|Adult in northern India. Note the white rictal spot at the base of the beak.|
D. m. macrocercus (Vieillot, 1817)
Breeding visitor Present year-round Overwintering visitor only
The black drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus) is a small Asian passerine bird of the drongo family Dicruridae. It is a common resident breeder in much of tropical southern Asia from southwest Iran through India and Sri Lanka east to southern China and Indonesia. It is a wholly black bird with a distinctive forked tail and measures 28 cm (11 in) in length. It feeds on insects, and is common in open agricultural areas and light forest throughout its range, perching conspicuously on a bare perch or along power or telephone lines. The species is known for its aggressive behaviour towards much larger birds, such as crows, never hesitating to dive-bomb any bird of prey that invades its territory. This behaviour earns it the informal name of king crow. Smaller birds often nest in the well-guarded vicinity of a nesting black drongo. Previously grouped along with the African fork-tailed drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis), the Asian forms are now treated as a separate species with several distinct populations.
The black drongo has been introduced to some Pacific islands, where it has thrived and become abundant to the point of threatening and causing the extinction of native and endemic bird species there.
- 1 Taxonomy and systematics
- 2 Description
- 3 Distribution and habitat
- 4 Behaviour and ecology
- 5 Relation to humans
- 6 References
- 7 Other sources
- 8 External links
Taxonomy and systematics
The black drongo was once considered a subspecies of the fork-tailed drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis), a close relative that diverged relatively recently. The two are now considered distinct species, with the fork-tailed drongo restricted to Africa and separated from the Asian range of the black drongo.
Seven subspecies have been named but the largely contiguous populations show clinal variation and intergrade with each other. Individuals from northern India (ssp. albirictus) are larger than those from the Sri Lankan population minor while those from the peninsular India (nominate subspecies) are intermediate in size. Race cathoecus is found in Thailand, Hong Kong and China. This race has a much smaller rictal spot and the wings are dark with a greenish gloss. In southern Siam a race thai is resident, but overlaps with wintering cathoecus. Race javanus is found on the islands of Java and Bali. Race harterti found in Formosa has the tail length less than the wing.
This bird is glossy black with a wide fork to the tail. Adults usually have a small white spot at the base of the gape. The iris is dark brown (not crimson as in the similar ashy drongo). The sexes cannot be told apart in the field. Juveniles are brownish and may have some white barring or speckling towards the belly and vent, and can be mistaken for the white-bellied drongo. First-year birds have white tips to the feathers of the belly, while second-years have these white-tipped feathers restricted to the vent.
They are aggressive and fearless birds, and although only 28 cm (11 in) in length, they will attack much larger species that enter their nesting territory, including crows and birds of prey. This behaviour led to their former name of king crow. They fly with strong flaps of the wing and are capable of fast manoeuvres that enable them to capture flying insects. With short legs, they sit upright on thorny bushes, bare perches or electricity wires. They may also perch on grazing animals.
Distribution and habitat
The black drongo is found predominantly in open country and usually perches and hunts close to the ground. They are mostly aerial predators of insects but also glean from the ground or off vegetation. They are found as summer visitors to northeastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan but are residents from the Indus Valley until Bangladesh and into India and Sri Lanka. Some populations show seasonal movements that are poorly understood. The black drongo can be found in savannas, fields, and urban habitats.
Black drongos were introduced just before the Second World War from Taiwan to the island of Rota to help in the control of insects. It is believed that they dispersed over the sea to the island of Guam in the 1950s. By 1967, they were the fourth most commonly seen birds in roadside counts on Guam and are today the most abundant bird there. Predation by and competition from black drongos have been suggested as factors in the decline of endemic bird species such as the Rota bridled white-eye and the Guam flycatcher.
Behaviour and ecology
Food and foraging
Black drongos become active very early at dawn and roost later than many other birds. They feed mainly on insects such as grasshoppers, cicadas, termites, wasps, bees, ants, moths, beetles and dragonflies. They sometimes fly close to tree branches, attempting to disturb any insects that may be present. They congregate in fields that are being ploughed, picking up exposed caterpillars and beetle grubs. As many as 35 birds have been seen at such congregations. They are also attracted to fires in scrub and grasslands habitats where insects are disturbed. They appear to avoid flies. They associate with common mynas, cattle egrets and other birds that share a similar diet and habitat. Drongos benefit from this association and are more successful in their foraging. There is only partial overlap in the insect prey sought by mynas and drongos although in rare instances the drongos may rob prey from mynas. It is said that they imitate the call of the Shikra so as to put mynas to flight and then to steal prey. Similar behaviour, using false alarm calls, has been noted in the fork-tailed drongo. There are some cases of the black drongo preying on small birds, reptiles, or maybe even bats. They have also been on occasion seen feeding on fish Flowers of trees such as Erythrina and Bombax may be visited for water and nectar and they are sometimes known to feed on grains. They are only rarely known to take larger arthropods such as scorpions and centipedes. They feed on milkweed butterflies that are often avoided by other predators and are known to feed late in the evening or night, often on insects attracted to artificial lights.
