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Hair-crested Drongo - BirdForum Opus

ssp brevirostris
Photo © by anonymous_guy
Lamma Island, Hong Kong, April 2005
Dicrurus hottentottus

Includes: White-eyed Spangled Drongo, Obi Spangled Drongo, Sula Spangled Drongo, Sulu Spangled Drongo


Nominate subspecies showing spangles and hackles
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Dudhwa National Park, Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh, India, January-2015

25 - 32cm (9¾-12½ in). A variable species. Features of the nominate subspecies are:

  • Long hair-like feathers springing from forehead, extending over hindcrown and upper back (not in all subspecies)
  • Black plumage, brightly glossed metallic blue-green
  • Numerous breast spangles and broad and very large, long and glossy neck hackles
  • Tail nearly square-ended, inner four pairs of rectrices ending almost at same level as outer pair
  • Reddish-brown or dark brown eye

Sexes similar, females are duller. Juveniles are browner and less glossed.


Found on the Indian Subcontinent, in the Himalayas, Burma, big parts of China, Indochina and on Borneo, Sulawesi and parts of the Philippines (see taxonomy).
Locally common. Some island subspecies are under threat due to deforestation.


ssp striatus - Balicassiao
Photo by Mark Bruce
PICOP, Bislig, Mindanao Island, Philippines, January 2009

Taxonomy is complex and not well understood. Studies suggest there are several species within the taxon. The following subspecies may be elevated to species status: banggaiensis and leucops ("White-eyed Spangled Drongo", D. leucops), guillemardi ("Obi Spangled Drongo", D. guillemardi); pectoralis ("Sula Spangled Drongo", D. pectoralis); and suluensis ("Sulu Spangled Drongo", D. suluensis).

Hair-crested Drongo been considered conspecific with Spangled Drongo, Sumatran Drongo, Wallacean Drongo, Balicassiao, Sulawesi Drongo and Ribbon-tailed Drongo and may form a superspecies with all these forms.

Tablas Drongo was regarded as a subspecies of this species.

This is a polytypic species [1] consisting of 14 subspecies:


  • D. h. hottentottus: from India to Myanmar, northern Thailand and southern Indochina
  • D. h. brevirostris: Breeds in central and southern China south to northern Myanmar, northern Laos and northern Vietnam; most of the population migrates south, wintering in Indochina, Thailand, and Myanmar. [Similar to nominate but smaller bill]
  • D. h. borneensis: Northern Borneo, Maratua and Matasiri islands. [Blue in general colour, rather short frontal filaments, small and strong bill]
  • D. h. faberi: Panaitan Island and islands in Jakarta Bay, western Java. [Smaller than nominate, deeper black below and with a creamy white eye]
  • D. h. jentincki: Eastern Java, Bali, Masalembu, and Kangean Island. [Similar to faberi but with a longer tail and less deep black plumage ]
  • D. h. leucops: "White-eyed Spangled Drongo". Sulawesi, Matasiri Island (Java Sea), Sanghie, and Siau. [Similar to guillemardi but with a white eye (see Sulawesi Drongo)]
  • D. h. banggaiensis: "White-eyed Spangled Drongo". Banggai Islands, off of eastern Sulawesi. [Similar to guillemardi but smaller, frontal filaments only present in some birds, brown eye]
  • D. h. guillemardi: "Obi Spangled Drongo". Central Moluccas (Bisa and Obi). [Well-developed long, broad and very well-glossed neck hackles, brown eye]
  • D. h. pectoralis: "Sula Spangled Drongo". Sula Islands (Taliabu, Mangola and Sanana). [Similar to guillemardi but smaller, longer and broader hackles and a red eye]

The following subspecies were regarded as a part of the Spangled Drongo complex by some authorities [1] but are now commonly included in this species:

  • D. h. palawanensis: Southern Philippines (Palawan, Busuanga, Mapun, Culion, Balabac). [Similar to borneensis but with red eye, no frontal filaments and four inner pairs of rectrices becoming gradually longer, tips of outermost with with slight tendency to curl upwards]
  • D. h. cuyensis: Philippines (Cuyo and Semirara). [Similar to palawanensis but with strongly greenish gloss]
  • D. h. suluensis: "Sulu Spangled Drongo". Sulu Archipelago. [Frontal filaments always present, more deeply forked tail than otherwise similar pectoralis]
  • D. h. samarensis: Philippines (Bohol, Leyte, Panaon, Samar and Calicoan). [Very short, straight and square-ended tail, no frontal filaments]
  • D. h. striatus: Southern Philippines (Basilan, Mindanao and Nipa). [Similar to samarensis but tail a little longer and slightly forked]


Click on photo for larger image


Found in different types of forest, preferring broadleaf evergreen and moist deciduous forest. Occurs from sea-level up to 1500m, occasionally up to 2000m.


They move singly or in small flocks and are very noisy.


Feeds on insects and nectar. Also reported to hawk for lizards.


Breeding season poorly documented, from April to June in northern India, April to July in southwest Asia. Very noisy and aggressive towards disturbance while breeding. The nest is a deep saucer made of grass, rootlets and tendrils of creepers. It's usually placed in a tree but also reported in bamboo in China. Lays 3 - 4 eggs.


Most populations are resident but birds in the northern part of the distribution (China) migrate south to Indochina.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://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

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