The Fork-tailed Drongo: A Fascinating Bird Species

The Fork-tailed Drongo: A Fascinating Bird Species

Image gallery at the end of this article

Over the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to observe the Fork-tailed Drongos up close, and it has been a remarkable experience.

In January 2023, I had the privilege of observing, capturing videos and photographs of Fork-tailed Drongos in Sedgefield, Western Cape, South Africa. While these birds are common in the area, what made this sighting particularly special was that a pair of Drongos had built a nest in a Milkwood tree on my property, about 8 meters high. It was a delight to witness these birds taking care of their chicks, feeding, and protecting them until they were ready to leave the nest.

Over the course of the breeding season, I was able to capture over 100 videos of these birds in action, including the growth and eventual fledging of the chicks. It was a remarkable experience to witness the birds’ parenting behaviour up close, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to observe and document this rare sight.

One of the most impressive things I noticed about these birds is how well they mimic other species. It is truly remarkable how they can imitate the calls of other birds and even the sounds of insects.

What is even more impressive is their ability to adapt to new food sources. I have observed these birds begging for cheese from my kitchen and scavenging scraps from our deck. However, despite these opportunistic behaviours, they continue to collect natural food sources such as worms, caterpillars, dragonflies, and more to feed their young. It is amazing to see how these birds can balance their diet and adapt to different food sources when necessary.

Gazing upon the Fork-tailed Drongos tirelessly feeding their chick has opened my eyes to the remarkable world of parental devotion in the avian kingdom. These seemingly common birds have become extraordinary in my sight.

The activity level is astounding. Every few seconds, an adult Drongo swoops in, bringing a worm, butterfly, or some other protein-rich morsel for their hungry offspring. This constant back-and-forth feeding is a testament to the immense energy required to raise chicks.

One behaviour particularly piqued my curiosity. Unlike some other bird species I’ve observed, like the Black-headed Oriole or Paradise Flycatcher, the Drongo parents don’t discard the chick’s faecal sacs. Instead, they swallow them! This fascinating difference adds another layer to the diversity of avian parenting strategies.

Then came the rain. The adult Drongo, ever vigilant, transformed into a feathered umbrella, protecting the chick from the downpour until the sky cleared. Only then did the feeding frenzy resume, a seemingly never-ending cycle fuelled by pure instinct. Even after the rain, the Drongos managed to squeeze in a few precious moments of preening to maintain their sleek appearance.

This experience has instilled in me a newfound appreciation for nature’s wonders. What was once a “common” bird in my backyard has become a captivating symbol of dedication and resilience.

It’s important to remember that the life of a young chick is fraught with danger. Raptors with keen eyes soar overhead, while venomous boomslangs, lurking amongst the branches, pose a constant threat to the nest. These dangers add another layer of complexity to the Drongos parenting duties, making their success in raising chicks even more remarkable.

In conclusion, the Fork-tailed Drongo is a remarkable bird that is a common sight in the Western Cape region of South Africa. However, witnessing their breeding behaviour up close is a rare and unforgettable experience. In addition, the region is home to a diverse range of bird species, each with their own unique characteristics and habits.

To truly unlock the secrets of the region’s incredible birdlife, consider enlisting the expertise of an experienced birding guide.

National tour guides, like Ben Fouche Birdwatcher and Outdoor Heartbeat, possess a wealth of knowledge about the region’s birds and their habitats. They can help you spot elusive species, navigate prime birding locations, and ensure a truly unforgettable experience.

The avian world is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. To stay updated on the birding scene, including new species sightings and seasonal changes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter. You’ll also receive exclusive birding tips and tricks to enhance your future birding adventures.

So, pack your binoculars, ignite your curiosity, and embark on a journey to discover the feathered wonders of Southern Africa!

Book a birding trip on the Garden Route of South AFrica – Enquire here.

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