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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.

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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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