Thursday, September 26, 2013


Ashy Drongo                                                                  Black Drongo


This blog focuses on identification of both species. I observed that many bird watcher mistaken Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus) as Black Drongo (Dicrurrus macrocercus).

In India there are 10 species of Drongo found. Out of above referred two species are seen on plains of peninsular Inida. Black Drongo breeding resident of peninsular India while Ashy Drongo winter visitor.

Now it is high time for arrival of Ashy Drongo in a coming week or two. Its arrival creates confusion among birders. Ashy Drongo breeds in Himalayan hills; I have seen their active nests in Eagle Nest, Arunachal Pradesh and Musniyari Uttarakhand in the month of may.

Some similarity makes both look alike but if we observe keenly major differences unearth. Behaviour and habitat are the simple clews to identify this species. Here I discuss some similarity and differences.


Table :1 Similarity.

Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocerus=Forked long tailed
Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus=Forked tail and gleaning.
Size 28 cm
29 cm
Over all colour black
Over all colour black
Seen near human habitat
Seen near human habitat
Forage on insects some time flower nectar
Forage on insects some time flower nectar
Diagnostic long and forked tail
Diagnostic long and forked tail

Table:- 2 Differences

Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocerus)
Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus)
Size and Shape
Shape rather stocky compared with Ashy. For of the tail is wide angle.
Slender built for of the tail shows acute angle
Colour over all black shows glistening sting on wings. Imm shows white feathers on breast and belly.
Over all black chest and belly dull black. Shows gleaning sting on mantle and also wings
Rectal spot
Usually shows rectal white spot
No such spot
Resident breeds locally.
Winter visitor arrives in Oct 1st week. Breeds in Himalayan ranges
Open country along side of the roads and agricultural fields grazing cartels etc.
Prefer forest and wooded area and high rising trees hence happens in garden and groves even in thickly populated cities. Visit back yard of house where it find flowering and insects like bees etc.
Feeds on insects but they are mostly picked from ground. Birds perches on moderate elevation and watch the movement of prey then either land or hovers few inches above ground and picks up disturbed creature. Some time kills large prey like small bird, lizard etc. This bird rarely feeds on nectar.

Seen on back of grazing cattle and near farmer in action of agricultural activities. Farmer burns remaining of the crop which disturbs insect, attracts this bird.
Feeds on insects but they generally caught in the air diving stooping in the air.. Prefer high rising trees and feeds on insects flying on that elevation. Every flowering tree attracts this bird as the tree attracts bees and insects. This bird can be seen hunting near Honey bee colony or beehive. Feeds on all types of flower nectar like Palas, Pangara, Bombax, Austrelian Bhabul etc. Never stays in one area for longer time. Keep moving in search of food. Visits to flowering trees follows precise time schedule.
Active during breeding otherwise very silent call when competition for food or territory occurs (see attached file)

Once food territory is fixed they remain there till breeding season arrives in April.
Very vocal always keep calling. If in pair they are very noisy and many time seen in pair.
Rising and retiring call are most diagnostic. Noise really disturbs silence of forest even housing colonies.

This bird often mimics Shikra
Local breeder but in winter population rises abnormally this may be because of birds arrives from breeding ground to feeding grounds with young generation.

We are taking census of one garbage dump of Miraj town in December and June which reveals in Dec average 64 bird counted while in May only one pair registered.

As per Whistlers Popular Hand Book of Indian Birds this rise in number may be because of local migration from plains of North to Peninsular India. Need interaction with bird watchers in Northern India. If they observe drastic reduction in population in winter then it may migrate to south.
Arrives from Himalayan ranges in first week of Oct (It may differs by week or more according to geographical location) and depart to home ground in 2 nd week of April. Some birds shows even late April bur very rare.

This is the best time to observe this two birds to confirm my observation. This observations are based on my personal observation and most of them near my native place and in western ghat. It may not be necessarily tailed with all other parts.

My appeal is that please concentrate on this two bird during coming 6 to 7 months and give me your feed back with details of location etc.



