The Story of the Red Whiskered Bubul – From Eggs to Chicks and Flew Away

I was glad to see two bulbuls coming regularly to visit my roof top. They were, in fact, busily building a nest with weeds, grass etc.

It wasn’t a big nest and was hidden from almost all sides in a pine tree which I grow. There was only an access from one side, big enough for an adult bird to access. I was a bit surprised that the nest wasn’t built higher; it was built around 1.4m from the ground. Twelve years ago, we have the same experience of bulbuls building a nest, on the top of the bamboo we grew. It was so high up that we cannot easily view.

The mother bulbul started laying in the nest. given the small size of the nest, her tail protrudes out.

Then unexpectedly, came the first egg. It was small with some red dots.

Within the next few days, unexpectedly came two more eggs, making a total of three.

The mother bird hatched the eggs for about 12 days before the first chick appears, leaving the nest only for short spells, maybe to find food.

it is amazing to see the chicks woke up from their sleep, stretched their necks and opened their mouths whenever they noticed some movements in their nest thinking that their parents have come back with food. At this time, their eyes are not open and they rely on their other senses.

I only have the opportunity to photograph them when the parents are briefly away; leaving a sufficient gap to shoot at the nest through the entrance.

I was horrified when one day I discovered that we were left with two chicks. One has gone missing.

My first reaction was that it may have been stolen by eagles, crows or other birds in our area. There are no traces that the chick has fallen out of the nest, no feathers, no damages etc to the nest.

But on thinking about it, the parents may have discarded the weakest egg or possibly infected chick. This is in a way, ensures the survival of the fittest.

The nest is quite small. In fact, it is only big enough for two chicks with fully grown feathers. There will be no space for a third one and to feed three together is a very tiring job for the parents.

It was a never ending job of their parents to feed them. The parents have separate duties of finding the food. The mom would stand nearby watching and guarding , while the male will deliver the food to the mouths of the chicks. I am unable to take any meaningful shots of the feeding as the sight is blocked by the parents while feeding. The feeding would continue into the night. I could hear their songs/ noise even in midnight.

The chicks grew very rapidly, the amount of feathers and the size changed everyday.

Then one day, the eyes of the chicks were opened and they no longer respond the movements. They slept for most of the time in the nest in between the feeding.

Shooting the chicks is not easy and only took place when the parents are not around. However, they may come back anytime and tried to ward me off. A couple of times, the parents would dive down behind my back, rapidly and nosily flapping their wings to chase me off. With this, can only back off.

Photographing the parents is not any easier. They are quite evasive and would flew away if I get any closer. For this, I use a camera with a 600 mm focal length and tried to stay away as far as possible, consistent with having a clear image.

One day, I was unhappy to find the chicks have suddenly left the nest, albeit they were there a few hours ago.

I looked for them and found one chick perched on a nearby pine tree while the mother overlooked at a distance.

I quickly grabbed my smartphone and took pictures from two directions as the main direction was against the light.

I thought it was more meaningful to take the picture with the mom there, giving it the last encouragement and urge.

Once that’s done, the chick dived down and disappeared.

The nest is now empty.

The parents, maybe out of habit, did come back to my roof garden, at exactly the same spots to sing a few songs.

Over the last few weeks, I developed a habit too – to come up to the roof several times a day, to watch the chicks and the parents and get them photographed.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity of saying goodbye to them.