I found this bird near home in Kerala, India. Don't know the call. I sort of think this is a Fork tailed drongo. but not sure. Thank you... enter image description here

1 Answer 1


You need to be careful here: there are several similarly named species in English, so it's probably better to use the scientific name.

Fork-tailed drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis, e.g. this shot on ebird) is an African species that looks very much like your photo. India's black drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus) is a closely related species, formerly regarded as a subspecies of fork-tailed drongo (so if you've got an old book it might be listed under that name). The hint of brown on the wings is good, as is the red/brown in the eye.

Fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo (Surniculus dicruroides) is another Indian species, recently split from square-tailed drongo-cuckoo. It closely resembles the black drongo. While the iridescence is striking in the photo I've linked, ebird has a photo in a similar pose to yours (you'll have to go through the images; they don't make it easy to link directly) that isn't catching the light. Black drongo can also show iridescence.

Sound will be the best way to tell black drongo from fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo. These links are to recordings of both from Kerala (as some species have regional accents). Ebird has plenty of recordings of both. Ebird also states that the adult fork-tailed drongo-cuckoos "may be confused with drongos, but are lighter-billed and smaller, with distinctly white-barred undertail". The latter is pictured, but you'd need a good view to see it; as for the overall size and subtleties of the bill shape, familiarity with one species might indicate something off about a sighting, but in isolation they're not diagnostic.

In the photos I've seen, there's much more noticeable white on the lores (near the base of the bill) in the black drongo. Your photo shows a small patch. Combined with the eye colour I'm leaning towards black drongo. The bill shape is also good for black drongo, less curved than in the drongo-cuckoo (thanks to Tom Gaskill for pointing that out).

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    Excellent answer. One more ID mark is the bill shape. Drongo-cuckoos have a distinctive, decurved, cuckoo-like bill, while the black drongo has a straighter, more jay-like bill (which is shown nicely in the photograph). It's a lovely photo--it captures how intent the bird is. Mar 10, 2021 at 22:07
  • Thanks @Tom. You make a very good point, and well-timed as I'm near my field guide and not relying on online sources. The field guide (Helm Birds of Northern India) makes the comparison you describe really rather clear, while the angle of many photos online doesn't. I'd been meaning to check since seeing this while in work
    – Chris H
    Mar 10, 2021 at 22:40

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