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Dicrurus paradiseus , Photo: Michael Lahanas

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Cladus: Sarcopterygii
Cladus: Rhipidistia
Cladus: Tetrapodomorpha
Cladus: Eotetrapodiformes
Cladus: Elpistostegalia
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Cladus: Avemetatarsalia
Cladus: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauriformes
Cladus: Dracohors
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Eusaurischia
Subordo: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Cladus: Averostra
Cladus: Tetanurae
Cladus: Avetheropoda
Cladus: Coelurosauria
Cladus: Tyrannoraptora
Cladus: Maniraptoromorpha
Cladus: Maniraptoriformes
Cladus: Maniraptora
Cladus: Pennaraptora
Cladus: Paraves
Cladus: Eumaniraptora
Cladus: Avialae
Infraclassis: Aves
Cladus: Euavialae
Cladus: Avebrevicauda
Cladus: Pygostylia
Cladus: Ornithothoraces
Cladus: Ornithuromorpha
Cladus: Carinatae
Parvclassis: Neornithes
Cohors: Neognathae
Cladus: Neoaves
Cladus: Telluraves
Cladus: Australaves
Ordo: Passeriformes
Subordo: Passeri
Infraordo: Corvida
Superfamilia: Corvoidea

Familia: Dicruridae
Genus: Dicrurus
Species: Dicrurus paradiseus
Subspecies: D. p. banguey – D. p. brachyphorus – D. p. ceylonicus – D. p. formosus – D. p. grandis – D. p. hypoballus – D. p. johni – D. p. microlophus – D. p. nicobariensis – D. p. otiosus – D. p. paradiseus – D. p. platurus – D. p. rangoonensis

Dicrurus paradiseus (Linnaeus, 1766)

Cuculus paradiseus (protonym)

Dicrurus paradiseus (*)


Linnaeus, C. 1766. Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Editio duodecima, reformata. Tomus 1 (Regnum Animale), Pars 1: 1–532. Holmiæ [Stockholm]. Impensis Direct Laurentii Salvii. p. 172 BHL Reference page. .

Vernacular names
অসমীয়া: ভীমৰাজ
български: Голям вимпелоопашат дронго
বাংলা: ভীমরাজ
català: Drongo de raquetes gros
Cymraeg: Drongo llwy-gynffon mawr
dansk: Stor Pragtdrongo
Deutsch: Flaggendrongo
English: Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
español: Drongo de raquetas grande
فارسی: بوجانگای دم‌پارویی بزرگ
suomi: Viiridrongo
français: Drongo à raquettes
עברית: דרונגו פרדיסאוס
हिन्दी: ग्रेटर रैकेट-पूंछ ड्रोंगो
magyar: Paradicsomdrongó
Bahasa Indonesia: Srigunting batu
italiano: Drongo codaracchetta maggiore
日本語: カザリオウチュウ
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಭೀಮರಾಜ
മലയാളം: കാടുമുഴക്കി
Bahasa Melayu: Burung Cecawi Anting-anting
မြန်မာဘာသာ: လင်းမြီးဆွဲငှက်
नेपाली: भीमराज चिबे
Nederlands: Vlaggendrongo
norsk: Dragedrongo
ଓଡ଼ିଆ: ଭୃଙ୍ଗରାଜ
polski: Dziwogon rajski
русский: Райский дронго
svenska: Större vimpeldrongo
தமிழ்: துடுப்பு வால் கரிச்சான்
ไทย: นกแซงแซวหางบ่วงใหญ่
українська: Дронго великий
Tiếng Việt: Chèo bẻo đuôi cờ chẻ
中文: 大盘尾

The greater racket-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) is a medium-sized Asian bird which is distinctive in having elongated outer tail feathers with webbing restricted to the tips. They are placed along with other drongos in the family Dicruridae. They are conspicuous in the forest habitats often perching in the open and by attracting attention with a wide range of loud calls that include perfect imitations of many other birds. One hypothesis suggested is that these vocal imitations may help in the formation of mixed-species foraging flocks, a feature seen in forest bird communities where many insect feeders forage together. These drongos will sometimes steal insect prey caught or disturbed by other foragers in the flock and another idea is that vocal mimicry helps them in diverting the attention of smaller birds to aid their piracy. They are diurnal but are active well before dawn and late at dusk. Owing to their widespread distribution and distinctive regional variation, they have become iconic examples of speciation by isolation and genetic drift.[2]

