Common Square-Tailed Drongo: Bird Breed Facts and Information

A common square-tailed drongo in its natural habitat

The Common Square-Tailed Drongo is a fascinating bird species found in various parts of Africa. In this article, we will explore in detail all aspects of this remarkable bird’s life, behavior, and conservation status. From its habitat and distribution to its physical characteristics and breeding patterns, we will leave no stone unturned in our quest to provide you with comprehensive information. So sit back, relax, and immerse yourself in the world of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo.

Introduction to the Common Square-Tailed Drongo

As the name suggests, the Common Square-Tailed Drongo belongs to the drongo family, known for their distinctive forked tails. These medium-sized birds are highly agile and renowned for their exceptional flying skills. With a length of approximately 20-25 centimeters and a weight of about 35-50 grams, the Common Square-Tailed Drongos are easily recognizable. They display a stunning combination of glossy black feathers, which are often iridescent in the sunlight. Their sharp, curved bills and piercing red eyes further add to their striking appearance.

The Common Square-Tailed Drongo is primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa, inhabiting a variety of habitats including woodlands, savannas, and forests. They are known for their adaptability and can be found in both open areas and dense vegetation. These birds are highly social and often form small groups, communicating with each other through a range of vocalizations including whistles, clicks, and mimicry of other bird species. The Common Square-Tailed Drongo is also known for its clever foraging techniques, often taking advantage of other animals to find food. They are known to follow large mammals, such as elephants or buffalo, to catch insects disturbed by their movement. Additionally, they are skilled at catching insects in mid-air, displaying impressive aerial acrobatics. Overall, the Common Square-Tailed Drongo is a fascinating bird species with unique characteristics and behaviors.

Habitat and Distribution of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo

The Common Square-Tailed Drongos can be found across a wide range of habitats in Africa, from dense rainforests to open grasslands. They are most commonly sighted in countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. These adaptable birds have the remarkable ability to thrive in diverse environments, which is one of the reasons for their widespread distribution.

In forests, the Common Square-Tailed Drongos typically inhabit the lower canopy, where they search for insects and small prey. In more open habitats, such as savannas, they can be seen perched atop trees, using their keen eyesight to spot potential prey or intruders.

Another interesting habitat where the Common Square-Tailed Drongos can be found is the coastal regions of Africa. These birds are known to frequent mangrove forests and estuaries, where they take advantage of the abundant food sources available in these unique ecosystems. They are often seen darting between the tangled roots of mangrove trees, catching insects and small crustaceans.

Furthermore, the Common Square-Tailed Drongos have also been observed in urban areas, particularly in cities with large green spaces and parks. Despite the presence of human activity, these adaptable birds have managed to adapt to the urban environment, utilizing trees and buildings as perching spots and foraging for insects in gardens and lawns.

Physical Characteristics of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo

One of the most striking features of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo is its square-shaped tail, which sets it apart from other bird species. This unique adaptation serves a practical purpose, helping the bird maneuver swiftly through the trees during flight. Additionally, the square tail also contributes to the bird’s exceptional aerial acrobatics and precise changes in direction.

Beneath their glossy black feathers, the Common Square-Tailed Drongos possess robust bodies with strong muscles, enabling them to swiftly dart and glide through the air. Their beaks, specifically designed for capturing insects, are sharp and slender, allowing them to snatch prey with great precision. Furthermore, their bright red eyes stand out against their dark plumage, enhancing their overall appearance.

In addition to their physical characteristics, the Common Square-Tailed Drongos are known for their vocal abilities. They have a wide range of calls and are highly skilled mimics, capable of imitating the sounds of other bird species, animals, and even human voices. This vocal mimicry serves multiple purposes, including attracting mates, defending territory, and confusing potential predators.

Behavior and Social Structure of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo

The Common Square-Tailed Drongos are highly social birds, often seen in small groups or in the company of other bird species. They are known for their adaptability and intelligence. These birds have developed complex vocalizations, which they use not only for communication but also for deceiving other animals. When potential predators approach their nesting sites, Common Square-Tailed Drongos emit alarm calls imitating the warning calls of other bird species. This clever strategy confuses and diverts the attention of the intruders, protecting their nests and young.

Within their social structure, Common Square-Tailed Drongos establish hierarchical relationships, with dominant individuals typically having the privilege of choosing their preferred nesting sites or food sources. Despite occasional squabbles over resources, these birds generally exhibit cooperative behaviors, alerting each other about the presence of predators or potential threats. Their communal nature and cooperative strategies have been recognized as successful methods of survival.

