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Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, นกแซงแซวหางบ่วงใหญ่

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo

The Greater Racket-tailed Drongo can be confused with the lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, however the latter has flat rackets with the crest nearly absent.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo: Has a fork tail with bigger twisted pendants at the end.

Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo: Square tail with smaller pendants at the end of the shafts. The arrangement of feathers on its forehead, stretching over the bill gives the forehead that flat-headed look.

The Lesser prefers higher elevations while the Greater are the birds of the lowland forest.

The Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) is a medium-sized Asian bird which is distinctive in having elongated outer tail feathers with webbing restricted to the tips. They are placed along with other drongos in the family Dicruridae.

They are conspicuous in the forest habitats often perching in the open and by attracting attention with a wide range of loud calls that include perfect imitations of many other birds.

One hypothesis suggested is that these vocal imitations may help in the formation of mixed-species foraging flocks, a feature seen in forest bird communities where many insect feeders forage together.

These drongos will sometimes steal insect prey caught or disturbed by other foragers in the flock and another ideas is that vocal mimicry helps them in diverting the attention of smaller birds to aid their piracy. They are diurnal but are active well before dawn and late at dusk.

Owing to their widespread distribution and distinctive regional variation, they have become iconic examples of speciation by isolation and genetic drift.

Distribution and habitat
The distribution range of this species extends from the western Himalayas to the eastern Himalayas and Mishmi Hills in the foothills below 4000 feet. They are found in the hills of peninsular India and the Western Ghats. Continuing into the west to the islands of Borneo and Java in the east through the mainland and islands.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, นกแซงแซวหางบ่วงใหญ่

Range map
Range map from - Ornithological Portal is one of those MUST visit pages if you're in to bird watching. You can find just about everything there

The Greater Racket-tailed Drongo was described by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1766 in the twelfth edition of his Systema Naturae under the binomial name Cuculus paradiseus.

It was one of 240 bird species that Linnaeus added to his twelfth edition based on the 1760 work Ornithologie by the French naturalist Mathurin Jacques Brisson.

The current genus Dicrurus was introduced by the French ornithologist Louis Pierre Vieillot in 1816.

There are 13 recognised subspecies:

• D. p. grandis (Gould, 1836) – north India through west and north Myanmar and south China to north Indochina - Largest of all subspecies

• D. p. rangoonensis (Gould, 1836) – central India through Bangladesh, central Myanmar and north Thailand to central Indochina - With a very large crest and large and sharply defined breast spangles

• D. p. paradiseus (Linnaeus, 1766) – south India to south Thailand, north Malay Peninsula and south Indochina

• D. p. johni (Hartert, 1902) – Hainan Island (off southeast China) - Crest more upward curving

• D. p. ceylonicus Vaurie, 1949 – Sri Lanka - Similar to nominate but smaller

• D. p. otiosus (Richmond, 1902) – Andaman Islands - Like rangoonensis but without crest

• D. p. nicobariensis (Baker, ECS, 1918) – Nicobar Islands - Similar to nominate but with smaller tail-racket

• D. p. hypoballus (Oberholser, 1926) – central Malay Peninsula - Well-defined spangles on breast

• D. p. platurus Vieillot, 1817 – south Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and nearby islands - Similar to hypoballus but with a bushy tuft rather than a short crest

• D. p. microlophus (Oberholser, 1917 – islands in the South China Sea (Tioman Island, Anambas Islands and the North Natuna Islands) - Often with a short bushy tuft

• D. p. brachyphorus (Bonaparte, 1850) – Borneo - Smallest subspecies, no crest, rackets often missing or abnormal developed

• D. p. banguey (Chasen & Kloss, 1929) – islands off north Borneo - Similar to brachyphorus but with longer wings

• D. p. formosus (Cabanis, 1851) – Java and Bali - Very small, short crest curving backwards on to crown, long tail-rackets

In most of its range in Asia, this is the largest of the drongo species and is readily identifiable by the distinctive tail rackets and the crest of curled feather that begin in front of the face above the beak and along the crown to varying extents according to the subspecies.

