Drongo tussle at Ranthambore: Rolling for love...or death?

Black Drongos (Dicrurus macrocercus) are known for their pugnacity. I have seen them scare away all and sundry who approach their nests, once even a Brahminy Kite. But I never knew they were actually serious about fighting till I bumped into this pair last week, right in the middle of a game road in Ranthambore National Park.

We observed them from our rented Maruti Gypsy for nearly 6 minutes. All along, these two birds had locked their beaks, were rolling over and over and screaming at the top of their voice.
Many safari vehicles had to take a detour off the game road as these determined birds refused to budge.

I though this was a very intense battle, the likes of which I have rarely witnessed in birds of the same species.

We had to leave the place as I had non-birders in my vehicle. But at that point I some how felt that one of them might have been been fatally wounded by the other. This was until I forwarded the above picture series to different emailing groups.

Is this war...or love?
Well-known birder Shyamal.L, who is the person behind the wonderful software Birdspot forwarded me the following note from the Journal of Bombay Natural History Society (JBNHS). Shukkur,EAA & Joseph,KJ (1978). "Breeding biology of the Black Drongo". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 75 (4): 1212-1226.

"... signs of courtship. Such pairs indulge in duetting and vigorous pursuit flights. ...... A nesting pair indulges in vigorous courtship activities. Such birds chase each other in flight and bring their bills and wings into contact as though in sham fight. In the course of this their wings get interlocked and the pair may fall to the ground."

This is more weirder than the acts of them fighting intense duels for someone from the opposite sex. There is no way I can tell if the birds involved in the action I captured were of the different sex. If they were, then boy, these are not only fighters but some real 'bloody' love making birds as well!

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  1. Ameen
    I came on to this blog quite by accident. This post opened up a completely new facet about drongos to me. I have known them to be pugnacious, have observed them to be so. I have seen them - the black drongo, the ashy drongo and the racket-tailed one - chasing away much bigger birds, even kites. But This, a fight possibly unto death, was something very new to me.

    I am myself almost crazy about jungles and keep wandering. What I see and click, I post as stories on sulekha.com. There is a whole series of such stories that I have posted. These are under the series, "Stories from the indian wild". Am trying to publish these as a book.

    Will put your blog in my favorite list in anticipation of more from you.

  2. Wonderfully documented! Wish I were there.

  3. Wow, Ameen, I have never heard of something like this! Thanks for the documentation.

    -Deepa (deponti-on-LJ)

  4. Ameen,
    Good obseravtion, I wish any other birder would have allowed you to take a complete glimpse of the kind of nature's battle withing two birds of same race.
    Black drongos are known as Kotwal ( in marathi it means Protector or defender ) and I've sen them several times getting in fight with other birds, even Mynas for common. But, this is somehow strange kind of fight, may be for mating , I guess.

    Rajesh Sachdev

  5. Dear Ameen,
    That's great observation and photography. I have never seen this before. Though I am well aware of the character of the Black Drongos.
    Kudos to you.

  6. Dear Ameen,

    Nice Documentation here! I have never come across such thing among Black Drongos. TFS

    Thanks & Regards


  7. Hi Ameen,
    Thanks for reporting live about lives of these drongos from the wild. Keep up the great work- Warm regards, JN Prasad

  8. Great post Ameen, and a wonderful series of photos of these Drongos. I guess love making like this would definitely make for a stronger species.


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