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5 Fascinating Behaviors of the Fork-Tailed Drongo-Cuckoo

The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo, also known by its scientific name Surniculus dicruroides, is a spectacular bird species with interesting behavior and unique characteristics. Found across India from the Himalayas to southern parts of the country, this bird has an intriguing story to tell.

In this article, we will delve into the identification, plumages, molts, and interesting facts about this fascinating bird. Identification:

The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo is a relatively small bird, measuring up to 19 cm in length and weighing about 23 g.

This bird is characterized by an elongated forked tail that distinguishes it from other cuckoo species. Its feathering is mainly chestnut-brown with a white underside.

It has a lighter vent and has white tips on its tail coverts, which helps to differentiate it from other drongo species. Additionally, it has a prominent and curved beak, which is an adaptation for catching insects.

Field Identification:

Spotting and identifying the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo can be a bit challenging, as it spends most of its time hidden in the dense canopy of forests or thick bushes. Its distinct call, a whistling “pee-pee-poo” sound, can alert bird watchers of its presence.

The posture of this bird is also peculiar, characterized by rapid wing-beats when flying or perching. When on a perch, it bobs its tail up and down, which can be helpful in spotting it.

Similar Species:

The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo is frequently confused with other drongo species because of its similar body size and coloration. As its common name suggests, it is closely related to cuckoo species but can be distinguished from them by its forked tail and more substantial bill.

The Asian drongo species, such as the black drongo and ashy drongo, mostly converge in plumage color but have some dissimilar behavioral adaptations that distinguish them. Plumages:

The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo exhibits sexual dimorphism, and there are noticeable plumage differences between males and females.

The male has more brightly colored plumage, with a glossy rufous throat patch, while the female has a duller coloration. The juveniles have a similar appearance to the female but have a darker back.


The moulting patterns of the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo are somewhat unique. Unlike most birds that replace all their feathers at once during their annual moult, the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo replaces its feathers throughout the year.

This type of molting is known as asynchronous, and it ensures that these birds always possess good quality feathers for flight, which is crucial for thermoregulation and survival. Interesting facts:

– The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo is known to stalk and parasitize the nests of babblers, tailorbirds, and prinias, where they lay their eggs.

The nest’s host takes care of the egg and chick, thinking it’s one of their offspring, only to be deserted by the cuckoo chick when it’s grown. – This bird has a unique adaptation in its beak, which allows it to catch insects in mid-air.

This enables it to hunt for food actively and increases its survival rate. – Younger fork-tailed drongo-cuckoos follow their adopted parents around and call for food by producing loud whistling sounds.

– These birds are typically found in dense forests, where they stay hidden above the trees. However, during the breeding season, they may come down to the ground level, where they can be more easily spotted.


The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo is a fascinating bird with unique characteristics that make it an interesting subject for bird watchers and naturalists alike. Its distinctive features, such as its forked tail and asynchronous molting pattern, make it an exciting bird to observe.

Their interesting behavioral strategies, such as brood parasitism, also add to their intrigue. By learning more about this bird species, it is easier for us to appreciate and conserve these beautiful creatures.

The systematics history of a species offers many insights into its phylogenetic relationships, distribution, and ecological history. The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo(Surniculus dicruroides) is a migratory bird that belongs to the family of Cuculidae.

In this article, we will delve into the systematics history of the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo, including its geographic variation, subspecies, related species, and changes in distribution throughout its evolutionary history. Systematics History:

The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo was first described in 1829 by Coenraad Jacob Temminck, a Dutch zoologist, and his description was based on a specimen collected in southeastern Sumatra.

Since the initial description, several revisions on the taxonomy and systematics of this species have been documented, with significant implications for our understanding of its distribution, phylogeny, and evolutionary history. Geographic Variation:

One of the most striking features of the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo is the significant geographic variation in its morphology and behavior.

This variation is mainly attributed to the bird’s wide distribution, covering a vast territory from the Himalayas in the north to Sri Lanka in the south and eastwards to the eastern Himalayas and southern China. These extensive distributions have resulted in populations adapting to different habitats.

The birds that live on the edge of the Himalayas, for instance, have significantly longer feathers, while those in southern India have shorter tails. Subspecies:

There are currently six recognized subspecies of the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo, each with a slightly different distribution, morphology, and behavior.