In 1760 the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson included a description of the greater racket-tailed drongo in his Ornithologie based on a specimen that had been collected in Thailand (Siam). He used the French name Le Coucou Verd Hupé de Siam and the Latin Cuculus Siamensis Cristatus Viridis.[3] Although Brisson coined Latin names, these do not conform to the binomial system and are not recognised by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.[4] When in 1766 the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus updated his Systema Naturae for the twelfth edition, he added 240 species that had been previously described by Brisson.[4] One of these was the greater racket-tailed drongo. Linnaeus included a brief description, coined the binomial name Cuculus paradiseus and cited Brisson's work.[5] The current genus Dicrurus was introduced by the French ornithologist Louis Pierre Vieillot in 1816.[6]

There are 13 recognised subspecies:[7]

D. p. grandis (Gould, 1836) – north India through west and north Myanmar and south China to north Indochina
D. p. rangoonensis (Gould, 1836) – central India through Bangladesh, central Myanmar and north Thailand to central Indochina
D. p. paradiseus (Linnaeus, 1766) – south India to south Thailand, north Malay Peninsula and south Indochina
D. p. johni (Hartert, 1902) – Hainan Island (off southeast China)
D. p. ceylonicus Vaurie, 1949 – Sri Lanka
D. p. otiosus (Richmond, 1902) – Andaman Islands
D. p. nicobariensis (Baker, ECS, 1918) – Nicobar Islands
D. p. hypoballus (Oberholser, 1926) – central Malay Peninsula
D. p. platurus Vieillot, 1817 – south Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and nearby islands
D. p. microlophus (Oberholser, 1917 – islands in the South China Sea (Tioman Island, Anambas Islands and the North Natuna Islands)
D. p. brachyphorus (Bonaparte, 1850) – Borneo
D. p. banguey (Chasen & Kloss, 1929) – islands off north Borneo
D. p. formosus (Cabanis, 1851) – Java


In most of its range in Asia, this is the largest of the drongo species and is readily identifiable by the distinctive tail rackets and the crest of curled feather that begin in front of the face above the beak and along the crown to varying extents according to the subspecies. The tail with twirled rackets is distinctive and in flight it can appear as if two large bees were chasing a black bird. In the eastern Himalayas the species can be confused with the lesser racket-tailed drongo, however the latter has flat rackets with the crest nearly absent.[8]
The crest size and shape varies across its range

This widespread species includes populations that have distinct variations and several subspecies have been named. The nominate form is found in southern India, mainly in forested areas of the Western Ghats and the adjoining hill forests of peninsular India. The subspecies in Sri Lanka is ceylonicus and is similar to the nominate form but slightly smaller. The subspecies found along the Himalayas is grandis and is the largest and has long glossy neck hackles. The Andaman Islands form otiosus has shorter neck hackles and the crest is highly reduced while the Nicobars Island form nicobariensis has a longer frontal crest and with smaller neck hackles than otiosus.[8] The Sri Lanka drongo (D. lophorinus) used to be treated as a subspecies as it was believed to form hybrids with ceylonicus but is now considered a separate species on the basis of their overlapping ranges.[8][9] Specimens of the nominate form have sometimes been confused with the Sri Lanka drongo.[10] Considerable variation in shape of the bill, extent of the crest, hackles and tail rackets exists in the island populations of Southeast Asia. The Bornean brachyphorus (=insularis), banguey of Banggai lack crests (banguey has frontal feathers that arch forwards) while very reduced crests are found in microlophus (=endomychus; Natunas, Anambas and Tiomans) and platurus (Sumatra). A number of forms are known along the Southeast Asian islands and mainland including formosus (Java), hypoballus (Thailand), rangoonensis (northern Burma, central Indian populations were earlier included in this) and johni (Hainan).[11]

Young birds are duller, and can lack a crest while moulting birds can lack the elongate tail streamers. The racket is formed by the inner web of the vane but appears to be on the outer web since the rachis has a twist just above the spatula.[12]
Distribution and habitat

