Australian Bush Birds
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Spangled Drongo  -  Dicrurus bracteatus
photograph
Spangled Drongo resting on branch. Note the red eye and the tail.
Spangled Drongo Spangled Drongo
Left. The prominent red eye and the chest spangles are characteristic of this species.
Right. The unusual outward curving tail is unique among Australian birds.
map map The Spangled Drongo - Dicrurus bracteatus - is a glossy black bird with reflective chest spangles distinguished by a forked black tail with upturned outer tip reminiscent of a fish-tail. Length is 30 to 32 centimetres including 14 centimetre tail. Heavy black beak with basal bristles and red eye are additional identification features. Legs and feet are black. Male and female are similar. General plumage is black; depending on the amount of sunlight there can also be seen indistinct blue-green spangles or iridescent spots on head, neck and breast.

Immature birds have a dull black head and nape, spangled with metallic blue. The back, rump and wings are dull dusky, the tail is black edged with blue. Cheeks and underparts are dull black.

Habitually adopts an erect perch on bare limbs or wires where the black colouring, red eye and unusual tail makes it easy to identify. The Drongo has small and weak feet; it is not a good walker but is accomplished on the wing and relies on taking insects in flight; perches are selected to be easy to alight on and take-off from. Insects taken in flight are mainly hard-shelled ones; beetles, cicadas, grasshoppers, dragonflies and mantids. It also gleans insects from foliage.

Spangled Drongo - page 2
Lives in forest and fringing open forest and mangrove. There is one population from the Kimberley to the top End, the other from Cape York Peninsula along the east coast to the Victorian border.

Drongos in northwestern Australia are sedentary; those in the east are part-nomadic.

A core breeding population on the Queensland coast disperses north and south in March-April after nesting. Bands of 10 to 30 birds move north to New Guinea then return to breed on October and November. Others move south over winter reaching the Victorian border. Others remain on the Queensland coast all year.

Breeding takes place from September to March. The nest is shallow or saucer shaped made of vine tendrils and plant stems, attached to a horizontal fork of a thickly foliaged tree up to 25 metres above the ground. Three to five eggs are laid; pale pink to purple-grey, spotted and streaked with red and purple; long-oval, about 29 by 21 millimetres. Incubated by both parents who also feed the young.

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