Drongos are a family of Old World perching birds found in open tropical forests and woodlands. Most of the 25 species have black or dark-grey plumage, sometimes with a glossy metallic sheen and complex tail shapes that include long forks. They tend to hunt by quietly perching before launching themselves after any unsuspecting insects that pass. Nesting high in trees, drongos can be very aggressive when defending their young and territories, even when faced with much larger birds such as cuckoo-hawks.
Drongos can perform complex vocalisations – in fact, a drongo was filmed for the Africa series mimicking meerkats’ warning calls to send them scurrying away, leaving a free meal for the drongo. You can watch the Kalahari’s greatest trickster below.
Scientific name: Dicruridae
The following habitats are found across the Drongos distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
The drongos are a family of small passerine birds of the Old World tropics, the Dicruridae. This family was sometimes[clarification needed] much enlarged to include a number of largely Australasian groups, such as the Australasian fantails, monarchs and paradise flycatchers. The name is originally from the indigenous language of Madagascar, where it refers to local species, but is now used to refer to all members of the family. The family is usually treated as having two genera, Chaetorhynchus and Dicrurus. The genus Chaetorhynchus contains a single species, the New Guinea endemic Pygmy Drongo. The placement of this species in the family is highly dubious due to both morphological and genetic differences, and it has recently been placed, along with the closely related Silktail of Fiji, with the fantails (Rhipiduridae). The remaining genus contains the remaining 25 species of drongo.
The family Dicruridae is believed to be 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.
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.
The word drongo is used in Australia as a mild form of insult tantamount to the term "idiot". This term derives from a racehorse in the 1920's that did not win in 47 starts.
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