Nesting and breeding
Black drongos breed mainly in February and March in southern India, and until August in other parts of the country. Males and females sing in the mornings during the breeding season. Courtship can include aerobatic chases and they may lock their wings and beaks together, with the pair sometimes falling to the ground. Displays may be made on the ground. Pair bonds are retained for a whole breeding season. The nest is a cup made with a thin layer of sticks placed in the fork of branch, and is built in a week by both the male and female. Eggs are laid close to the first rains in April. The usual clutch is three or rarely four eggs laid in a cup nest placed in the fork of an outer branch of tree. Large leafy tree such as the jackfruit are preferred. The eggs are pale cream to red with spots and markings and are 26 mm (1.0 in) long and 19 mm (0.75 in) wide. The eggs are incubated by both parents and hatch after 14 to 15 days. Nestlings are brooded for the first five days, after which the young are capable of maintaining a fairly constant body temperature. A second clutch may be laid if the first is destroyed. Nests are sometimes built in telephone poles. A nesting territory of 0.003 to 0.012 km2 (0.3 to 1.2 hectares) is maintained.
Helpers, offspring from the previous brood, have sometimes been noted to assist in feeding the fledglings at the nest of their parents. Cases of brood parasitism by the Asian koel have been noted. An average breeding success of 44% has been noted with the main cause of fledgling mortality being shortage of insect food which in turn was dependent on rainfall.
Mobbing and proximity nesting
Their habit of driving away predators from near their nests is believed to encourage other birds such as orioles, doves, pigeons, babblers, and especially bulbuls, to nest in the vicinity. In one study 18 of 40 nests had red-vented bulbuls nesting within 10 metres (33 ft). An abnormal case of a red-vented bulbul feeding the chicks of a black drongo at their nest has been recorded.
They are so aggressive that they may sometimes land on large birds of prey and peck them when mobbing. It has been suggested that the Asian drongo-cuckoo (Surniculus lugubris) has evolved to mimic this species. The intensity of mobbing predators was studied in Java and observations showed that there was a significant increase in mobbing, during the nesting season, of some predators such as the Javan hawk-eagle but the black eagle, a nest predator is mobbed with equal intensity in all seasons. It has been suggested that this strategy may avoid giving away the location of nests during the breeding season.
Growth and development
Young birds have a yellowish-red gape. The feather follicles appear on the fourth day and pin feathers emerge after a week. Nestlings increase in weight steadily until they are 12 days old. The eyes open on the eighth day, the iris reddish-black while the gape turns red. The young leave the nest after about 16 to 20 days after hatching. They do not have the fork in the tail until three weeks. The parents continue to feed and protect them for a month. Young birds may beg for food for longer, but are often ignored or chased away by the adults. Birds reach breeding condition in about two years.
In southern India, they moult their feathers from June to October. The wing moult begins in July with the first primary and proceeds towards the tenth. Secondaries are replaced from August after the primaries are at the third quill. The secondary moult is not orderly, the 8th and 7th being dropped earlier than the rest. The tail feathers are moulted centrifugally. Seasonal colour changes in the testicular tissues are caused by variation in melanin synthesis, with the dark pigmentation being lost during the breeding season.
Parasites and diseases
Many ectoparasitic bird lice (Myrsidea spp. and Menacanthus spp.), endoparasitic cestodes and nematodes have been described from this species. However no predators or diseases are significant factors in adult mortality.
