Drongo - Dicrurini

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Drongos are a birds with quite a few distinctive features. Most notably are the Racquet-tailed species with the long streamers extending out from their fairly long tail. Other Drongos which are without streamers have the tail -forked. Next, these are birds with loud calls and in metallic tone. When they are around, you just cannot miss their presence, the loud calls in unique tones are repeated in close frequencies. Lastly, another general feature of these birds, is their glossy dark blue colored feathers.

Drongos are insect-eating birds. Most Drongos are found in the deep forest but the Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo do reach out at the forest edge with human traffic. The migrating Ashy Drongo sometimes do spend time in open field. Their legs are short and when perched maintains an upright position. whilst perched. They too remain in the same perch for long time, behaving like Shrikes. Most of the time their prey are in trees away from the ground. But I have posted one picture to show that they do hunt on the ground.

I have seen the Greater-racquet-tailed Drongo as an aggressive bird, individually or in group driving away larger bird like the House Crow. the same bird having a large repertoire also mimics calls.

There are 24 species of Drongos found in the world, of which there are 8 species in South-east Asia..

Narrowing down the field, the 7 Drongos found in Malaysia are:-

PASSERIFORMES: Dicruridae

 
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus
Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans
Bronzed Drongo Dicrurus aeneus
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus remifer
Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus

Ashy Drongo #1 Dicrurus leucophaeus nigrescens

Size & diagnostic markings:- 28 Cm. This Drongo varies in sizes from 26-29 cm long. Has all the looks of the Black Drongo like deeply forked tail. With the same features and smaller in size the plumage is not black. This species has a steely grey to lighter grey upper part and the under part a shade lighter..
Distribution :-  This bird is native to the Great Sundas.
Habitats & preferences:- In Southern Thailand and Malaysia, this bird prefers mangrove forest and is therefore a lowland forest bird.
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- There are 4 sub-species mentioned on this page and I had pictures of them in a variety of places, see the details. Please check them out separately
 
 My personal jottings :-

The first sub-species shown here is is the darkest version of the few species of Ashy Drongos. The bird has very close resemblances with the Black Drongo. It may be difficult under varying lights to ascertain that comparison between the 2 birds. So was the longer bill of the Ashy Drongo.

Then there is a need to distinguish this species with other species of Ashy Drongos. Most significant the perhaps is the lower part- lighter when compared with the Black Drongo but darker than those on the other species of Ashy Drongos.

In fact, we are lucky in Malaysia as the Black Drongo is not common, it is easy to assume the fork on the tail is "not that deep" to quickly ID the bird as Ashy Drongo. But those familiar with Drongo in general would notice that this Ashy Drongo is not that dark when compared with the all black Drongo.

Additional information, this bird was seen breeding the mangrove forest of Kuala Selangor Nature Park. This is a migratory bird seen in the year period. I had pictures taken in Selangor states but cannot confirm whether this same sub-species is also seen the northern states. There the sub-species I had seen differed. According to Craig Robson, this bird is resident from South Thailand southwards, implying Peninsula Malaysia. This first picture below shows the bird breeding in Selangor.

Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-

 

But first before viewing the pictures, here this is a close-up of the Ashy Drongo nesting in the upper storey of the Avicenna mangrove tree. Both the parents were staying near the nest but only one hatching the eggs. Picture marred by a branch that accidentally blocks the the vent of the bird. Still, could see that the nest is a small cup at the fork of branches.

 

Much closer to Black Drongo

glossy colours

Swallower fork tail

Ashy Drongo # 1 Ashy Drongo # 2
Ashy Drongo # 3 Ashy Drongo # 7
Ashy Drongo # 8 Ashy Drongo # 9 Ashy Drongo # 10 Ashy Drongo # 11
Ashy Drongo # 12 Ashy Drongo # 13 Ashy Drongo # 14 Ashy Drongo #  15
Ashy Drongo # 16 Ashy Drongo # 17 Nesting parents
 

Ashy Drongo #2 Dicrurus leucophaeus mouhoti

This species which is identical in size as the Black Drongo has much similarities as well.

