Brown-eared Bulbul

Leonard and I recently returned from Japan. Our time was spent in the city of Sakaide, which is located in Kagawa on the small island of Shikoku. Photography and natural history were not the focus of our trip, however, we did see several new bird species and some interesting flora. Occasionally I will introduce a few of these new, to us, species.

One bird, the brown-eared bulbul (Microscelis amaurotis) was a constant companion wherever Leonard and I went. The brown-eared bulbul is one of the most abundant bird species in Japan and can be found in deciduous, evergreen and mixed forests as well as in cultivated areas and parks and gardens, both urban and suburban. This bulbul is noisy and makes many varied, loud, harsh noises. Even if we were unable to see the bulbul its call always seemed to be part of the background noise. There are several subspecies throughout Japan.

The brown-eared bulbul has ash grey upper parts while its wings and tail have a brownish cast. The breast and belly have white spots. The head, crown and nape feathers are grey with whitish tips and sometimes there is the appearance of a slight crest.  This monotypic (both sexes look alike) bird has reddish brown eyes and dark reddish legs. The brown-eared bulbul gets its common name from the chestnut brown on its ears and sides of its neck.

Mostly resident, brown-eared bulbuls will move south from more northern latitudes beginning in late September or will move to lower altitudes as the weather cools.

Brown-eared bulbuls eat mostly plant material such as seeds, blossoms, berries and fruits. They will also forage for nectar and take insects.

Although now classified as Microscelis, previously brown-eared bulbuls were in the Hypsipetes genus. In Japan brown-eared bulbuls are known as “hyodori”.

These brown-eared bulbuls were photographed in a small neighborhood park in Sakaide.

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