White-spectacled bulbul: what’s in a name?

The White-spectacled bulbul is a gray-bodied bird, with a black head, and distinct white “spectacles” or rings around its eyes.

white-spectacled bulbul

While its distribution range is somewhat limited, it can live in a broad array of vegetated areas and, thus, is flourishing overall.

white spectacled bulbul distro map
White-spectacled bulbul range map (source)

It is a common sight (and sound!) all over Israel.  In fact, it was a runner up in the contest to become Israel’s national bird.  Thankfully, it lost to the Hoopoe, because the word “bulbul”in Hebrew slang is roughly equivalent to the word “weenie”in American English.

white spectacled bulbul posing
Who you callin’ a weenie?

Shoshana Kordova wrote a great piece in Haaretz on this subject:

While attributing glasses to this mostly gray songbird with white rings around its eyes may seem to grace it with some dignity and focus our attention on the bird’s face, that image is arguably counteracted by the fact that it is also known as bulbul tzahov-shet, or yellow-vented bulbul: the bulbul with the yellow backside.
The avian vent, also called the cloaca, is an opening that serves as the bodily exit for the digestive, urinary and reproductive systems in both male and female birds. That, of course, brings us back to the other kind of bulbul, a popular childish name for the male reproductive organ that has been known to cause the same kind of snickering you would get in English if you were to casually mention to people who were not ornithology enthusiasts that you had just spotted some great tits – I am referring to the woodland bird, of course – through your binoculars.


white spectacled bulbul popping out of trees
Clearer view of the yellow “vent”

Either way, we’re pretty sure we discovered the root of Elton John’s obsession with glasses:Elton Bulbul


Happy New Year from the Hoopoe!

As 2015 comes to a close and we look forward to another year, we tapped the stunning Hoopoe for some advice on surviving and thriving in 2016.

1. Be true to yourself.


The Hoopoe (or duchifat in Hebrew), which was voted in as Israel’s national bird in 2008, is most likely named after the distinct oop-oop-oop sound it makes. It doesn’t get fancy with adjectives or descriptions of all the beautiful features it has (e.g. the bow-beaked, golden-black-tip-crested, etc.) …it’s just the Hoopoe, keepin’ it real.  You can hear the Hoopoe’s eponymous song in this great video where it stands outside of someone’s window.

2. Get off your butt.

While the Hoopoe does take adequate time to bask in the sun to catch some rays, most of the time it is dig-dig-digging for food, as you can see here…

Its diet consists of insects, small reptiles, and occasionally seeds and berries. When it is foraging, it is in constant motion – like a woodpecker pecking the ground.  In flight, it has a distinct undulating wing motion, often compared to the flight of a butterfly.

3. Watch your mouth!


The Hoopoe uses its long curved beak for eating and to defend itself and its territory.  It has special muscles in its jaw so it can actually open its beak while it is deep in the soil.  It also uses its sharp beak as a weapon and has been known to render others blind!

4. When needed, make a stink.


With all the tension across the globe this year, the last thing we need to do is sit back and do nothing. The Hoopoe has a special defense mechanism: it can stink up a place faster than Adele sells out a tour.  It has special glands that produce a nasty smelling secretion (we’re told it smells like rotting meat) which it applies all over its body…kind of an anti-cologne. Apparently, this stenchy solution also prevents parasites and acts as an antibacterial agent.

5. Let your light shine.


The Hoopoe is a beautiful creature in its own right…but when its crest is fanned open, it’s like a new world appears.  And for this beauty, the Hoopoe turns to Marianne Williamson‘s wonderfully inspiring words:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? …Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do…. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

We wish a Happy New Year to you and yours (avian, human, and otherwise) and to our lovely planet!