This is a much easier to ID Ashy Drongo. The color of the bird both on its upper part and that lighter lower part making the bird having a plumage that bears a feature that closest to its given name. Unlike the D.l. nigrescens, the lighter grey color instantly tells the differences of this bird from the Black Drongo.

For example, watch for shining blue & grey of the wings. The under part itself is lighter in shade while the lores are darker.  The best way is perhaps the bird itself - good variations in shades under all lightings and away from that nearly all dark plumage of the first species.

The picture for this sub-species were taken in mainland Penang.

 

Ashy Drongo   # 1 Dark steely grey   # 2 Slight bluish gloss   # 3 Ashy Drongo  # 4
Ashy Drongo   #  5 Ashy Drongo   #  6 Lighter under part   #  7 Ashy Drongo   #  8
Ashy Drongo   #  9 Ashy Drongo   #  10
Ashy Drongo   #  12 Ashy Drongo   #  13
Ashy Drongo   # 14 Ashy Drongo   # 15 Ashy Drongo   # 16 Ashy Drongo  # 17
Ashy Drongo   #  18 Ashy Drongo   #  19 Ashy Drongo   # 20 Ashy Drongo   #  21
Ashy Drongo   #  22 Ashy Drongo   #  23

Ashy Drongo #3  Dicrurus leucophaeus leucogenis

This is a Ashy Drongo with very pale grey plumage, the forehead with a much darker shade of grey. The distinctive marking is the white lores to the ear covert, a lighter shaded vent and the dark shades along the edge to the flight feathers.

The color on this bird and the white patch at its eyes makes the bird very distinctive and easy to ID instantly. The more rounded body shape that also influences that appearance of the tail to appear slimmer leads this species away from the conventional longish shape of Ashy Drongos. In fact looking at this bird itself needs no further elaboration for a positive ID

While Robson mentioned that this is a bird seen most often in region of Central Thailand from Burma to Cambodia. No mention about the terrain these birds lives. The pictures here were taken in Mount Kinabalu, a mountain climate.

 

Ashy Drongo Type 3# 1 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 2 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 3 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 4
Ashy Drongo Type 3# 5 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 6 Ashy DrongoType 3 # 7 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 8
Ashy Drongo Type 3# 9 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 10
Ashy Drongo Type 3# 11 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 12
Ashy DrongoType 3 # 13 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 14 Ashy DrongoType 3 # 15 Ashy DrongoType 3 # 16
Ashy Drongo Type 3# 17 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 18 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 19 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 20
Ashy Drongo Type 3# 21 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 22 Ashy Drongo Type 3# 23 Ashy DrongoType 3 # 24

Ashy Drongo #4 Dicrurus leucophaeus salangensis

This next and 4th species of Ashy Drongo is a between the very light grey 3rd species Dicrurus leucophaeus leucogenis and the darker "normal" Ashy Drongo. The bird has more the slimmest of usual body shape of a Ashy Drongo while the color of the bird is closer to that of the 3rd species. So with the very pale grey plumage, but in a shade darker. It is rather impossible to describe how much lighter or darker, therefore this series of pictures taken under a couple of lighting conditions would enable the viewer to make their own assessment. Honestly, I myself is perplexed as to the weighting used in the term "lighter/darker"

Major diagnostic marking is absence of the white at the eyes. This bird has mostly grey coverts. The bird is wintering in the region of Thailand, east to Cambodia and south to Peninsula. For us in Malaysia, best chance to see this bird would be the very northern states. It is unlikely to be a visitor and more like passage migrant as very little picture of this bird was posted on the internet.

