Grey-headed Bulbul Brachypodius priocephalus


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Near Threatened as it is suspected to be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline owing to forest clearance throughout its range. Surveys are needed to accurately quantify its population size and establish population trends.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but the population is thought to occur at low densities in suitable habitat which is patchily distributed throughout its range.

Trend justification
Habitat destruction is thought to be causing moderately rapid population declines (Balakrishnan 2007).

Distribution and population

Pycnonotus priocephalus is found in the Western Ghats and Palni Hills in south-west India (del Hoyo et al. 2005). The species is patchily distributed, but it is thought to be not uncommon in suitable habitat (del Hoyo et al. 2005, Balakrishnan 2007, J. Praveen in litt. 2010). Suitable habitat at lower habitats has largely been cleared, and continued clearance is suspected to be causing on-going population declines (del Hoyo et al. 2005, Balakrishnan 2007).


This species uses two distinct elevation zones during the breeding and non-breeding seasons. During the breeding season, individuals are restricted to the mid-elevation evergreen forests (700-1,400 m). During the non-breeding season, it is present in lower altitude moist deciduous and scrub forests. Reed-bamboos (Ochlandra spp.) are thought to be an important nesting plant, and it is not seen in shola forests and altered habitats such as plantations, suggesting that it is a habitat specialist. Individuals show local migration during breeding and non-breeding seasons in response to the variation in fruit abundance and adverse climatic conditions (Balakrishnan 2007). It breeds from March to July and the female lays a clutch of one or two eggs. Its diet consists of berries and other fruit, and also a small proportion of insects. It forages at all levels of forest and in tall vine-laden shrubs, often singly or in pairs, but sometimes in groups of four to eight individuals (del Hoyo et al. 2005).


The principal threat to the species is habitat loss and degradation as forest is converted into plantations, reservoirs, crops and human settlements (del Hoyo et al. 2005, Balakrishnan 2007). Although there are no reliable estimates of the total forest loss for the Western Ghats, several regional studies using satellite data suggest that only about 20% of the natural forest vegetation remains and is in a highly fragmented state (Balakrishnan 2007). Extensive extraction of reed-bamboos, used in pulp and paper industry and traditional cottage industries such as basket and mat-weaving, is thought to be an important factor causing population decline (Balakrishnan 2007).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It has been recorded from about 33 Important Bird Areas (IBAs); however, the majority of them are unprotected non-breeding sites with various levels of degradation (Balakrishnan 2007). It is present in nearly all wildlife sanctuaries and forest reserves in Kerala (J. Praveen in litt. 2010).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Instigate the formation and amalgamation of protected areas throughout its range to ensure that enough suitable habitat is protected (Balakrishnan 2007). Ensure effective legal protection of protected areas (Balakrishnan 2007). Prevent the extensive extraction of reed-bamboos (Ochlandra spp.) from lower altitudes, especially during the breeding season (Balakrishnan 2007). Accurately assess the current population size and establish regular surveys to quantify population trends.


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Taylor, J.

Praveen, J., Balakrishnan, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Brachypodius priocephalus. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/grey-headed-bulbul-brachypodius-priocephalus on 06/06/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 06/06/2023.