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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Red-vented Bulbul in Houston

Finding myself with a couple hours to spare today before my talk at Houston Audubon, I decided to go on another exotic urban bird quest. After picking up a rental car at Hobby Airport, I cruised over to The Heights, an early 20th Century neighborhood of cottage style homes just north of I-10 in search of Red-vented Bulbuls. Birders have reported these Asian birds in Houston off and on for about 10 years. These birds have a reputation for being very aggressive invaders in new settings, but so far we don't know a lot about how they are doing in Houston.

On a tip from a local birder, I drove to the corner of E 5 1/2 Street and Frasier Street (map here), and sure enough almost immediately I saw a single Red-vented Bulbul in a tree. It flew back and forth across E 5 1/2 street several times, eating berries from one of the trees near the lumber yard. After I parked the car, I walked back and got closer looks before it flew off behind the house north of the road and disappeared.

Questing for exotic urban birds isn't for everybody, especially when they aren't considered established or listable by the American Birding Association, but exotic urban birds are a part of our American avifauna now, like it or not, so we might as well start keeping track of them.

Bulbul hunters should be advised that these birds may be scattered over 100 square miles of the Greater Houston area, though The Heights seems to be one area where they are more often reported (other recent Heights locations include 7th and Arlington). Check the TEXBIRDS email list archives (here) for any recent sightings, and please report your sightings online as well. No matter how you feel about introduced exotic urban bird pests, its a good idea for us all to keep track of the strange birds in our midsts--if only to know if they are causing problems with our native birds.

(photo: justbirds.org)

11 comments:

Dorothy said...

I live in a suburban community just northwest of Houston. I was not aware of the Red-vented Bulbul's presence in our area. Since you have alerted me, I will definitely look for it. Good birding while you're in Houston!

Anonymous said...

A flock of the red-vented bulbul have been making daily visits to our neighborhood--Harvard and White Oak. This is the first year I have seen them in our area of the heights.

Anonymous said...

2008 update: We are at 14th and Cortlandt St. in the Heights and we have at least 2 Bulbuls that come back every (first noticed in approx. 2005) and are here right now in April, 2008. They don't seem to be taking over, and they are certainly no match for the more aggressive Mockingbird. Generally, they seem to stay up in the Live Oaks and Pecan trees, but are fairly friendly and will sometimes come around lower when we are working in the back yard. They love the berries on the Nandina, and another tree that we have that produces berries and white flowers. We keep an eye out for population growth, but they seem to have blended right in with the more common mourning doves, blue jays, and mockingbirds.

Anonymous said...

I just became aware of the bulbul on Monday as one poised for a few moments outside my 3rd floor office window in the Greenspoint area of Houston (I-45/Beltway 8). I finally found the red-vented after having seen the red-whiskered in my field book. Its chest was completely dark until the white then red, so I am wondering if the photos are sometimes misidentified, as in the Birdchaser's photo. With the white front, wouldn't it be a juvenile red-whiskered?? The one I saw was sitting in the top branches of an oak tree....

Anonymous said...

I saw a pair of what I think were these birds, although they were mostly black. I saw them maybe a month ago in the Washington Ave/Heights Blvd. area. I am not sure if they are the same because of the colors, though.

Anonymous said...

June 27, 2010 The Heights, Houston, Texas: Just saw a pair of what we think are red vented bulbuls at San Jacinto Stone Yard. They are almost black down to lower abdomen, but have characteristic, crest, curved bill, bright red under-tail coverts, and white tipped tail. Also have white band across rump. Not nearly as much white as red whiskered bulbul and no cheek patch. Tim/Leigh

Anonymous said...

Saw one today (10-26-12) on the southeast side of Houston (Navigation blvd) near downtown in a tree near Ripley House.

Anonymous said...

Saw a pair on our fig tree, 1800 block of Decatur just south of Washington Ave. and west of Houston Ave.

Anonymous said...

Thought I was going crazy, when I scrambled through my bird iphone app and found the Red-vented Bulbul. Definitely saw one today (01/10/13) 2000 block of Crocker St. eating berries off a tree.

Abhiman Pt said...

i live in the native range of the red vented. this is a friendly and inquisitive bird, not very wary of humans and aggressive to other birds only close to its nest during the nesting season. its just superbly adapted to living in disturbed environments.

Anonymous said...

Saw a pair today while I was shopping for native plants at Joshua's in The Heights. Had no idea what they were when I saw them. Heard them first. They are not in my Sibleys guide to Eatern Birds, but found them on ibird. Unmistakable.

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