The Square-tailed drongo
, Dicrurus ludwigii
, is the smallest of drongos. It is an all black bird with a short, blunt tail and ruby-red eyes that provide the only colour contrast. Their bills are stout, well-notched for grasping prey and clad with dense, forward-directed bristles at the base. These bristles, which hide slit-like nostrils, are thought to protect the face from retaliation by captured prey.
Feet are short and strong and fitted for perching rather than movement. Well-adapted for aerial maneuvers, the birds never move about on foot. Among the first birds to rise before dawn and the last to go to roost, these drongos call regularly throughout the day, year round, mostly from perches.
It is endemic to Africa, patchy in distribution south of the Sahara. One finds them most often in the middle and lower strata of forests and dense woodland from sea-level up to 2,000 m above sea level in warmer areas.
Usually territorial, they are found singly, in pairs or family groups. Because of their preference for the deeper parts of forests they appear more introverted. It forages from exposed vantage perches, generally sitting with tail drooped. When an insect comes within striking distance the bird flies off the branch and snags the insect in mid-flight. Large view
It defends its nest aggressively and fearlessly. They will attack and chase off large birds and medium-sized raptors and mob owls, hornbills and small predatory mammals. I have on a number of occasions fallen victim to their bold defense of their nests. It is disconcerting, especially in a dark forest, having a drongo dive at your face, only to veer off at the very last moment.
This bird often accompanies foraging bands of mixed species of birds, benefiting from insects disturbed by them. Their diet mainly consists of rather large insects: moths, grasshoppers, cicadas, mantids and beetles, but they also exploit termite emergences.
It breeds September through April in southern Africa. Its nest a small, neat saucer of lichen and dry stems bound thickly with cobweb built at the end of branches, hung like a hammock 2 – 8 m off the ground. It lays two to three spotted white eggs per clutch.
Square-tailed drongos form monogamous breeding pairs and both parents incubate the eggs and care for the young.