Relation to humans
Being common, they have a wide range of local names. The older genus name of Buchanga was derived from the Hindi name of Bhujanga. Other local names include Thampal in Pakistan, Gohalo/Kolaho in Baluchistan, Kalkalachi in Sindhi, Kotwal (=policeman) in Hindi; Finga in Bengali; Phenshu in Assamese; Cheiroi in Manipuri; Kosita/ Kalo koshi in Gujarati; Ghosia in Marathi; Kajalapati in Oriya; Kari kuruvi (=charcoal bird), Erettai valan (=two tail) in Tamil; Passala poli gadu in Telugu; Kaaka tampuratti (=queen of crows) in Malayalam; Kari bhujanga in Kannada and Kalu Kawuda in Sinhalese. A superstition in central India is that cattle would lose their horn if a newly fledged bird alighted on it. It is held in reverence in parts of Punjab in the belief that it brought water to Husayn ibn Ali, revered by Shī‘a Muslims.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Dicrurus macrocercus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Vieillot, Louis Jean Pierre (1817). Nouveau Dictionnaire d'Histoire Naturelle Appliquée aux Arts. 9. p. 588.
- Hodgson, Brian Houghton (1836). "On some new species of the Edolian and Ceblepyrine subfamilies of the Laniidae of Nepal". The India Review and Journal of Foreign Science and the Arts. 1 (8): 324–329.
- Blyth, Edward (1850). "Remarks on the modes of variation of nearly affined species or races of Birds, chiefly inhabitants of India". The Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. 19: 221–239.
- Swinhoe, Robert (1871). "A revised catalogue of the birds of China and its islands, with descriptions of new species, references to former notes, and occasional remarks". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 2: 337–423.
- Kloss, Cecil Boden (1921). "New and known oriental birds". Journal of the Federated Malay States Museums. 10 (2): 207–213.
- Baker, Edward Charles Stuart (1918). "Some Notes on the Dicruridae". Novitates Zoologicae. 25: 299.
- Neave, Sheffield A., ed. (1939). Nomenclator Zoologicus; a List of the Names of Genera and Subgenera in Zoology from the Tenth Edition of Linnaeus, 1758, to the End of 1935 (with supplements). Volume 1. Zoological Society of London, London. p. 425.
- Sharpe, R. Bowdler (1877). Catalogue of the birds in the British Museum. 3. London: British Museum. pp. 228–265.
- Deignan, Herbert G. (1945). "The birds of northern Thailand". Bull. U. S. Natl. Mus. 186: 287–296.
- Pasquet, Eric; Jean-Marc Pons; Jerome Fuchs; Corinne Cruaud & Vincent Bretagnolle (2007). "Evolutionary history and biogeography of the drongos (Dicruridae), a tropical Old World clade of corvoid passerines" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 45 (1): 158–167. PMID 17468015. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2007.03.010.
- Vaurie, Charles (1949). "A revision of the bird family Dicruridae". Bulletin of the AMNH. 93 (4): 203–342. hdl:2246/1240.
- Rasmussen, Pamela C.; JC Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions. p. 590.
- Baker, ECS (1921). "Handlist of the birds of the Indian empire". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 27 (3): 46–47.
- Shukkur, EAA & Joseph, KJ (1978). "Breeding biology of the Black Drongo". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 75 (4): 1212–1226.
- Chari, N.; Janaki Rama Rao, N.; Ramesh, R.; Sattaiah, G. (1982). "Comparative studies on flight characteristics, moment of inertia and flight behaviour of two fly-catchers, Dicrurus adsimilis and Merops orientalis". Ind. J. Exp. Biol. 20: 894–896.
- Whistler, Hugh (1949). Popular handbook of Indian birds (4th ed.). Gurney and Jackson, London. pp. 155–157.
- Decandido, Robert; Nualsri, Chukiat & Allen, Deborah (2004). "Migration of Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus in southern Thailand in autumn 2003" (PDF). Forktail. 20: 143–144. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2008.
- Fritts, Thomas H. & Rodda, Gordon H. (1998). "The role of introduced species in the degradation of island ecosystems: A case history of Guam" (PDF). Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 29 (1): 113–140. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.29.1.113. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 September 2006.
- Jenkins, J. M. (1983). The native forest birds of Guam. Ornithological Monographs 31. American Ornithologists Union. ISBN 0-943610-38-9.
- Amidon F. A. (2000). Habitat relationships and life history of the Rota bridled white-eye (Zosterops rotensis). M.Sc. thesis. Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
- Maben, Anne F. (1982). The Feeding Ecology of the Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus on Guam. Master's Thesis. Univ. Calif., Long Beach.
- Fletcher, T. B. (1937). "Birds and ants". Jour. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 39: 640.
- Fischer, CEC (1923). "Drongo and cicada". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 29 (3): 839–840.
