ERINDI IN THE BIRDING SPOTLIGHT
Fork-tailed Drongo – case of theft or kill?
Photos by Andrew Steyn and text by Stefan Rust (BirdsConTour)
(In terms of the Geneva Convention the copyright of these texts belongs to Stefan Rust)
Erindi Private Game Reserve is an unrivalled destination for those in search for the very rarely Crimson-breasted Shrike Laniarius atrococcineus with a bright yellow belly rather than the characteristic crimson-red coloration.
Last seen late August and early September 2011, now again an individual was spotted during a game drive by the guide and the passionate birder Andrew Steyn on the 15th of June.
As not being enough, Andrew had the opportunity to observe and photograph a Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis being busy slaughtering a Brubru Nilaus afer (14 cm). It is not sure how this “criminal” bird got hold of the Brubru. It is known that the Drongo kills small birds such as Bronze Mannikin Spermestes cucullata (9.5 cm) and Yellow-fronted Canary Crithagra mozambica (12 cm) on the ground and carries the prey to a perch in its bill or feet. In case of the Drongo assuming of having killed the Brubru all by himself, then this will be the biggest reported feathered prey with the Brubru measuring 14 cm.
Predator-like this Fork-tailed Drongo holds down the Brubru with one foot and tears off bits of flesh to swallow.
Although mainly feeding on insects, the Fork-tailed Drongos are renowned for their aggressive behavior, often stealing food from other birds and raptors, called kleptoparasitism.
Sophisticated strategies, such as false-alarm calls, including the mimicking alarms of other species, are used to not only scare birds but also mammals such as Suricates Suricata surricatta and steal their food, including beetle larvae and small lizards.
Often they associate with foraging mammals to catch flushed prey, sometimes even perching on the mammals.