A prim little bulbul that's completely at home in the desert
In Horse With No Name, Neil Young sang: "In the desert, you can't remember your name." It's sort of what you feel when you see a bulbul in the desert, comfortable among the spare vegetation.
Meet the White-eared Bulbul, locally common in the salt desert but rare elsewhere in India. We found parties of these birds in every little oasis of greenery, picking away at insects and consuming available plant nectar. In Kutch, where there are few large trees, stands of exotic Prosopis juliflora have begun to make their presence felt in the desert vegetation. Hopping among these low trees are these bulbuls with a difference - their strikingly contrasted pied heads make them resemble slightly oversize Great Tits. Their crests are short, and their musical fluting calls are similar to those of other bulbuls. But what sets them apart is the sulphur-yellow vent. In overall coloration, the White-eared Bulbul is very similar to the Himalayan Bulbul, but the latter's range ends at the foothills (while the White-eared Bulbul's begins in central and northwestern India and stretches westward to Arabia). Also, the Himalayan Bulbul's Elvis Presley hairdo is tell-tale.
Photograph: © Sandeep Somasekharan