 

Ashy Drongo   Type4# 1 Ashy Drongo  Type4 # 2 Ashy Drongo  Type4 # 3 Ashy Drongo  Type4# 4
Ashy Drongo   Type4#  5 Ashy Drongo  Type4 #  6 Ashy Drongo  Type4 #  7 Ashy Drongo   Type4#  8
Ashy Drongo   Type4#  9 Ashy Drongo  Type4 #  10
Ashy Drongo   Type4#  11 Ashy Drongo   Type4#  12
Ashy Drongo   Type4# 13 Ashy Drongo   Type4# 14 Ashy Drongo   Type4# 15 Ashy Drongo Type4 # 16
Ashy Drongo   Type4#  18 Ashy Drongo  Type4 #  19 Ashy Drongo  Type4 # 20
Ashy Drongo   Type4#  21 Ashy Drongo  Type4 #  22 Ashy Drongo  Type4 # 23

 

2. Black Drongo  Dicrurus macrocerus

Size & diagnostic markings:- 28 Cm. The Black Drongo has a completely black plumage on the upper and under parts. The black is glossy blue as well when seen under strong lights. There is a subtle white spot in front of the eye and the back of the bill.
Distribution :-  The range where this bird get involved with start with Iran, east to the India sub-continent, the  Java and Bali
Habitats & preferences:- In Malaysia, this is a bird of the lowland forest. Normally one with dense foliages and nearby river. The bird was also spotted in the open ricefields.
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Got pictures of the bird in Perdik Hills, Kiara Hills and also Pertak Forest. The far south in Sungei Balang rice fields. All in the migratory season.
 
 My personal jottings :-

The Black Drongo that we met up with is the sub-species of Dicrurus macrocerus thai. About 27 cm it is a large forest bird but also the smallest Black Drongo in South East Asia, the other 2 sub-species are marginally larger.

Distinctive feature of this bird is the deeply forked tail and of course its all black plumage. Having separate set of pictures on the same page, making the differences between the Black Drongo and that of Ashy Drongo leaves no ambiguity.

In Malaysia, the Black Drongo is not sighted often. There could be some migration but so far no visible pattern.

 

Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-
 

Black  Drongo # 1

Black  Drongo # 2

Black  Drongo # 3

Black  Drongo # 4

Black  Drongo # 5

Black  Drongo # 6

Black  Drongo # 15

Black  Drongo # 16

Black  Drongo # 17

Black  Drongo # 18

Black  Drongo # 19

Black  Drongo # 20

Black  Drongo # 21

Black  Drongo # 22

Black  Drongo # 23

3. Bronzed Drongo Dicrurus aeneus malayensis

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 22 Cm. The Bronzed Drongo is a common bird when the season comes. All over the hill slopes, sometimes in small group of few birds. Black plumage with small bills with the upper part appearing as greenish-blue in strong sunlight. Like Black Drongo, the underpart is also dark. The reflection from the body comes more easily, giving the bird its name.

 Distribution :-  The bird is most part of northern India, countries around the Himalayas, south China, Taiwan, Sumatra and Borneo
 Habitats & preferences:-  This is a bird of the sub-montane forest and despite of its small size is a noisy bird too.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- The bird is common in Frasers Hills and the Old pump House Road
 
 My personal jottings :-

Within the family of Drongos, the Bronze Drongo is a small bird at 22 cm. This is a easy bird to ID as it has prominent dark blue-greenish blue plumage. Upon reflection seen vividly are the upper part, the breast and throat. This is one bird that prefers the cool climate of the sub-montane forest. Most detectable in Frasers Hills and certain times of the year along the Old Pump House Road. The bird makes no pretense of concealing its whereabouts. Normally on bare branches or tip of stumps some distance away. It could also descend down to the lower storey, perched on an exposed point.

Next, the presence of this bird is easy to detect as it makes continuous  calls. A couple of versions fairly melodic.

Also detected is the fact that there are family feud among the birds. such quarrelsome display echoed through the valley where they are and could last hours.

In the collection of pictures below taken by different cameras under odd conditions, the shades varies substantially but under all condition, the glossy elements surfaced.

