Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

The red-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer): serious pest or understudied invader?

Abstract

Recently, debate has flourished about inadequacies in the simplistic "worst invasive species" approach and its global scale. Here we investigate the status of the red-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer), an Asian passerine bird. This species has been introduced widely across Pacific islands and is commonly blamed for its impacts on agriculture and biodiversity via dispersal of invasive plant seeds and competition with native fauna. This case study evaluates all available data on the impacts and management of this invasive species and identifies priorities for future research. We reviewed the scientific literature and information from three databases (ABBA, GAVIA, eBird) and highlight that the attention paid to this species by scientists and managers varied considerably between islands and contexts and was globally lower than the attention paid to other species on the IUCN-ISSG list. The red-vented bulbul has now established on 37 islands and in seven continental locations outside its native range. We show that three categories of effects are associated with this species: plant damage, seed dispersal and disturbance of fauna. We compiled lists of 110 plant species consumed, 33 plant species dispersed, and 15 species of bird that this bulbul interacts with. However, these lists were mainly made of opportunistic observations rather than specific assessments. Research outputs that focus on better ways to prevent or quantify the impacts of the red-vented bulbul remain scarce. We found very few references exploring potential positive impacts of this species, and only two examples of management actions undertaken against it. The latter are required to inform management actions, especially on sensitive tropical islands where invasions and dispersal of the red-vented bulbul are ongoing. Our analysis of the literature found no clear support for considering this species to be one of the "world's worst" invasive alien species.