Cape Bulbul (Pycnonotus capensis)

Cover photo: BirdPix 7898 – Gregg & Desire Darling


The Cape Bulbul is easily identified by its white eye-rings, black bill, and bright yellow feathers under its tail. Overall, its colouration is a dull blackish brown. It has a small crest on its head and black legs and feet. Males and females look alike.

Adult Cape Bulbul: BirdPix 7873 – Gregg & Desire Darling, St Francis Bay, Eastern Cape, 17 May 2014.

It has a very cheerful sounding call of two or more varied notes which kind of sound like pit-peet-pitmajol, piet-piet-patata.


It occurs in coastal bush, open forest, fynbos and garden habitats. It generally prefers thickly vegetated fynbos, succulent Karoo, and gardens or parks with trees and bushes.

Cape Bulbuls in their natural habitats. Photo left: BirdPix 211446 – Melisa Bal, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Western Cape, 04 March 2022. Top right: BirdPix 115733 – Corrie du Toit, Franskraal, Western Cape, 16 June 2020.


The Cape Bulbul is Endemic to South Africa. It is very common across much of the Western Cape, with its range extending along the coast to the Northern and Eastern Cape Provinces. The blue and green squares in the map below, which displays distribution data as captured by the second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2), shows the core of the Cape Bulbul’s range. These are the squares where reporting rates for Cape Bulbul are highest.

SABAP2 distribution map for Cape Bulbul, downloaded on 30 March 2022. Details on how to interpret the map can be found here.


It is a locally common and conspicuous bird. They tend to perch at the top of a bushes making themselves easy to spot. Cape Bulbuls are active and noisy, and usually seen in pairs or small groups while foraging for fruit, nectar, and insects.

Food items of Cape Bulbuls. Top left: BirdPix 170640 – Felicity Ellmore, Wilderness, Western Cape, 01 June 2021. Bottom left: BirdPix 153347 – G Wingate, Bellville, Western Cape, 22 January 2021. Right: BirdPix 193782 – Andre & Bets Kok, George, Western Cape, 09 September 2012.
Cape Bulbul pair (left): BirdPix 28167 – Gregg Darling, St Francis Bay, Eastern Cape, 09 July 2016. Adult with young (right): BirdPix 3111 – Dave Kennedy, Sedgefield, Western Cape, 16 November 2009.

During the breeding season (September to December) the female builds the nest which consists of a sturdy but messy cup of twigs, grass stems and rootlets. The nest is typically placed on a horizontal branch near the edge of a bush’s or tree’s foliage. Cape Bulbuls lay 2-5 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 11-13 days. Both parents feed the chicks, who remain dependent on their parents for food for a period of about 50 days from hatching.

Cape Bulbul busy preening: BirdPix 84683 – Jorrie Jordaan, Sutherland, Northern Cape, 30 April 2017.

Further Resources

Species Text from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name)

Other common names: Kaapse Tiptol (Afrikaans); Kapbülbül (German); Tuta do Cabo (Portuguese); Bulbul du Cap (French).

Recommended citation format: Loftie-Eaton M and Karis D 2022. Cape Bulbul Pycnonotus capensis. Bird Feeder Project. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at

List of bird species in this format is available here.

Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
The Bird Feeder Project is a BDI citizen science initiative involving school learners and youth eco-clubs. Learners are taught a scientific protocol for doing 10-minute watches and recording the species they see, in the order they see them. The Bird Feeder Project includes an online identification guide to about 30 of the species seen in gardens in Cape Town. Students will learn how to upload their cellphone photos into the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum, where they will be curated for posterity. The 10-minute watches will rapidly grow into a valuable monitoring database. Karis Daniel is the Project Coordinator and put together the identification guide, Megan Loftie-Eaton helped with the species texts.