The tail with twirled rackets is distinctive and in flight it can appear as if two large bees were chasing a black bird. In the eastern Himalayas the species can be confused with the lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, however the latter has flat rackets with the crest nearly absent.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, นกแซงแซวหางบ่วงใหญ่
The crest size and shape varies across its range

This widespread species includes populations that have distinct variations and several subspecies have been named. The nominate form is found in southern India, mainly in forested areas of the Western Ghats and the adjoining hill forests of peninsular India.

The subspecies in Sri Lanka is ceylonicus and is similar to the nominate form but slightly smaller. The subspecies found along the Himalayas is grandis and is the largest and has long glossy neck hackles. The Andaman Islands form otiosus has shorter neck hackles and the crest is highly reduced while the Nicobars Island form nicobariensis has a longer frontal crest and with smaller neck hackles than otiosus.

Length: 30 - 65cm, depending on tail length
Weight: 70 - 125 g
Distinctive Feature

Similar Species

• Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo has a rounded tail with flat rackets and a distinctly flat-headed appearance.

From opus at
Female / Male / Juvenile

• Sexes similar. Immatures are browner, less glossy, have a brown eye and a shorter tail with smaller tail-rackets.

From opus at

The Sri Lanka drongo D. lophorinus used to be treated as a subspecies due to the suggestion that it formed hybrids with ceylonicus is considered a separate species in newer taxonomic treatments on the basis of their overlapping ranges. Specimens of the nominate form have sometimes been confused with lophorinus.

Considerable variation in shape of the bill, extent of the crest, hackles and tail rackets exists in the island populations of Southeast Asia.

The Bornean brachyphorus (=insularis), banguey of Banggai lack crests (banguey has frontal feathers that arch forwards) while very reduced crests are found in microlophus (=endomychus; Natunas, Anambas and Tiomans) and platurus (Sumatra).

A number of forms are known along the Southeast Asian islands and mainland including formosus (Java), hypoballus (Thailand), rangoonensis (northern Burma, central Indian populations were earlier included in this) and johni (Hainan).

Young birds are duller, and can lack a crest while moulting birds can lack the elongate tail streamers. The racket is formed by the inner web of the vane but appears to be on the outer web since the rachis has a twist just above the spatula.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, นกแซงแซวหางบ่วงใหญ่
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo moulting and have no streamers
Kaeng Krachan, Thailand - June 2020

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, นกแซงแซวหางบ่วงใหญ่
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo moulting and have no streamers
Kaeng Krachan, Thailand - June 2020

Thanks to Nutcracker at Birdforum for information about moulting.

Forum thread HERE



In biology, moulting (British English), or molting (American English), also known as sloughing, shedding, or in many invertebrates, ecdysis, is the manner in which an animal routinely casts off a part of its body (often, but not always, an outer layer or covering), either at specific times of the year, or at specific points in its life cycle.

Moulting can involve shedding the epidermis (skin), pelage (hair, feathers, fur, wool), or other external layer. In some groups, other body parts may be shed, for example, wings in some insects or the entire exoskeleton in arthropods

In birds
In birds, moulting is the periodic replacement of feathers by shedding old feathers while producing new ones. Feathers are dead structures at maturity which are gradually abraded and need to be replaced. Adult birds moult at least once a year, although many moult twice and a few three times each year. It is generally a slow process as birds rarely shed all their feathers at any one time; the bird must retain sufficient feathers to regulate its body temperature and repel moisture.

The number and area of feathers that are shed varies. In some moulting periods, a bird may renew only the feathers on the head and body, shedding the wing and tail feathers during a later moulting period. Some species of bird become flightless during an annual "wing moult" and must seek a protected habitat with a reliable food supply during that time.

While the plumage may appear thin or uneven during the moult, the bird's general shape is maintained despite the loss of apparently many feathers; bald spots are typically signs of unrelated illnesses, such as gross injuries, parasites, feather pecking (especially in commercial poultry), or (in pet birds) feather plucking. Some birds will drop feathers, especially tail feathers, in what is called a "fright moult".

