Feral bird threatens local species


Red-whiskered bulbul

CANBERRAN’s are urged to be on the lookout for the red-whiskered bulbul, an environmental and agricultural pest, which was spotted in the Lanyon Valley area last month.

ACT conservator Ian Walker says the red-whiskered bulbul (“Pycnonotus jocosus”) is not native to Australia and is considered both an environmental and agricultural pest, as it competes with local native birds for food and predates on small reptiles and insects. 

“It could also contribute to the spread of many invasive weeds, including blackberry, African boxthorn and privet. In other areas of Australia it has been recorded damaging fruit crops, such as figs, strawberries and pears and poses a threat to other crops such as grapes and berries, which could affect local industry,” he says. 

“The bird was deliberately introduced into Sydney and Melbourne in the 1800s and populations have since expanded, particularly northwards from Sydney.

“The nearest known established population is in the Illawarra region. The bulbul is considered highly likely to establish further populations in Australia if existing populations and new incursions are not managed.

At this stage, Mr Walker is not sure if the birds spotted were escapees from birds held illegally in captivity or part of a broader feral population.

“The last reported sighting of this bird in the ACT was in 2015,” he says. 

“It’s important to respond to an incursion of this pest bird species as early as possible before population numbers become difficult to manage.”

Mr Walker reminded residents they cannot keep prohibited and notifiable pest species as pets in the ACT and says keeping or supplying a prohibited pest species can carry a fine of up to $7500 for an individual or $37,500 for a corporation.

The bird is typically brown with a white neck, a distinctive red cheek patch and pointed black crest on its head. Both male and female are similar in colour. Their calls are best described as lively chatter interspersed with whistles.

Anyone who spots a red-whiskered bulbul is asked to report it through Access Canberra on 13 22 81 and are asked, if possible, to provide a photo of suspected sightings along with a location and time. Photos and any other information can be emailed to EPSDInvasiveanimals@act.gov.au


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