Justification of Red List Category
Despite its relatively large range, populations of this bulbul are small and severely fragmented. Destruction and degradation of its habitat continue to cause population declines. It therefore qualifies it as Vulnerable.
Although this species has a large EOO (210,000 km2), it is very patchily distributed, in being restricted to hills and hill ranges. Surveys of 18 sites showed it to be common in intact suitable habitat, but this was 'very limited'. Analysis of the detailed account in BirdLife International (2001) suggests that the total population may well be below 10,000 individuals, so it is placed in the band 2,500-9,999 individuals here. This equates to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.
Recent surveys of 18 sites found that the species had disappeared from six historical locations. Habitat loss is occurring throughout its fragmented range, suggesting that rapid population declines are likely to be on-going, although habitat in south India is largely intact and in some areas vegetation on hills is recovering (S. Subramanya in litt. 2016). It is thought to have been significantly more abundant in the past, particularly in the Western Ghats (Subramanya et al. 2006).
Pycnonotus xantholaemus is endemic to southern India, where it is locally distributed in southern Andhra Pradesh, eastern Karnataka, eastern Kerala and northern Tamil Nadu (Subramanya 2004). It could also occur in Orissa, where there is suitable unsurveyed habitat (Subramanya et al. 2006). It is known from c.80 localities, with all recent records from hills south of 16°N and east of 76°E (Narayanan et al. 2006). The southern limit of its known range was recently extended southwards by c.30 km, when birds were recorded on the eastern slopes of Devarmala (Sandeep Das) (per P. Jayadevan in litt. 2012). It is still locally common, but appears to be declining. Recent surveys of 75 localities found that it had totally disappeared from six historical sites, and at most occupied sites it is considered scarce (Thejaswi 2004). Many areas of suitable habitat within the species's range remain unsurveyed.
It is a largely sedentary resident, generally associated with boulder-strewn hillsides or rocky outcrops with dense undergrowth, usually under either thorn-scrub, scrub jungle, mixed dry or moist deciduous forest at 300-1,800 m. It is quite tolerant of denuded habitat, although not found on completely bare hills. Some local or altitudinal movements may be made in response to the abundance of fruiting trees. It is encountered in pairs or small groups of six or more. Berry-bearing shrubs, particularly Securinega, Toddalia, Erythroxylon, Solanum, Santalum, Ziziphus, Ficus, Canthium, Phyllanthus and Lantana, are important food sources (S. Subramanya in litt. 2012). It also feeds on insects. Evidence suggests that the species breeds in the south-west monsoon, between June and August (Subramanya et al. 2006).
The key threats are habitat loss and degradation owing to commercial quarrying for granite, cutting and lopping of trees for fuelwood, clearance for cultivation and intensive browsing of berry-bearing shrubs by domestic livestock. However, some of the degraded hills within the species range around Bangalore, India are showing remarkable recovery of vegetation, primarily owing to reduced dependence of local people for fuelwood from the hill habitat and slowly switching over to cooking gas in villages found around these hill habitats (S. Subramanyain litt. 2016).Mining activities in Karnataka have increased rapidly in recent years (S. Subramanya in litt. 2007). Periodic fires are also thought to degrade its habitat. Road widening at Devarayanadurga has caused local losses of habitat in the State Forest (A. Ahmed in litt. 2002). Unregulated tourist traffic may cause detrimental disturbance at some sites (Subramanya et al. 2006). Quarrying and human disturbance are also cited as threats by Subramanya et al. (2006).
Conservation Actions Underway
Tracts of habitat that support the species at Adichunchanagiri, Anaimalai Hills, Biligiri Rangana Hills, Devarayanadurga, Gingee, Horsely Hills, Ragihalli State Forest, Shevaroys and Tirumala Hills are afforded nominal protection, although many are still under heavy human disturbance, and there are few protected areas in the Deccan Plateau and Eastern Ghats, where the majority of the population occurs (Subramanya et al. 2006). In some areas, natural vegetation is recovering owing to the changing lifestyles of villagers, who are slowly converting from the using firewood to cooking gas (S. Subramanya in litt. 2012).
20 cm. Rather plain, olive-and-greyish bulbul. Yellow throat, undertail-coverts and tail-tip. Plain head, greyish breast and belly. Similar spp. White-browed Bulbul P. luteolus has pale supercilium and lacks yellow throat and tip of tail. Voice Explosive conversational babble pit pit pit, woopit woopit, pit pit ut utoo pit pit ut utoo and nasal, mellow rhid-tu-tu.
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Gilroy, J., Khwaja, N., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.
Ahmed, A., Ghorpade, K., Jayadevan, P., Riyazuddin, S. & Subramanya, S.
BirdLife International (2017) Species factsheet: Pycnonotus xantholaemus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/10/2017. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2017) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/10/2017.