The process of moulting in birds is as follows: First, the bird begins to shed some old feathers, then pin feathers grow in to replace the old feathers. As the pin feathers become full feathers, other feathers are shed. This is a cyclical process that occurs in many phases. It is usually symmetrical, with feather loss equal on each side of the body.

Because feathers make up 4–12% of a bird's body weight, it takes a large amount of energy to replace them. For this reason, moults often occur immediately after the breeding season, but while food is still abundant. The plumage produced during this time is called postnuptial plumage. Prenuptial moulting occurs in red-collared widowbirds where the males replace their nonbreeding plumage with breeding plumage. It is thought that large birds can advance the moult of severely damaged feathers.

Determining the process birds go through during moult can be useful in understanding breeding, migration and foraging strategies. One non-invasive method of studying moult in birds is through using field photography. The evolutionary and ecological forces driving moult can also be investigated using intrinsic markers such as stable hydrogen isotope (δ2H) analysis.

In some tropical birds, such as the common bulbul, breeding seasonality is weak at the population level, instead moult can show high seasonality with individuals probably under strong selection to match moult with peak environmental conditions.

Forced moulting
In some countries, flocks of commercial layer hens are force-moulted to reinvigorate egg-laying. This usually involves complete withdrawal of their food and sometimes water for 7–14 days or up to 28 days under experimental conditions, which presumably reflect standard farming practice in some countries.

This causes a body weight loss of 25 to 35%, which stimulates the hen to lose her feathers, but also reinvigorates egg-production. Some flocks may be force-moulted several times. In 2003, more than 75% of all flocks were force-moulted in the US. Other methods of inducing a moult include low-density diets (e.g. grape pomace, cotton seed meal, alfalfa meal) or dietary manipulation to create an imbalance of a particular nutrient(s).

The most important among these include manipulation of minerals including sodium (Na), calcium (Ca), iodine (I) and zinc (Zn), with full or partially reduced dietary intakes.

From Wikipedia

Drinking Drongos

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo sitting next to water trying to drink and the bird could not drink. The Drongo got up in a tree, about 1 meter above the water. The bird dived down in to the water, maybe 10 cm deep and up again.

Of course, you understand that my picture below is of a very poor quality. I wanted to make a video, but the Drongo was obviously not thirsty anymore after 3 dives.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, นกแซงแซวหางบ่วงใหญ่
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo sitting next to water trying to drink
Wat Tham Prathun, Thailand - May 2020

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, นกแซงแซวหางบ่วงใหญ่
Poor quality picture! Greater Racket-tailed Drongo drinking water
Wat Tham Prathun, Thailand - May 2020

But there seems to be no trouble drinking from a water jet from a hose. I have seen the Drongo drinking from a water jet. Sitting and drinking from a water jet and it seems to be no problem. I'm not sure, but the bird sitting next to the water was obviously not happy and it went up to dive down to the water.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, นกแซงแซวหางบ่วงใหญ่
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo drinking water
Wat Tham Prathun, Thailand - May 2020

I was looking for Tigers at Tadoba National Park in India. We stopped at one of the lakes to see if there was any thirsty tigers or any other excitements. There wasn't much going on when suddenly one bird dived down to the lake from a tree and I thought it was a Kingfisher.

But it was a Black Drongo drinking water.

Black Drongo drinking water
Tadoba National Park, India - March 2018

I was om Tiger Safari in Nepal and I told my Guide about the drinking Drongo in India. He looked at me like I was a raving lunatic, seriously, he thought I was stupid.

Anyway, we were crossing a river, dry season so just to drive across. Dense jungle on both sides of the river and we stopped in the middle to have a look at an Indian Cuckoo.

We spotted a Drongo coming in at high altitude, from the left over the jungle and half way over the Drongo dived down to have a drink in the river before disappearing to the right over the jungle. The face of my Guide was priceless. He never said anything, but his eyes said “Sorry for thinking you were an idiot”

Behaviour and ecology
Like other drongos, these feed mainly on insects but also feed on fruits and visit flowering trees for nectar. Having short legs, they sit upright and are often perched on high and exposed branches. They are aggressive and will sometimes mob larger birds especially when nesting. They are often active at dusk.