These subspecies are:

1. S.d. mindanensis


S.d. dicruroides

3. S.d. siberu


S.d. stresemanni

5. S.d. sundaicus


S.d. vagabundus

The subspecies dicruroides is the one with the most extended range, covering most of India. The subspecies sundaicus is found in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

The other subspecies are restricted to particular areas. Related Species:

The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo is closely related to other cuckoo species in the genus Surniculus.

However, the genus is not monophyletic, meaning that it does not contain all the closely related species. Molecular studies have shown that the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo and the square-tailed drongo-cuckoo(Surniculus lugubris) are the only two species in the genus, and members of the genus Pseudornis may be more closely related.

Historical Changes to Distribution:

The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo is known to have undergone significant changes in its distribution throughout its evolutionary history. Fossil evidence suggests that the species was present in Southeast Asia around 1.8 million years ago.

However, there is little evidence of the bird’s presence during the last glacial period, which suggests that it may have experienced range reductions due to climate change. The bird’s current distribution is primarily influenced by changes in vegetation, disease outbreaks, and habitat degradation.

Changes in land use practices, human activity, and invasive species have had a significant impact on the bird’s distribution and population dynamics. In India, for example, the clearance of forests and destruction of natural habitats has led to a sharp decline in the bird’s population, and its conservation status has been revised from “Least Concern” to “Near Threatened.”


The systematics history of the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo provides essential insights into its distribution, phylogeny, and evolution.

The subspecies’ wide range and geographic variation highlight the species’ adaptability and the impact of changing environmental conditions on its morphology and behavior. The bird’s response to historical changes in distribution can also provide important information for its conservation, emphasizing the need for preservation of natural habitats and development of proactive conservation approaches to maintain populations.

As a migratory bird, the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo (Surniculus dicruroides) has a unique habitat preference and movement pattern that offer insights into its ecological requirements and conservational needs. Understanding the bird’s habitat, movements, and migration helps to inform conservation decisions, assess the impact of environmental change and human activity on bird populations, and promote better management practices.

In this article, we will delve into the habitat preferences, movements, and migration of the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo. Habitat:

Fork-tailed drongo-cuckoos are commonly found in dense forests and wooded habitats, often perching high up in the canopy.

Specifically, the bird can be spotted in a range of forest habitats, including evergreen, semi-evergreen, moist deciduous, and montane forests. They are also known to explore secondary forests, riparian woods, and plantations with patches of suitable habitat.

In India, the bird’s distribution is primarily confined to the Himalayas, Northeast, and Western Ghats, with some populations recorded in central India. The bird’s dependence on forest habitats means that deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and land-use change pose significant threats to its population.

Human activities have led to the degradation of its preferred habitats and the loss of the tree cover, affecting its foraging options, breeding success, and overall survival. Conserving suitable habitats and managing human activity, such as forest harvesting and land-use conversion, is essential for the species’ sustenance.

Movements and Migration:

The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo’s movements and migration patterns vary according to the regional distribution, with individuals from the far eastern regions exhibiting different patterns compared to those from India. Overall, populations in India are known to be partially migratory or sedentary.

In the Himalayan region, for instance, the birds move to lower altitudes in winter, while in northeastern India, they may remain in the same area throughout the year. In the Western Ghats, the bird may undertake altitudinal movements with seasonal rains, moving to higher elevations in summer.

In contrast, population in Southeast Asia are known to exhibit more extensive movements and migrations. The birds that breed in the Philippines, for example, migrate southwards to Indonesia and Australia, whereas those in Malaysia and Indonesia move southwards to Sumatra and Java during the non-breeding season.

The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo’s migration patterns and movements also coincide with the availability of food resources and the onset of breeding seasons. In India, the birds’ breeding season is from April to July, while the non-breeding season is from August to February.

During the breeding season, the birds are known to display territorial behaviors, and the males perform aerial displays that include wing-fluttering and tail-fanning. After breeding, the birds undergo molting, a period where new feathers replace old ones, and the birds are often less conspicuous.

The bird’s movements and migration are also affected by environmental changes, such as climate variability and habitat degradation. For instance, changes in the timing and duration of the rainy season may affect the availability of food resources, which can lead to changes in migration timing and routes to exploit optimal feeding grounds.


The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo’s habitat, movement, and migration patterns provide essential insights on its ecology, distribution, and conservation status. The bird’s dependence on forest habitats highlights the need for sustainable practices that balance human needs and conservation priorities.

