Black Drongo

Black Drongo
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus cathoecus, adult, Yangkou-Rudong (32.588545, 120.986513), Jiangsu, China, April. (Craig Brelsford)
Black Drongo
Juvenile cathoecus, Yangkou-Rudong (32.574656, 121.008974), Jiangsu, September. (Craig Brelsford)

Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus ranges Afghanistan across India and most of non-arid China and through Southeast Asia to Greater Sundas. In China, albirictus breeds in southeast Tibet and harteri is resident in Taiwan; cathoecus breeds southeast of line running from northwest Yunnan to Heilongjiang, with some resident on Hainan. Passage migrant and possible breeder Shanghai (Fengxian wetlands). HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Open country with some trees or utility wires, including agricultural land and urban parks. Perches prominently, then swoops after insect prey. Sometimes also takes small reptiles and birds. Aggressively defends nesting sites, even from much larger birds such as raptors and crows, which led to the former name of King Crow. Much less tied to forests than Ashy Drongo D. leucophaeus. ID & COMPARISON Medium-sized, somewhat glossy drongo, nearly all black with bluish hue on back and wide fork to tail. Often shows browner primaries in flight. Adults usually have a small white rictal spot. Juveniles duller, with white barring and speckling on belly and vent and white spots on underwing coverts. Fork-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo Surniculus dicruroides very effectively mimics Black Drongo but is slimmer and has a thinner, decurved bill; dark eyes; narrow white bars on vent, undertail coverts, and underside of outer tail feathers; and a white nuchal spot (often hidden). Ashy Drongo race hopwoodi is less glossy-black above, has a blue-grey breast, and lacks rictal spot. Hair-crested Drongo D. hottentottus is larger and glossier and has “hairs” rising from forehead and an unforked tail. BARE PARTS Bill, feet black; eye reddish-brown. VOICE Harsh, noisy, almost unbirdlike calls; also softer whistles and mimicry. — Craig Brelsford

THE DRONGOS OF CHINA covers every species in China of the monogeneric family Dicruridae. Click any link:

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


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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