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Meet The Natives: Thailand's favourite songbird, the red-whiskered Bulbul

Last Saturday, my family spontaneously stopped at the popular Bang Pae Waterfall, in northern Phuket. It was a typical weekend scene, crowded with local teens and tourists out for a hike or swim in the stream.

By Steven Layne

Sunday 7 February 2016, 06:37AM

We managed to find a quiet spot aside the stream and as we were relaxing, splashing about, I spotted a little bird out the corner of my eye, or perhaps I heard him first. It was quite surprising to see wildlife at such a busy “nature site” dominated by loud groups of teenagers and tourists stomping up and down the stream-side path.

I grabbed my camera and started snapping this rare sighting, and then out of nowhere came this teen male, 17, maybe 18 years old I reckon. Prowling in the streamside brush quietly, he proceded to catch the small bird with his bare hands in a single swoop, before casually walking away with the bird, rejoining his friends on the path above.

In hindsight, I suppose it was his own domesticated bird, and perhaps he had lost it and came to collect it when he saw me snapping away. Regardless, it’s his now.

New Paths Retreat

After I posted the photos on Facebook, a friend pointed out that the bird was a bulbul, the kind that locals use in bird-singing contests. A google search verified that the bird was indeed a Red-whiskered Bulbul, or Pycnonotus iocosus– in Thai, Nok Prod Hua Khon Krao Daeng  นกปรอดหัวโขนเคราแดง or Nok Hua Jook นกปรอดหัวจุก – names which help identify the bird easily by its red face patch (Hua Khon Krao Daeng) and/or its spiked head (Hua Jook).

And yes, it’s one of the most popular caged songbirds in South and Southeast Asia. So I feel very blessed to have seen it in the wild, even if only for a flash.



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