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Forktailed Drongo

Bird of the month is the Forktailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis).

Forktailed drongo

Forktailed Drongo photographed by Gavin Orbel. Note the forked tail!

Colouring: Iris deep red; bill, legs and feet black. Black with purplish sheen all over; in flight wings pale, translucent, almost whitish.
Voice: Song loud jumble of strident twanging, creaking and rasping sounds like un-oiled wooden wagonwheels; imitates other birdcalls; callnote single trumpet-like twank or twillang; vocal on moonlit nights, gentle tweep flight call.
Distribution: Common resident; may have some short-distance local movements. Almost throughout South Africa, except the Western Karoo and Namaqualand.
Habitat: Woodland, savanna, riverine Acacia, exotic plantations, farmyards, gardens, parks, open grassveld with perches (i.e. fences, isolated trees), forest edge; avoids forest interior.
Habits: Usually solitary or in pairs; sometimes in groups of up to 20 birds; may join bird parties. Perches on conspicuous branch; sallies out to catch prey in flight or on ground, often returning to same perch; attracted to grassfires. Flight buoyant, undulating and agile. Aggressive at nest, even attacking man. Bathes by plunge-diving from air or perch; drinks by sucking and raising head to swallow.
Food: Insects (especially bees, when available), small birds (i.e. canaries), fish (caught by plunging like kingfisher), nectar.
Breeding season: August to January (mainly September-November); two to three broods per season.
Clutch: Usually three eggs; highly variable; white, cream or pink, plain or spotted with dark pink, reddish brown or blackish.
Incubation and fledging: Incubation: 16-17 days. Nestling: 17-18 days.

References: Gordon Lindsay Maclean: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, Sixth Edition. 1993.
Kenneth Newman: Newman’s Birds by Colour. 2000.
Photographs are courtesy of Gavin Orbel, Eric Stockenstroom and Mercia Komen of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy/Oori; this series is a joint venture with Hartebeestfontein Conservancy (text)