In addition to their vocalizations, Common Square-Tailed Drongos also use visual displays to communicate with each other. They have a unique behavior called “wing flicking,” where they rapidly flick their wings while perched. This behavior is believed to convey information about their intentions or emotions to other members of their group.

Another interesting aspect of their social structure is the presence of “helpers” within the group. These helpers are typically non-breeding individuals who assist the dominant breeding pair in raising their young. They help with tasks such as nest building, feeding the chicks, and defending the nest from predators. This cooperative breeding system increases the chances of survival for the offspring and allows the dominant pair to focus on reproduction.

Diet and Feeding Habits of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo

The Common Square-Tailed Drongos are primarily insectivorous, with insects forming the bulk of their diet. They are skilled foragers, capable of capturing prey both in mid-air and on the ground. Their agility and quick reflexes enable them to catch insects, such as flying ants, beetles, and grasshoppers, in mid-flight. They are also adept at hunting spiders, small lizards, and even small snakes. In addition to hunting, these birds also engage in opportunistic feeding, foraging on fruits and nectar when available.

These intelligent birds are known to employ a variety of foraging techniques. They can be seen actively following swarms of insects, using their remarkable flight skills to create confusion and snatch prey easily. Furthermore, they are known to participate in fascinating cooperative hunting behavior, where they work together with other bird species to flush out insects hidden in vegetation.

During the breeding season, the diet of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo expands to include a wider range of food sources. In addition to insects, they also consume small vertebrates such as frogs and small birds. This dietary shift is believed to provide the necessary nutrients for the demanding reproductive process.

Interestingly, the Common Square-Tailed Drongos have been observed engaging in a behavior known as “anting.” Anting involves the birds picking up ants and rubbing them on their feathers. It is believed that this behavior helps to control parasites, as the ants release formic acid which acts as a natural insecticide. This unique behavior demonstrates the resourcefulness and adaptability of these birds in maintaining their plumage and overall health.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo

The breeding season of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo usually occurs during the rainy season, when food sources are abundant. To attract mates, male drongos engage in elaborate courtship displays, showcasing their flying skills and vocal abilities. These displays often involve aerial acrobatics, accompanied by complex songs that demonstrate their genetic fitness.

Once a pair is formed, the female Common Square-Tailed Drongo begins constructing a cup-shaped nest using twigs, grass, and spider webs. The nests are typically hidden in the dense foliage of trees or shrubs, providing protection from predators. The female then lays a clutch of 2-4 eggs, which she incubates for about 15-18 days.

Both parents actively participate in the feeding and care of the newly hatched chicks. They diligently bring insects and small prey to the nest, ensuring the young birds receive proper nutrition. The chicks fledge after approximately 20-25 days and become independent a few weeks later.

After the chicks fledge, the parents continue to provide food and protection for them. They teach the young drongos essential survival skills, such as hunting techniques and how to avoid predators. This period of parental care and guidance helps the fledglings develop the necessary skills to thrive in their environment.

As the Common Square-Tailed Drongos reach sexual maturity, they begin to establish their own territories. Males defend their territories vigorously, often engaging in aggressive displays and vocalizations to ward off intruders. These territorial disputes can sometimes escalate into physical confrontations, with drongos using their sharp beaks and claws to defend their space.

Vocalizations and Communication of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo

The Common Square-Tailed Drongo possesses an extensive repertoire of vocalizations, which it employs for various purposes. Their vocal range includes imitations of other bird calls, alarm calls to alert fellow drongos of potential threats, and territorial songs to establish their presence. Their ability to mimic other species’ calls is remarkably accurate, allowing them to deceive predators or steal food from unsuspecting victims.

Studies have shown that these vocalizations are highly complex and can vary depending on the social context. They possess the intelligence to differentiate between various alarm calls or territorial songs and respond accordingly. These vocal communication skills play a crucial role in maintaining the social structure of their groups and safeguarding their territories.

In addition to their vocalizations, the Common Square-Tailed Drongo also uses visual displays to communicate with other members of their species. They have a unique behavior known as “wing flicking,” where they rapidly flick their wings while perched. This behavior is believed to serve as a visual signal to communicate their presence or intentions to other drongos.

Furthermore, recent research has revealed that the Common Square-Tailed Drongo has the ability to recognize individual voices within their social group. This means that they can identify and distinguish between the vocalizations of different drongos, allowing for more precise communication and coordination within the group.

