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Encounter – The Crow-billed Drongo

Note the bill - like a crow's. The Crow-billed Drongo is glossy black with a broad tail, less forked than the Black Drongo's
Note the bill - like a crow's. The Crow-billed Drongo is glossy black with a broad tail, less forked than the Black Drongo's
Note the bill – like a crow’s. The Crow-billed Drongo is glossy black with a broad tail, less forked than the Black Drongo’s

At first glance, it’s a dead ringer for the Racket-tailed Drongo, but then it lacks the rackets in the tail feathers or the prominent crest. Another bird you might confuse it with is the Spangled Drongo, but the head and the absent hairlike crest are telltale.  The tail, somewhat like that of the Spangled Drongo’s, is not as finely twirled as in that species. If you spot the bird hidden in the canopy, foliage preventing you from getting a look at its tail, it appears very much like a small crow.

Hidden among the trees, a Crow-billed Drongo examines its world
Hidden among the trees, a Crow-billed Drongo examines its world
Out on a limb, this Crow-billed Drongo very much resembles its cousin, the Racket-tailed Drongo, but is yet different
Out on a limb, this Crow-billed Drongo very much resembles its cousin, the Racket-tailed Drongo, but is yet different

This is the Crow-billed Drongo (Dicrurus annectans) and the name explains its appearance. In habit, it behaves much like the other drongos we know. In India its distribution extends from lowland moist deciduous forests and mangrove forests in northeastern India. Besides India, it ranges all the way south to the Malay peninsula, encompassing Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. It is believed to breed in northeastern India and southern China.

I encountered the Crow-billed Drongo quite abundantly in the Dooars of northern Bengal in early April. It was frequently seen in mixed hunting flocks along with ioras, barbets, orioles and starlings. Often, I found it being mobbed or chased by jungle babblers and bulbuls. Most of the birds I saw were solitary, although non-intimate dispersed groups of three or four birds were also common. Young individuals appeared to sport whitish scale-like markings on the breast. The eyes appeared to be dark maroon.

The birds in the photographs were pictured at Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Bengal.

MORE ON DRONGOS

Encounter – The Asian Drongo-Cuckoo

On The Wing – The Racket-tailed Drongo

April Fooled – A Drongo’s Spot of Bother