- Biddulph, C.H. "Possible association between the large yellow-naped woodpecker and the large racket-tailed drongo". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 52: 209.
- Mason, C W & H Maxwell-Lefroy (1911). The food of birds in India. (Entomological series. Vol 3) Department of Agriculture in India. pp. 69–73.
- Dewar, Douglas (1905). "King-Crows and Mynas as mess-mates". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 16 (2): 364–366.
- Veena, T & R Lokesha (1993). "Association of drongos with myna flocks: Are drongos benefitted ?" (PDF). J. Biosci. 18 (1): 111–119. doi:10.1007/BF02703043.
- King, R C H Moss (1911). "The resident birds of the Saugor and Damoh Districts, Central Provinces". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 21 (1): 87–103.
- Ridley, AR & NJ Raihani (2007). "Facultative response to a kleptoparasite by the cooperatively breeding pied babbler". Behav. Ecol. 18 (2): 324–330. doi:10.1093/beheco/arl092.
- Sridharan, U. & Sivasubramanian, C. (1987). "Additional records of the Black Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis) feeding on birds". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 83: 212–213.
- D'Silva, C.; Sankaran, R.; Mohapatra, K. K. & Chandra, J. (1990). "Indian Black Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis eating a bird.". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 87: 301.
- Jayson, E. A. & K. K. Ramachandran (1994). "Indian Black Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis (Bechstein) feeding on a small bird". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 91 (2): 320.
- Osmaston, B. B. (1922). "Predaceous habit of the Common King Crow". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 28: 546.
- Wenden, H. (1875). "[untitled]". Stray Feathers. 3: 330.
- Senthilmurugan, B. (2005). "Fish in the diet of the Black Drongo". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 102 (1): 116.
- Serrao JS (1971). "Black Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis) fishing". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 11 (7): 10.
- Aluri J.S. Raju & Srungavarapu P. Rao (2004). "Passerine bird pollination and fruiting behaviour in a dry season blooming tree species, Erythrina suberosa Roxb. (Fabaceae) in the Eastern Ghats forests, India". Ornithological Science. 3 (2): 139–144. doi:10.2326/osj.3.139.
- Dodia, JF; Parasharya, BM & Yadav, DN (1989). "Black Drongo feeding on Sorghum grains". Pavo. 27 (1&2): 75–76.
- Sharma,IK (1980). "Grey Shrike and Black Drongo hunting scorpion and the centipede". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 20 (5): 6.
- Bhargava, RN (1981). "The Bank Myna Acridotheres ginginianus and King Crow Dicrurus adsimilis preying upon the Cricket Acheta (Orthoptera:Gryllidae)". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 21 (12): 18–19.
- Ali, S & S D Ripley (1986). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. 5 (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 114–118. ISBN 0-19-562063-1.
- Jamdar,Nitin (1983). "Nocturnal habits of Black Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 80 (1): 218.
- Sharma,SK (1991). "Nocturnal feeding by Black Drongo". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 31 (3&4): 8.
- Nameer,PO (1990). "Midnight feeding by black drongo". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 30 (7–8): 9.
- Neelakantan, KK (1962). "Courtship and mating of the black drongo". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 2 (4): 9.
- Raju,KSR Krishna; Raju,UV Bairagi (1989). "Black Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis nesting on electric pole". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 86 (3): 449–450.
- Thangamani A.; K Paramanandham & AJT Johnsingh (1981). "'Helpers' among the black drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 78 (3): 602–603.
- Smith,TEH (1950). "Black Drongos fostering a Koel". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 49 (2): 304–305.
- Allen, GO (1920). "Birds of different species nesting in company". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 26: 1044.
- Shukkur,EAA; Joseph,KJ (1980). Proximity nesting of the Black Drongo and the Redvented Bulbul In Proceedings of the All India Symposium of Environmental Biology. Department of Zoology, University of Kerala. pp. 40–42.
- Waite, HW (1920). "Birds of different species nesting in company". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 27 (1): 171.
- Van Gruisen, J (2004). "Red-vented bulbul Pycnonotus cafer feeding Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus chicks". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 101: 159–60.
- Melville, DS (1992). "Intense mobbing by a Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus". J. Bombay Natural History Society. 88: 285.
- Davies NB & Welbergen JA (2008). "Cuckoo-hawk mimicry? An experimental test" (PDF). Proc. Biol. Sci. 275 (1644): 1817–1822. PMC . PMID 18467298. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.0331.
