Yellow-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus penicillatus


Justification of Red List category
Although the species has a fairly small range, it does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is suspected to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is unknown, and hence cannot be assessed under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as abundant in the central provinces of Sri Lanka, particularly above elevations of 850 m (del Hoyo et al. 2005; E. Goodale in litt. 2020).

Trend justification
Forest loss has been low within the species's range in recent years, equating to population declines of <2% (Global Forest Watch 2020) over three generations (10.9 years). The species is also able to persist and indeed may be abundant within degraded agricultural areas (Goodale et al. 2014; E. Goodale in litt. 2020). In the absence of substantial evidence of a decline and low immediate risk (Fishpool and Tobias 2020) the species's population trend is suspected to be stable. Given the small range of the species continued monitoring of abundance and rates of habitat loss remains important in order to detect population changes.

Distribution and population

Pycnonotus penicillatus is an endemic resident in the wet zone highlands of Sri Lanka, where it is common to abundant in suitable habitats (BirdLife International 2001).


This species is abundant in mature, degraded forest and eucalyptus plantations in montane regions of Sri Lanka, generally at 850-2,200 m (Goodale et al. 2014). Usually living in groups of 3-10 birds, it can also be seen in agricultural areas (where it is more associated with shrubs and trees), wooded farms, gardens and regrowth (E. Goodale in litt. 2020; Fishpool and Tobias 2020).


Forest on Sri Lanka have previously suffered rapid degradation and fragmentation in the past decades through excessive gathering of fuelwood, clearance for permanent agriculture, shifting cultivation, fire, urbanisation and logging. However, forest loss now remains low at <2% over three generations (Global Forest Watch 2020) and it is unclear to what extent the loss and degradation of forest for agriculture will have altered the population size of this species, noted to be abundant in degraded agricultural areas at suitable elevations (E. Goodale in litt. 2020). 

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species occurs in a range of protected areas, including Horton Plains National Park, Hakgala Strict Nature Reserve and Peak Wilderness Sanctuary (Fishpool and Tobias 2020). 

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct repeated surveys within the species's range to assess population size, trends and rates of habitat loss. Effectively protect significant areas of suitable forest at key sites, in both strictly protected areas and community-led multiple use areas.


Text account compilers
Martin, R., Fernando, E.

Benstead, P., Gilroy, J., Goodale, E. & Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Pycnonotus penicillatus. Downloaded from on 27/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/09/2023.