You are here

The Dicruridæ or Drongo Family

The famous black drongo or king-crow (Dicrurus ater) is the type of this well-marked family of passerine birds. The king-crow is about the size of a bulbul, but he has a tail 6 or 7 inches long, which is gracefully forked. His whole plumage is glossy jet black. He loves to sit on a telegraph wire or other exposed perch, and thence make sallies into the air after flying insects. He is one of the commonest birds in India. His cheery call--half-squeak, half-whistle--must be familiar to every Anglo-Indian. As to his character, I will repeat what I have said elsewhere: "The king-crow is the Black Prince of the bird world--the embodiment of pluck. The thing in feathers of which he is afraid has yet to be evolved. Like the mediæval knight, he goes about seeking those on whom he can perform some small feat of arms. In certain parts of India he is known as the kotwal--the official who stands forth to the poor as the impersonation of the might and majesty of the British raj."

The king-crow is fairly abundant in the hills. On the lower ranges, and especially at Almora, it is nearly as common as in the plains. On the higher slopes, however, it is largely replaced by the ashy drongo (Dicrurus longicaudatus). At most hill stations both species occur. The note of the ashy drongo differs considerably from that of the king-crow: otherwise the habits of the two species are very similar. Take thirty-three per cent. off the pugnacity of the king-crow and you will arrive at a fair estimate of that of the ashy drongo. The latter looks like a king-crow with an unusually long tail, a king-crow of which the black plumage has worn grey like an old broadcloth coat.

The handsome Bhimraj or larger racket-tailed drongo (Dissemurus paradiseus), a glorified king-crow with a tail fully 20 inches in length, is a Himalayan bird, but he dwells far from the madding crowd, and is not likely to be seen at any hill station except as a captive.