- Nijman, Vincent (2004). "Seasonal variation in naturally occurring mobbing behaviour of drongos (Dicruridae) towards two avian predators". Ethology, Ecology and Evolution. 16 (1): 25–32. doi:10.1080/08927014.2004.9522651.
- Ali, AMS; Asokan S; Manikannan R & GT Nithiyanandam (2010). "Nest-site characteristics and breeding biology of the Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus in Cauvery Delta, Southern India" (PDF). World Applied Sciences Journal. 9 (11): 1280–1285.
- Nair, Manoj V (1995). "An instance of play behaviour in Black Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis (Bechstein)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 92 (2): 266.
- Hore, B.B.; Mehrotra, P.N.; Hore, A. (1994). "Testicular melanin pigments and the gonadal cycle in a tropical wild passerine bird, Dicrurus adsimilis (Passeriformes, Dicruridae)". Functional and developmental morphology. 4 (1): 21–24. PMID 7819603.
- Duggal C. L. & Sushma Gupta (1986). "On Notopentorchis kherai, a new asian cestode (Dilepididae) parasitizing Dicrurus macrocercus at Chandigarh, India". Acta parasitologica Polonica. 31 (1–12): 1–5.
- Duggal C. L.; Gupta S (1987). "On a new avian cestode, Paruterina dicruri, from black drongo, Dicrurus macrocercus at Chandigarh, India". Rivista di Parassitologia. 48 (1): 89–92.
- Uchida, S. (1927). "Studies on amblycerous Mallophaga of Japan" (PDF). Journal of the College of Agriculture, Tokyo. 9 (1): 1–56.
- Palma, RL; RD Price (2006). "A note on Philopterus kalkalichi Ansari, 1955 (Phthiraptera: Ischnocera: Philopteridae)". New Zealand Journal of Zoology. 33 (1): 7–9. doi:10.1080/03014223.2006.9518425.
- Nandi, Anadi P. (2005). "Data on the morphology of Viguiera dicrurusi Gupta, 1960 (Nematoda: Habronematidae) with notes on related forms" (PDF). Folia Parasitologica. 52 (3): 261–266. PMID 16270807.
- De N.C. (1979). "Viguiera majumdari sp. n. (Nematoda: Habronematidae) from the bird Dicrurus m. macrocercus (Vieill.) from West Bengal, India". Folia Parasitol. 26: 73–76.
- Sood M.L.; Kalia R. (1978). "Viguiera adsimilisai n. sp. (Nematoda: Spiruridae) from Dicrurus adsimilis from India". Rivista di Parassitologia. 39: 23–25.
- Mundkur,Taej (1985). "Bee hunting by the Black Drongo". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 82 (2): 411.
- Parasharya, BM; Dodia, JF; Mathew, KL; Yadav, DN (1996). "The role of birds in the natural regulation of Helicoverpa armigera Hubner in wheat". Pavo. 34 (1&2): 33–38.
- Parasharya, BM; J F Dodia; K L Mathew & D N Yadav (1994). "Natural regulation of white grub (Holotrichia sp.: Scarabeidae) by birds in agroecosystem" (PDF). J. Biosci. 19 (4): 381–389. doi:10.1007/BF02703175.
- Anonymous (1998). "Vernacular Names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent" (PDF). Buceros. 3 (1): 53–109.
- Rose, HA (1910). "Panjab Folklore Notes". Folklore. 21 (2): 216–217. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1910.9719930.
- Bhujle,BV; Nadkarni,VB (1980) Histological and histochemical observations on the adrenal gland of four species of birds, Dicrurus macrocercus (Viellot), Centropus sinensis (Stephens), Sturnus pagodarum (Gmelin) and Columba livia (Gmelin). Zool. Beitrage 26(2):287–295.
- Lamba,BS (1963) The nidification of some common Indian birds. 3. The Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus Viellot). Res. Bull. Panjab Univ. 14(1–2):1–9.
- Shukkur,EAA; Joseph,KJ (1980) Annual rhythm in the Black Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis (family Dicruridae, Passeriformes, Aves). Comparative Physiol. Ecol. 5(2):76–77.
- Shukkur, EAA (1978) Biology, Ecology and Behaviour of the Black Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis). Thesis, University of Calicut.
|Wikispecies has information related to: Dicrurus macrocercus|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dicrurus macrocercus.|
- Black drongo videos, photos & sounds on the Internet Bird Collection