Understanding the bird’s movements and migration helps to identify areas of importance that need protection, such as stopover sites and wintering grounds, and promotes better management practices to sustain populations. The conservation of the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo is integral to preserving the unique ecological and cultural values of Southeast Asia and India, and efforts to maintain and restore healthy ecosystems should be prioritized.

The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo, also known as Surniculus dicruroides, is an interesting bird species that offers a unique perspective into its feeding and vocal habits. As a migratory bird, its feeding and vocal behavior is crucial to its survival, allowing it to adapt to changing environments and communicate with its mates during breeding.

In this article, we will delve into the diverse feeding and vocal habits of the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo. Diet and Foraging:


The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo is an insectivore, and a large portion of its diet consists of arthropods such as caterpillars, crickets, moths, and grasshoppers.

The bird catches its prey during flight by chasing after it. It is an acrobatic bird that makes quick turns, allowing it to capture insects mid-air.

The bird’s foraging style is quite interesting, and it exhibits a behavior, called hawking, catching insects from the air. It hovers around foliage and snatches any insects that it finds moving on the ground or foliage.

Another feeding behavior unique to the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo is its tendency to engage in brood parasitism. This means that the bird lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, such as prinias, babblers, and tailorbirds.

The host bird then raises the cuckoo’s young, mistaking it for its own offspring. Diet:

The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo’s diet is heavily dependent on insects, and it is known to feed on a broad range of species.

The bird is particularly fond of caterpillars, millipedes, and crickets, which make up a significant portion of their diet. It is known to supplement its diet with spiders and small lizards that it catches in the same way as insects.

During nesting, it is suggested that the bird may supplement its diet with seeds and other plant materials to obtain the required minerals for eggshells or to obtain calcium. Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo has a relatively high metabolism compared to other cuckoo species.

Its metabolic rate is estimated to be about double that of other similarly sized avian species. To maintain its high metabolic rate, its body temperature needs to be carefully regulated.

The bird has an endothermic metabolism and relies on panting and evaporation from its nasally exhaled air to regulate its temperature. Sounds and Vocal Behavior:


The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo is a vocal bird that uses its voice to communicate with its mate, establish territories, or to attract prey.

The bird has a distinctive call, a whistling “pee-pee-poo” sound, which is often the most apparent sign of its presence. When on a perch, the bird also produces a rapid series of warbling notes, which may be part of a mating song or used to ward off predators.

During courtship, the males perform aerial displays that include wing-fluttering and tail-fanning, and repeated shrill calls. The bird’s vocalization is essential to its survival, providing information on their presence, mating season and attracting females or other males onto their territories.

The bird depends on its loud calls to locate its mate, which it keeps in contact with while foraging. The call also serves as a warning when predators are present.


The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo’s diverse feeding and vocal habits highlight the adaptations that enable the species to survive in a wide range of environments. Its insectivorous diet and hawking behavior allow it to catch prey efficiently while its high metabolism and panting mechanisms help to regulate its body temperature.

The birds brood parasitism behavior is unique among cuckoos and allows it to conserve energy and resources for reproduction. Furthermore, its vocalization provides an insight into the bird’s behavior and communication among the species.

These features make the species a critical component of the ecosystem and require proper management of the factors affecting their population numbers, habitats, and survival. The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo (Surniculus dicruroides) is a migratory bird that exhibits diverse behaviors that play important roles in its survival and reproduction.

Locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, sexual behavior, and breeding tactics are fundamental in the life cycle of the bird. Understanding these intricate behavioral mechanisms provides insights into the bird’s social, ecological, and demographic dynamics.

In this article, we will delve into the behavior, breeding, demographics, and populations of the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo. Behavior:


The fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo is a highly maneuverable bird that has an acrobatic flying style.

Its aerial tactics allow it to make quick turns and catch prey mid-air. When not flying, the bird may perch high up in trees and bushes, where it still exhibits noticeable movements by bobbing its tail up and down.

The bird typically avoids making noise and is usually silent when locating its prey or observing its surroundings. Like many birds, the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo also spends a significant amount of time preening and maintaining its feathers.


Captive individuals of the fork-tailed drongo-cuckoo have been observed to bathe in shallow water. The bird may also sunbathe regularly to keep pests and feather parasites away.

Sunbathing is a common tactic among birds and involves spreading wings and tail to expose their feathers to sunlight in a specific posture that provides maximum benefit.

Agonistic Behavior:

Agonistic behavior is crucial to the bird’s survival and involves fights,

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