurus); 8. White-throated bulbul (Criniger flaveolus); 9. Black bulbul (Hypsipetes madagascariensis). (Illustration by Brian Cressman)

1. Red-whiskered bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus); 2. Red-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer); 3. Common bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus); 4. Yellow-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus goiaver); 5. Leaf-love (Phyllastrephus scandens); 6. Straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus); 7. Joyful greenbul (Chloro-cichla laetissima); 8. Yellow-whiskered greenbul (Pycnonotus latirostris); 9. Shelley's greenbul (Pycnonotus masukuensis). (Illustration by Brian Cressman)

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