The distribution range of this species extends from the western Himalayas to the eastern Himalayas and Mishmi Hills in the foothills below 1,200 m (3,900 ft). They are found in the hills of peninsular India and the Western Ghats. Continuing into the west to the islands of Borneo and Java in the east through the mainland and islands.[13][14]
Behaviour and ecology
Greater racket-tailed drongo showing the twisted rachis and racquets

Like other drongos, these feed mainly on insects but also eat fruit and visit flowering trees for nectar. Having short legs, they sit upright and are often perched on high and exposed branches. They are aggressive and will sometimes mob larger birds especially when nesting.[15] They are often active at dusk.[14]

Their calls are extremely varied and include monotonously repeated whistles, metallic and nasal sounds as well as more complex notes and imitations of other birds. They begin calling from as early as 4 am in moonlight often with a metallic tunk-tunk-tunk series.[16] They have an ability to accurately mimic alarm calls of other birds that are learnt through interactions in mixed-species flocks. This is quite unusual, as avian vocal mimicry has hitherto been believed to be ignorant of the original context of the imitated vocalization. Grey parrots are known to use imitated human speech in correct context, but do not show this behavior in nature.[17] This drongo's context-sensitive use of other species' alarm calls is thus analogous to a human learning useful short phrases and exclamations in a number of foreign languages. A special alarm note is raised in the presence of shikras that has been transcribed as a loud kwei-kwei-kwei...shee-cuckoo-sheecuckoo-sheecuckoo-why!.[16] They have been said to imitate raptor calls so as to alarm other birds and steal prey from them in the ensuing panic.[18][19] They are also known to imitate the calls of species (and possibly even behaviour as it was once recorded to fluff up and moving head and body like a jungle babbler when imitating its calls) that typically are members of mixed-species flocks such as babblers[20] and it has been suggested that this has a role in the formation of mixed-species flocks.[21] In some places they have been found to be kleptoparasitic on others in mixed-species flock, particularly laughingthrushes but they are most often involved in mutualistic and commensal relations.[22][23][24] Several observers have found this drongo associating with foraging woodpeckers[25][26][27] and there is a report of one following a troop of macaques.[28]

The greater racket-tailed drongo is a resident breeder throughout its range. The breeding season in India is April to August. Their courtship display may involve hops and turns on branches with play behaviour involving dropping an object and picking it in mid air.[16] Their cup nest is built in the fork of a tree,[8] often a smooth-boled tree with an isolated canopy, The nesting pair may even remove bits of bark on the trunk to make it smooth.[29] The usual clutch is three to four eggs. The eggs are creamy white with blotches of reddish brown which are more dense at the broad end.[15]
In flight, at Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Kerala
In culture

The common whistle note that is made leads to its local name in many parts of India of kothwal (which means a "policeman" or "guard", who used a whistle that produced a similar note), a name also applied to the black drongo and in other places as the Bhimraj or Bhringaraj.[30] In Mizo language of northeast India, it is called Vakul and the Mizo people use the tail feathers in ceremonies.[31] Prior to the 1950s it was often kept in captivity by people in parts of India. It was said to be very hardy and like a crow, accommodating a varied diet.[32][33] Edward H. Schafer considered the greater racket-tailed drongo as the basis for the divine kalaviṅka birds mentioned in Chinese and Japanese Buddhist texts.[34]

