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Ruby-throated yellow bulbul

Story: Pronoy | Baidya | 06th December 2015, 12:00 Hrs

SLUG: Who’s that Bird

Historically very little was known about the bird life of Goa during its occupancy by the Portuguese unlike the rest of India where many British naturalists had studied the birds of the country extensively. In 1972, the then Conservator of Forests- Goa, Daman & Diu, S. S Bhattee invited renowned ornithologist, Dr. Salim Ali to conduct an ornithological survey of Goa. During his survey, Dr. Ali and his team reported 154 species from Goa and at the same time were influential in nominating the Ruby-throated yellow bulbul (Pycnonotus gularis) as the state bird.

Ruby-throated yellow bulbul also called Flame-throated bulbul belongs to the widespread bulbul family. It is a medium sized bird (18-19 cm) with body colour varying from bright yellow to olive yellow. The head is black and lacks a crest unlike other bulbuls. The eyes are white and they have a distinct ruby-red throat. In most books it is mentioned that the range of this species starts from Goa and extends to the south of India along the Western Ghats and this is probably the reason as to why it was declared as the state bird of Goa, but now there are records of this bird further north up till Amboli in Maharahstra.

This bird is usually encountered singly or in pairs, but it is not unusual to find several of them on a fruiting tree. This species is omnivorous and will eat figs, berries and insects foraged from the tree canopy. They have a very sweet and melodious song which is quite high pitched. In Dr Ali’s notes he has mentioned that pairs keep in touch with each other by “a low churring note which is constantly uttered”.

Their breeding season is rather poorly known but in general is thought to stretch from January to August within the Western Ghats, while breeding activity in Goa has been recorded in February and March. They make small cup shaped nests often a few meters above the ground. It has been noted that a female will lay an average of four eggs every season.

The best places to see them in Goa are in Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, Mollem National Park, Netravalli and Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary. There have also been reports of this species from Betki- Marcela, Keri-Ponda and Dhargalim which is not very surprising considering all these places have very good habitat for this species. It is thought that historically this species had a wider range in Goa especially in the foothills region of the Western Ghats of the state, but due to rapid habitat loss in the past decade due to rampant mining activities in this zone has destroyed a major chunk of their habitat.

Quick facts

Also called Flame-throated bulbul

Is the state bird of Goa

Proposed by Dr. Salim Ali in 1972 when he conducted a bird survey in Goa

Distribution in Western Ghats was historically known to start from Goa

Very wide spread resident in the forests of Goa

They are omnivorous and will eat figs, berries and insects

A major portion of their habitat has been lost in the past decade due to deforestation and mining

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