Their calls are extremely varied and include monotonously repeated whistles, metallic and nasal sounds as well as more complex notes and imitations of other birds. They begin calling from as early as 4 am in moonlight often with a metallic tunk-tunk-tunk series. They have an ability to accurately mimic alarm calls of other birds that are learnt through interactions in mixed-species flocks.

This is quite unusual, as avian vocal mimicry has hitherto been believed to be ignorant of the original context of the imitated vocalization.

Grey parrots are known to use imitated human speech in correct context, but do not show this behavior in nature. This drongo's context-sensitive use of other species' alarm calls is thus analogous to a human learning useful short phrases and exclamations in a number of foreign languages.

A special alarm note is raised in the presence of shikras that has been transcribed as a loud kwei-kwei-kwei...shee-cuckoo-sheecuckoo-sheecuckoo-why!.

Listen to the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

Remarks from the Recordist

Recorded with my ZOOM H5 Handy Recorder. High Pass Filter applied with Audacity

Same bird as XC 559426. Bird sitting 2 meters away. Drinking water and feeding between making some very nice calls.

Remarks from the Recordist

Recorded with my ZOOM H5 Handy Recorder. High Pass Filter applied with Audacity

Same bird as XC559426. Bird sitting 2 meters away. Drinking water and feeding between making some very nice calls.

Remarks from the Recordist

Recorded with my ZOOM H5 Handy Recorder. High Pass Filter applied with Audacity

Same bird as XC559426 and XC559431. Bird sitting 2 meters away. Drinking water and feeding between making some very nice calls.

Remarks from the Recordist

Recorded with my ZOOM H5 Handy Recorder. High Pass Filter applied with Audacity

At Laem Chabang International Country Club and I spot 8 Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.

One is very responsive, sitting on a wire quiet but answer my whistling. Not sure but is the bird mimic my whistle?

The bird fly across the road and I remember to make a recording and I whistle to start the bird

They have been said to imitate raptor calls so as to alarm other birds and steal prey from them in the ensuing panic. They are also known to imitate the calls of species (and possibly even behaviour as it was once recorded to fluff up and moving head and body like a jungle babbler when imitating its calls) that typically are members of mixed-species flocks such as babblers and it has been suggested that this has a role in the formation of mixed-species flocks.

In some places they have been found to be kleptoparasitic on others in mixed-species flock, particularly laughingthrushes but they are most often involved in mutualistic and commensal relations. Several observers have found this drongo associating with foraging Woodpeckers and there is a report of one following a troop of macaques.

The Greater Racket-tailed Drongo is a resident breeder throughout its range. The breeding season in India is April to August. Their courtship display may involve hops and turns on branches with play behaviour involving dropping an object and picking it in mid air.

Their cup nest is built in the fork of a tree and the usual clutch is three to four eggs. The eggs are creamy white with blotches of reddish brown which are more dense on the broad end.

In culture
They common whistle note that is made leads to its local name in many parts of India of kothwal (which means a “policeman” or “guard”, who used a whistle that produced a similar note), a name also applied to the Black Drongo and in other places as the Bhimraj or Bhringaraj. Prior to the 1950s it was often kept in captivity by people in parts of India.

It was said to be very hardy and like a crow, accommodating a varied diet. Edward H. Schafer considered the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo as the basis for the divine kalaviṅka birds mentioned in Chinese and Japanese Buddhist texts.

Conservation status
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, นกแซงแซวหางบ่วงใหญ่
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2.
International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sighted: (Date of first photo that I could use) 24 February 2018
Location: Telok Blangah Hill Park, Singapore

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, นกแซงแซวหางบ่วงใหญ่
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, นกแซงแซวหางบ่วงใหญ่
24 February 2018 - Telok Blangah Hill Park, Singapore
We can see the forked tail and the bigger twisted pendants at the end

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