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Fork-tailed Drongo - BirdForum Opus

Adult showing red eye, subspecies D. a. fugax
Photo © by mikemik
Serengeti, Tanzania , 13 May 2018

Alternative name: African Drongo

Dicrurus adsimilis


23–26 cm (9-10 in)

  • Glossy black overall plumage
  • Wings duller
  • Large head
  • Forked tail
  • Heavy black bill
  • Red eye
  • Short legs

Female similar but duller


Formerly the population in Tanzania and much of Kenya were assigned to the nominate race, D. a. adsimilis now placed within the range of D. a. fugax. It is described as smaller with a more deeply forked tail.

Similar species

Differs from similar Velvet-mantled Drongo in having tail shorter than wing, a less deep tail fork, slightly less gloss and no pale rictal spot. Square-tailed Drongo and Shining Drongo are smaller and have a less forked tail.


The Fork-tailed Drongo is a common and widespread resident breeder in Africa south of the Sahara, being most common in Botswana, Zimbabwe and the northern parts of South Africa and Mozambique.


Immature, nominate subspecies
Photo © by Alan Manson
Cedara Farm, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 21 August 2007

Forms a superspecies with Black Drongo of Asia and was formerly regarded as conspecific. They were split in 2007 by Pasquet et al.[5]The combined pre-split species was known as "Common Drongo" or just "Drongo." Former subspecies D. a. divaricatus now recognized as a separate species, the Glossy-backed Drongo.


Four subspecies recognized[1]:

  • D. a. apivorus:
  • D. a. jubaensis: (formerly considered a junior synonym of D. a. divaricatus)
  • Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia
  • D. a. fugax:
  • D. a. adsimilis:
  • Eastern and southern South Africa (southwestern Western Cape north to southern Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal), Lesotho, and western eSwatini

Former subspecies D. a. divaricatus now recognized as a separate species Glossy-backed Drongo.[6]


Hovering waiting for insects to be kicked up by the baby giraffe
Photo © by AHH
Kruger National Park, South Africa, 9 July 2007

Woodlands including riverine woodlands, moist and arid savanna, forest edges and grassland or fynbos with available perches, plantations of alien trees, gardens, farmyards and town parks.



Sits very upright whilst perched prominently, like a shrike. An aggressive bird, which will attack much larger species, including birds of prey, snakes and humans, if their nest or young are threatened.


Their prey is taken aerially and on the ground, and includes flying insects, moths and bees; most often they will sit on a branch and sally out from there, but it may also be sitting on the ground. They are often seen taking prey disturbed by large animals or bush fires. They also often steal food from other birds, and have been known to steal food from suricates (Meerkats) and Southern Pied Babblers by sounding false alarms.


Monogamous, solitary nester building thin-walled, strongly woven cup nests in high tree-forks. Two to five eggs of highly varying colour.


The call is a metallic strink-strink. They are also excellent mimics.


Resident; possibly some short-distance movements in southern part of range.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553507
  3. Birdforum member observations
  4. Rocamora, G. and D. Yeatman-Berthelot (2020). Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, B. K. Keeney, P. G. Rodewald, and T. S. Schulenberg, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.fotdro5.01
  5. Pasquet, Eric; Jean-Marc Pons;Jerome Fuchs; Corinne Cruaud & Vincent Bretagnolle (2007). "Evolutionary history and biogeography of the drongos (Dicruridae), a tropical Old World clade of corvoid passerines." Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 45 (1): 158–167. PDF
  6. Fuchs, J, De Swardt, DH, Oatley, G, Fjeldså, J, Bowie, RCK. (2018) Habitat‐driven diversification, hybridization and cryptic diversity in the Fork‐tailed Drongo (Passeriformes: Dicruridae: Dicrurus adsimilis). Zool Scr. 47:266– 284. https://doi.org/10.1111/zsc.12274

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