 

Record of bird's call :-    and Video:- with calls
Bronzed Drongo # 1 Bronzed Drongo # 2 Bronzed Drongo # 3 Bronzed Drongo # 4
Bronzed Drongo # 5 Bronzed Drongo # 6 Bronzed Drongo # 7 Bronzed Drongo # 8
Bronzed Drongo # 9 Bronzed Drongo # 10 Bronzed Drongo # 11 Bronzed Drongo # 12
 
Bronzed Drongo # 15 Bronzed Drongo # 16 Bronzed Drongo # 17 Bronzed Drongo # 18
Bronzed Drongo # 19 Bronzed Drongo # 20 Bronzed Drongo # 21 Bronzed Drongo # 22
Bronzed Drongo # 23 Bronzed Drongo # 24 Bronzed Drongo # 25 Bronzed Drongo # 26

 

As a parting shot, here is a picture of a family of Bronzed Drongos. As usual in their favorite habitat the Bamboo clumps and their most preferred spot, the highest part of the bamboo bush, new shoots.

4. Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 30 Cm. The Crow-billed Drongo is a rather large bird and can grow beyond 30cm. long. Having same feature as the Black Drongo but a bulkier bird. Their tail short and the fork at the end shallow, but the tip of the feathers at the fork strongly curled upwards. The eyes reddish brown, For birds, arriving for their first winter, the breast other than the throat is filled with white spots . The juvenile is also browner than the adult.

 Distribution :-  The bird is from the north-eastern India and south western china,
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland forest bird that also prefer mangrove forest.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Most times, the bird was encountered in deep and undisturbed forest, such as Perdik, hill slopes of Pertak and now I have got this bird in Bagan Sungei Buloh, a mangrove forest as well.
 
 My personal jottings :-

The Crow-billed Drongo as its name implied is fairly large bird at close to 30 cm, is the size of a young crow. The name given to the bird has nothing to do with this fact. No! not for its size, but the fairly large size bill. Most times this dark colored Drongo could also be mistaken as a Black Drongo. Beside focusing on the bill for ID, the other obvious part of its body would be the relatively shorter tail, broader than normal with a shallow fork. The tip of the fork clearly curled outwards. Oh! these point though useful are not easy to determine until there is a comparison.

The feathers other than that of the head that looks like many other Drongo, have that glossy greenish-blue tinge as well.

This is a hard bird to meet up with, as the bird is recorded as passing through Peninsula. I have to be patience and to wait for my collection of pictures to be built gradually. Its preference in habitats are plantations, open areas, forest edge and more often seen in coastal areas. The pictures on this page were taken in heavily forested Perdik, Petak and Coastal Malacca.

Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-
 

Crow-billed  Drongo # 1

Crow-billed # 2

Crow-billed # 3

Crow-billed # 4

Crow-billed # 5

Crow-billed # 6

Crow-billed Drongo # 8

Crow-billed Drongo # 9

Crow-billed Drongo # 10

Crow-billed Drongo # 11

5. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 33 Cm. The Drongo itself is 33 cm long while the long pendant with the shaft is another 30cm more. The bird has a tuft of feathers on the forehead extending over the edge of the bill. The upper part is dark glossy blue with the under part having the same color. distinctive would be its pair of twisted streamers. Could be broken off.

 Distribution :-  The bird is resident in the Indian Sub-continent, south-west China and Greater Sundas
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland forest and forest edge bird, more often found in hills and also do go up to the mountain just below the sub-montane climate.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- In almost all forested area and its presence told by its low metallic sound calls.
 
 My personal jottings :-

This is one bird that requires little introduction. The long streamers behind its tail feathers is the hall mark. Those in the lowlands up to sub-montane climate, the Greater. In the cool sub-montane the Lesser Racket-tailed dominates the scene. Both birds could be spotted over a wide area of a single vicinity, for example Frasers Hills. There are coolers spots and other less cool patches. Both of them hardly mixed or seen, or stray into each other domain. location.