BirdLife International. 2016. Dicrurus paradiseus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T103711122A94102694. Downloaded on 11 December 2018.
Mayr, E.; Vaurie, C. (1948). "Evolution in the Family Dicruridae (Birds)". Evolution. 2 (3): 238–265. doi:10.2307/2405383. JSTOR 2405383. PMID 18884665.
Brisson, Mathurin Jacques (1760). Ornithologie; ou, Méthode contenant la division des oiseaux en ordres, sections, genres, espéces & leurs variétés (in French). Vol. 4. Paris: Jean-Baptiste Bauche. p. 151, Plate XIV.
Allen, J.A. (1910). "Collation of Brisson's genera of birds with those of Linnaeus". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 28: 317–335. hdl:2246/678.
Linnaeus, Carl (1766). Systema naturae : per regna tria natura, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Vol. 1, Part 1 (12th ed.). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 172.
Vieillot, Louis Jean Pierre (1816). Analyse d'Une Nouvelle Ornithologie Élémentaire (in French). Paris: Deterville/self. p. 41.
Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2018). "Orioles, drongos, fantails". World Bird List Version 8.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
Rasmussen, Pamela C.; Anderton, John C. (2012). Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Vol. 2: Attributes and Status (2nd ed.). Washington D.C. and Barcelona: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and Lynx Edicions. pp. 592–593. ISBN 978-84-96553-87-3.
Saha, Bhabesh Chandra; Mukherjee, Ajit Kumar (1980). "Occurrence of Dicrurus paradiseus lophorhinus (Vieillot) in Goa (India)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 77 (3): 511–512.
Ripley, S. Dillon (1981). "Occurrence of Dicrurus paradiseus lophorhinus (Vieillot) in Goa (India) - a comment". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 78 (1): 168–169.
Vaurie, C. (1949). "A revision of the bird family Dicruridae". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 93: 203–342. hdl:2246/1240.
Ali, Salim (1929). "The racket-feathers of Dissemurus paradiseus". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 33 (3): 709–710.
Mayr, Ernst; Greenway, James C. Jr, eds. (1962). Check-list of birds of the world. Vol. 15. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. pp. 154–156.
Ali S; SD Ripley (1986). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. Vol. 5 (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 135–143.
Whistler, Hugh (1949). Popular handbook of Indian Birds. Fourth edition. Gurney and Jackson, London. pp. 160–161.
Neelakantan, K.K. (1972). "On the Southern Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus paradiseus (Linn.)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 69 (1): 1–9.
Goodale, E.; Kotagama, S.W. (2006). "Context-dependent vocal mimicry in a passerine bird". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 273 (1588): 875–880. doi:10.1098/rspb.2005.3392. PMC 1560225. PMID 16618682.
Bourdillon, T.F. (1903). "The birds of Travancore". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 15 (3): 455.
Satischandra, S.H.K.; Kodituwakku, P.; Kotagama, S.K.; Goodale, E. (2010). "Assessing "false" alarm calls by a drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) in mixed-species bird flocks". Behavioral Ecology. 21 (2): 396–403. doi:10.1093/beheco/arp203.
Daniel, J.C. (1966). "Behaviour mimicry by the Large Racket-tailed Drongo Drongo paradiseus (Linnaeus)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 63 (2): 443.
Goodale, E.; Kotagama, S. (2006). "Vocal mimicry by a passerine bird attracts other species involved in mixed-species flocks" (PDF). Animal Behaviour. 72 (2): 471–477. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2006.02.004. S2CID 53148848.
King, D.I.; Rappole, J.H. (2001). "Kleptoparasitism of laughingthrushes Garrulax by Greater Racket-tailed Drongos Dicrurus paradiseus in Myanmar" (PDF). Forktail. 17: 121–122.
Satischandra, S.H.K.; Kudavidanage, E.P.; Kotagama, S.W.; Goodale, E. (2007). "The benefits of joining mixed-species flocks for Greater Racket-tailed Drongos Dicrurus paradiseus" (PDF). Forktail. 23: 145–148.
Goodale, E.; Kotagama, S.W. (2008). "Response to conspecific and heterospecific alarm calls in mixed-species bird flocks of a Sri Lankan rainforest". Behavioral Ecology. 19 (4): 887–894. doi:10.1093/beheco/arn045.
Bates, RSP (1952). "Possible association between the Large Yellownaped Woodpecker (Picus flavinucha) and the Large Racket-tailed Drongo (Dissemurus paradiseus)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 50 (4): 941–942.
Styring, A.R.; Ickes, K. (2001). "Interactions between the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus and woodpeckers in a lowland Malaysian rainforest" (PDF). Forktail. 17: 119–120. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 November 2008.
Johnson,JM (1975). "The Racket Tailed Drongo - Dicrurus paradiseus behaviour of imitating the call of the Great Black Wood-pecker, Dryocopus javensis in Mudumalai Sanctuary". Indian Forester. 98 (7): 449–451.
Ganesh, T (1992). "A silent association". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 89 (3): 374. "Incorrectly notes species as remifer"
Agnihotri, Samira; Kethegowda, Marian; Jadeswamy (2020). "Do racket-tailed drongos make tree guards for their nest trees?". Behaviour. 157 (14–15): 1239–1244. doi:10.1163/1568539X-bja10043.
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