The Brown-eared Bulbul (Microscelis amaurotis) is a medium-sized bulbul which is found from the Russian Far East (including Sakhalin), northeastern China, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan, south to Taiwan and the Babuyan and Batanes island chains in the north of the Philippines, occasionally being found in Luzon. It is extremely common within the northern parts of its range, and is a familiar bird throughout Japan, where it is called hiyodori. However, in Taiwan it is rare and limited to Orchid Island 1.
This species was long placed in the genus Hypsipetes, at that time an indiscriminate assemblage of more or less related bulbul species. Later, its distinctness was recognized and it was variously placed in the genus Ixos or given a genus of its own, Microscelis. Analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences suggests that the latter is more appropriate (Moyle & Marks, 2006).
Historically, Brown-eared Bulbuls are migratory birds moving to the southern parts of its range in winter, but they have taken advantage of changes in crops and farming practices in recent decades to overwinter in areas farther north than previously possible. As a result, they are considered agricultural pests in some areas of Japan. Most Brown-eared Bulbuls still move south in winter, often forming huge flocks during migration. In summer, Brown-eared Bulbuls primarily feed on insects, while they primarily take fruits and seeds in the fall and winter.
Reaching a length of about 28cm, Brown-eared Bulbuls are grayish-brown, with brown cheeks (the "brown ears" of the common name) and a long tail. While they prefer forested areas, they readily adapt to urban and rural environments, and their noisy squeaking calls are a familiar sound in most areas of Japan.