Then the typical diagnostic marks of this bird are the glossy deep blue on the feathers plus a pair twisted pendants after a long bare shaft. The metallic sounding calls over a large repertoire. This bird display frequent attempts to mimic calls. As there were a few pairs of these Drongo in the Kiara Hills, during my morning walk, I have done vocal exchanges with the birds.

There are at least 3 sub-species of this bird that can be spotted in Malaysia. Two of them seen regularly has body size of around 30 cm and another extension of 30 cm for the streamers. I have not separated the pictures for these 2 sub species. I intend to make separate sections when the pictures are adequate. The last and third is smaller sub-species spotted only in Pulau Tioman.

 Videos:- , with calls, without streamers
Record of bird's calls :-               

 

 

The Greater racquet-tailed Drongo here shown without streamers are often moving about in a family of 2-3 birds. The streamers could easily breaks off, singly or even both.

 

Greater racquet-tailed Drongo #2 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo #3 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 4 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 5
Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 6 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 7 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 8 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 9
Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 10 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 11 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 12 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 13
Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 16 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 17 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 18 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 19
Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 20 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 21 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 22 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 23
Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 24 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 25 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 26 Greater racquet-tailed Drongo # 27

6. Lesser racket-tailed Drongo [Dicrurus remifer]

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 27 Cm. The Lesser Racquet-tailled is smaller at 27 cm long but its streamers at the tail usually shorter without the stock can grow up to 40 cm more. The bird like its counterpart the Greater Racquet-tailed, is dark all round. The greenish-blue on the upper part is even more glossy showing its effect under the slightest shade of light. The tuft of feathers on the forehead is much less prominent but the square tail and the flat forehead are.

 Distribution :-  The bird is native to north-east India, Nepal, Bhutan, South-west China, Sumatra and Java
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a bird of the sub-montane forest
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Very common in Frasers Hills.
 
 My personal jottings :-

This is a smaller Drongo and has a tail shaft with streamers. Could short but could also be grown in a long streamer stretching up to 40 cm. The shape of the bird is more distinctive than that of the Greater racket-tailed. The short tufted feather almost not visible, but the arrangement of feathers on its forehead, stretching over the bill gives the forehead that flat-headed look.

The gloss on the feather is even stronger than all other Drongos. In this species, the streamers on the tail develop first. The bird could be flying around with an extremely long tail. Could be single when one side is broken off. Then, the pendant slowly extended outwards when the bare shaft begins forming. At certain stage, the bird with its natural short tail plus the pendants  gives the impression that it is another Drongo with very long tail. These pendants break off often, in the pictures below, there are birds with square shape tail and no pendant. These could be juveniles or adults with the pendants dropped. So often are birds seen without streamers or pendants. The colors on the juvenile dull when compared to that of the adults.

The bird has a good repertoire of melodic calls, though it does mimic but I have not much opportunity hearing it happen.

 

 Videos:- , with calls,
Record of Bird's calls:-          

 

Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 1 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 2 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 3 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 4
Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 5 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 6 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 7 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 8
Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 9 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 10 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 11 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 12
Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 15 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 16 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 17 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 18
Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 19 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 20 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 21 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 22
Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 23 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 24 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 25 Lesser racquet-tailed Drongo # 26
 

The group of birds listed in the family of Drongo are interesting. Their shinning dark colors and loud calls in metallic sounds. Beside that, these are large birds, easy to spot and not easily frightened off. many a times, I have seen Drongo, which is the largest bird in the pack led in bird waves.

They would move about is an ostentatious manner attracting attention while keeping a watchful eyes on the human near-by. Whatever their actions were or intentions, their presence certainly did made me very thankful to have brought along the activities which I had waited for hours. Both the Greater Racquet-tailed and the Lesser Racquet-tailed appeared as team leaders of bird wave. perched for an extended time and making themselves very obvious while the Fantails and smaller birds were doing their rounds of chasing out the hidden insects.