Sharrad Apte

Bird Song Education Research and Publication

Monday, August 20, 2012


Every year Month of March arrives with fresh fragrance of Vasant Rutu flowers and in one crisp evening around 15 to 17 of March I do hear first cooing of koel male around 5.30 to 6.00 pm. And all of a sudden we say spring “Vasant Rutu has arrived. We regard koel sings to announce springs arrival. Is it correct or this is myth.
It is reality as well as myth in some cases. Generally spring arrives in March, however country like India the spring can’t be lock in months. Generally speaking Vasant Rutu arrives in March. It is not necessary koel to sing to announce it’s arrival.
Koel and his song is related with breeding activity of House crow (Corvvus splendens).
Region like kerala where monsoon arrives first almost two to three week ahead of Deccan plateau, where house crow intend to finish it’s nest before gusty wind and heavy showers. So House crow start breeding activity by Jan end and one can hearing koerl male sings. Then in western ghat or Konkan region one can see nesting activity of crow in march or earlier so here koel start it’s song in Feb. Whereas Mansoon  arrives in late June on Deccan Plateau here crow start pairing activity in March April. Nest are build in April end or in May. Once the good showers receives egg laying is done,
Same activity starts in Jun July in the plains of North India where one can hear Koel start singing in this period.
In western ghat every year I do hear Koel male singing in the month of Nov even some time in December. On investigating it reveals few crow pairs found in nest building activity. 
In Kolhapur there is one hutment where most of dwellers are garbage and scrap metal collector. One season they found a nest of crow collapsed from tree. These people found metal pieces in nest. So they brought down all the nests and collect the metal readily available.  Once they know crow’s behaviors they started destroying their nest every season. The clever crow then changes its breeding season to cheat these people. One question appears in my mind why crow did not change their nesting ground. On investigation we found that the hutment and daily activity of people provide them constant supply food.
Once the crow change the season and found it is safe, then Koel has no alternative to sing in these months.
Why koel sings :Koel male sings for marking its territory and same time to allure female.  More it sings loudly and long time more chances of gating mate.
We have discussed when and where.
One thing I noticed Koel prefer nest of house crow to lay eggs than Jungle crow. It is conclusion when we use to see house crow feeding Koel chicks, and also inspecting ground below crow nest we found died chicks which are of House Crowl. Cuckoo always pushes out eggs and chicks of host bird.
I did not know when and where this association of House Crow and Koel came in to existence. We all know house crow is associated with human settlement all over the world where house crow finds. History of human settlement does not go back 30 to 40 thousand year to the most.
It may possible the association is much more old, once crow come to stay with human settlement for many reasons Koel then has to accept new habitat but to survive.
I welcome any observations regarding relation of crow and koel.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My first blog

A heady fragrance arrests your step during an evening walk. You take deep breaths and fill your lungs with the enthralling smell of the Ratrani in full bloom. Or on a crisp morning in March the spontaneous song of the male Koel (Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea) announces the arrival of Rutu Vasant- Spring, the king of seasons. Although these sound colours and smells delight the human senses, primarily they are not meant for us. Flowers bloom and spread fragrance in order to attract insects that achieve cross pollination leading to bearing of fruits, ultimately producing seeds the raise next generation.

Same is true of the Koel’s song. On one hand it allures the female, on the other hand warning opponent males not enter the singer’s territory. Nature has specially bestowed on birds the heavenly voice that fills her garden with sweet melody.

Mr Sharad Apte, an ornithologist, has recorded these calls with sophisticated equipments at tramping forests, mountains, rivers and lakes across the country. He has spent 20 years of leisure time and resources studying birds and bird songs and has spent almost 10 years recording them.

Bird’s song and call are roughly classified; by their purpose; such as breeding songs and calls, alarm call, rising and retiring call as well as calls for communications etc.

Legends from folklore are also a part of information. It is said that the call of grief produced by the Male Crounch (The Saras Crane) on the loss of his partner inspired Maharashi Valmiki to compose his epic Ramayana. Even today thousand of spoken languages across the country are oriented with such folklores and songs. This is perhaps the only blog that will carry such folklores.