Tuesday, September 1, 2009


One grey overcast morning I was on my usual morning walk when I saw this strange bird sitting on a low branch. Due to the flat terrain in most of the tea growing areas in Assam, shade trees are planted intermittently with tea bushes to provide them some respite from the sun. Branches of these shade trees are lopped of annually prevent the foliage from casting too much shade on the tea bushes. On one of the trees one branch jutted almost perpendicular to the main trunk. 

The bird, black in colour, was perched on this branch. Every now and then it would swoop into the air and take a sharp loop like a fighter plane trying to shake of a pursuer and land on the same branch. It was an exhibition of skilled aerial acrobatics. As I moved closer I could discern that the bird had a sleek body and a forked tail like that of a fish. My neghbour who is an enthusiastic birder informed me that the bird is a Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus). I must admit that I had never heard of a drongo before.

Over the next few weeks the Black Drongo became a regular in our area and we could dozens of pairs of them readying for nesting. The bird prefers branches at medium heights from where it can indulge in its acrobatics.

Some month or so after I spotted the first Black Drongo, I saw the second species which is called the Spangled Drongo (Dicrurus hottentotus). This species of drongo is very vocal and flies around in pairs. It has a constant sweet twittering like a cracked metallic bell. The most remarkable feature of this bird is its tail which it can spread out like a fan and hence the name 'spangled drongo'. The tale is curved outwards at the two ends and when in flight the bird looks very much like a WW I or WW II airplane like a Spitfire or Hurricane. I have also noticed a remarkable behaviour in this species. It puffs up it chest and flies vertically into the air from its perch with a whistling call. The takeoff is quite similar to a diver taking his vertical leap from the board before curving into his dive. This bird is shyer than the Black Drongo and is easily startled.

The third species of Drongo that I have seen here is the Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus). I have seen it most often in wooded areas bordering paddy fields and it can often be seen hovering over these fields hunting insects etc. They love electricity or telephone poles and use them as vantage points. I find it very difficult to distinguish this from the black drongo, but I understand that it has reddish eyes.

The last species of drongo that I have seen is the Crow Billed Drongo (Dicrurus annectans) which is a much larger species. I saw it on my way back from Panidehing Bird sanctuary near Sivasagar.

Although Drongos look black in colour, they are actually blue-black and it takes good light and a very skilled photographer to bring out the blue black colour. Needless to say, all my drongos look black. They are extremely feisty birds and I have seen a pair of them chase away a goshawk which dared to stray near their nest. The adolescents also roam around with a constant chatter and often get into fights with groups of bulbuls or mynas.


  1. Lovely blog on birding, you should consider posting larger sized images so that we can appreciate your photography of these beautiful birds better.

    Leopard - The master of camouflage

  2. Thank you for your comments. Will try to act on your suggestion