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Spangled drongo (Dicrurus bracteatus)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Dicruridae
Vigors, 1825
Genus: Dicrurus
Vieillot, 1816
Dicrurus phylogeny




























Cladogram based on a study by Eric Pasquet and colleagues published in 2007.[1]

The drongos are a family, Dicruridae, of passerine birds of the Old World tropics. The 29 species in the family are placed in a single genus, Dicrurus.

Drongos are mostly black or dark grey, short-legged birds, with an upright stance when perched. They have forked tails and some have elaborate tail decorations. They feed on insects which they catch in flight or on the ground. Some species are accomplished mimics and have a variety of alarm calls, to which other birds and animals often respond. They are known to utter hoax alarm calls that scare other animals off food, which the drongo then claims.


The genus Dicrurus was introduced by the French ornithologist Louis Pierre Vieillot for the drongos in 1816.[2] The type species was subsequently designated as the balicassiao (Dicrurus balicassius) by the English zoologist George Robert Gray in 1841.[3][4] The name of the genus combines the Ancient Greek words dikros "forked" and oura "tail".[5] "Drongo" is originally from the indigenous language of Madagascar, where it refers to local species; it is now used for all members of the family.[6]

This family now includes only the genus Dicrurus, although Christidis and Boles (2007) expanded the family to include the subfamilies Rhipidurinae (Australasian fantails), Monarchinae (monarch and paradise flycatchers) and Grallininae (magpie-larks).[7]

The family was formerly treated as having two genera, Chaetorhynchus and Dicrurus. The genus Chaetorhynchus contains a single species, the New Guinea endemic C. papuensis. On the basis of both morphological and genetic differences, it is now placed with the fantails (Rhipiduridae) and renamed from the pygmy drongo to the drongo fantail.[8]

The genus Dicrurus contains 30 species:[9]

The family Dicruridae is most likely of Indo-Malayan origin, with a colonization of Africa about 15 million years ago. Dispersal across the Wallace Line into Australasia is estimated to have been more recent, around 6 mya.[1]


Andaman drongo, Dicrurus andamanensis

These insectivorous birds are usually found in open forests or bush. Most are black or dark grey in colour, sometimes with metallic tints. They have long forked tails; some Asian species have elaborate tail decorations. They have short legs and sit very upright whilst perched, like a shrike. They flycatch or take prey from the ground. Some drongos, especially the greater racket-tailed drongo, are noted for their ability to mimic other birds and even mammals.

Two to four eggs are laid in a nest high in a tree. Despite their small size, they are aggressive and fearless, and will attack much larger species if their nest or young are threatened.

Several species of animals and birds respond to drongos' alarm calls, which often warn of the presence of a predator. Fork-tailed drongos in the Kalahari desert use alarm calls in the absence of a predator to cause animals to flee and abandon food, which they eat, getting up to 23% of their food this way. They not only use their own alarm calls, but imitate those of many species, either their victim's or that of another species that the victim responds to. If the call of one species is not effective, perhaps because of habituation, the drongo will try another; 51 different calls are known to be imitated. In one test on pied babblers, the babbler ignored an alarm call repeated three times when there was no danger, but continued to respond to different calls. Researchers have considered the possibility that these drongos possess theory of mind, not fully shown in any animal other than humans.[10][11][12]


The word drongo is used in Australian English as a mild form of insult meaning "idiot" or "stupid fellow". This usage derives from an Australian racehorse of the same name (apparently after the spangled drongo, Dicrurus bracteatus) in the 1920s that never won despite many places. The word drongo has been frequently used among friends and can be used in a casual or serious tone. [13][14][15][16]


  1. ^ a b Pasquet, Eric; Pons, Jean-Marc; Fuchs, Jerome; Cruaud, Corinne; Bretagnolle, Vincent (2007). "Evolutionary history and biogeography of the drongos (Dicruridae), a tropical Old World clade of corvoid passerines". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 45 (1): 158–167. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2007.03.010. PMID 17468015.
  2. ^ Vieillot, Louis Jean Pierre (1816). Analyse d'Une Nouvelle Ornithologie Élémentaire (in French). Paris: Deterville/self. p. 41.
  3. ^ Gray (1841). A List of the Genera of Birds : with their Synonyma and an Indication of the Typical Species of Each Genus (2nd ed.). London: R. and J.E. Taylor. p. 47.
  4. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Greenway, James C. Jr, eds. (1962). Check-list of birds of the world. Volume 15. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 138. |volume= has extra text (help)
  5. ^ Jobling, J.A. (2018). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  6. ^ Lindsey, Terence (1991). Forshaw, Joseph (ed.). Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. pp. 223–224. ISBN 1-85391-186-0.
  7. ^ Christidis, Les; Walter Boles (2008) Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Csiro Publishing, Australia. p. 174
  8. ^ Irested, Martin; Fuchs, J; Jønsson, KA; Ohlson, JI; Pasquet, E; Ericson, Per G.P. (2009). "The systematic affinity of the enigmatic Lamprolia victoriae (Aves: Passeriformes)—An example of avian dispersal between New Guinea and Fiji over Miocene intermittent land bridges?" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 48 (3): 1218–1222. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.05.038. PMID 18620871.
  9. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2018). "Orioles, drongos, fantails". World Bird List Version 8.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  10. ^ Flower, T.P. (2014). "Deception by flexible alarm mimicry in an African bird". Science. 344 (6183): 513–516. Bibcode:2014Sci...344..513F. doi:10.1126/science.1249723. PMID 24786078.
  11. ^ National Geographic: African Bird Shouts False Alarms to Deceive and Steal, Study Shows Drongos in the Kalahari are masters of deception, 1 May 2014
  12. ^ Flower, T. (2010). "Fork-tailed drongos use deceptive mimicked alarm calls to steal food". Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 278 (1711): 1548–1555. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.1932. PMC 3081750. PMID 21047861.
  13. ^ Green, Jonathon (2005). Cassell's Dictionary of Slang. London, UK: Orion Publishing Group. p. 450. ISBN 978-0-304-36636-1.
  14. ^ Wannan, Bill (1979) [1970]. "Drongo". Australian Folklore. Lansdowne Press. p. 200. ISBN 0-7018-1309-1.
  15. ^ "Drongo". Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  16. ^ "Career of Drongo". The News (Adelaide). IV (568). South Australia. 20 May 1925. p. 3. Retrieved 14 February 2018 – via National Library of Australia.

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