Migration Patterns of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo

The Common Square-Tailed Drongos are generally resident birds and do not undertake long-distance migrations. However, some populations may exhibit local movements in response to seasonal changes in resource availability. These movements are often triggered by the availability of food, with drongos following insect swarms or shifting to areas with a higher abundance of fruits or nectar.

Migration patterns may also vary among different regions and populations, depending on the local climate and ecological factors. While some individuals may remain in a specific area year-round, others may undertake shorter migrations within their range.

During the breeding season, male Common Square-Tailed Drongos may engage in territorial migrations to establish and defend their breeding territories. These migrations are typically shorter in distance compared to long-distance migrations seen in other bird species. The males will actively defend their territories from intruders, including other male drongos, to ensure successful breeding and the survival of their offspring.

In addition to food availability, weather conditions can also influence the migration patterns of Common Square-Tailed Drongos. Severe weather events such as storms or droughts can disrupt their usual foraging areas, prompting them to move to more favorable locations. These movements may be temporary until the weather conditions improve or may result in more permanent shifts in their range.

Threats and Conservation Status of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo

The Common Square-Tailed Drongo faces several threats to its survival, primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Deforestation, driven by agricultural expansion and logging activities, poses a significant risk to their long-term existence. As their natural habitats shrink, the drongos face increased competition for resources and are more vulnerable to predators.

Furthermore, the use of pesticides and the impact of climate change also have detrimental effects on their populations. Pesticides can directly affect the drongos’ health by contaminating their food sources, while climate change disrupts the delicate balance of their ecosystems and alters their distribution patterns.

Conservation efforts are vital to protect the Common Square-Tailed Drongo and ensure its survival. Initiatives aimed at preserving its habitats, raising public awareness, and implementing stricter regulations on deforestation and pesticide use are crucial steps in safeguarding this remarkable bird’s future.

In addition to these threats, the Common Square-Tailed Drongo also faces challenges from illegal wildlife trade. The striking appearance and unique vocalizations of this bird make it a target for collectors and enthusiasts. The demand for live specimens and their feathers in the black market trade puts additional pressure on their populations.

Interactions with Other Bird Species: Common Square-Tailed Drongo

The Common Square-Tailed Drongo is known for its interactive behavior with other bird species. They often form mixed-species foraging flocks, joining forces with other birds to increase their success in capturing insects or flushing out prey from foliage.

One such example is their association with larger birds, such as hornbills or eagles. The drongos take advantage of these bigger birds by following them closely and catching insects disturbed by their movements. In return, they provide an extra set of eyes, alerting the larger birds to the presence of potential threats or predators.

Their clever alliances and cooperative behavior establish mutually beneficial relationships among different bird species, resulting in increased foraging efficiency and heightened protection against predators.

In addition to their interactions with larger birds, the Common Square-Tailed Drongo also forms associations with smaller bird species. They have been observed engaging in mutualistic relationships with smaller birds, such as warblers or sunbirds. In these partnerships, the drongos act as sentinels, perching on higher branches and keeping a lookout for predators while the smaller birds forage for food. If a threat is detected, the drongos emit alarm calls, warning the smaller birds to take cover.

Interesting Facts about the Common Square-Tailed Drongo

Here are some intriguing facts about the Common Square-Tailed Drongo:

  1. The Common Square-Tailed Drongos possess exceptional mimicry skills, imitating the calls of other bird species to deceive predators or intimidate intruders.
  2. They can recognize different alarm calls from various species and respond appropriately, demonstrating their intelligence and social awareness.
  3. Common Square-Tailed Drongos have been observed engaging in behavior known as “anting,” where they rub ants or other insects on their feathers. This behavior is believed to help rid their plumage of parasites.
  4. They are highly adaptable and can easily adjust to urban environments, often seen in gardens or parks, where they take advantage of the abundant food sources.
  5. The Common Square-Tailed Drongo is a solitary nester, unlike many other bird species that form colonies. However, they often nest in relatively close proximity to other individuals, forming loose nesting aggregations.

Another interesting fact about the Common Square-Tailed Drongo is that they have a unique hunting technique. They are known to engage in “hawking,” where they fly out from a perch to catch insects in mid-air. This aerial hunting behavior showcases their agility and precision.

In addition, the Common Square-Tailed Drongos have a complex vocal repertoire. They can produce a wide range of calls, including melodious songs, harsh scolding notes, and even mimicry of other bird species. This vocal versatility allows them to communicate with other drongos and establish their territory.

How to Identify a Common Square-Tailed Drongo in the Wild

Identifying the Common Square-Tailed Drongo in the wild can be an exciting endeavor. Here are some key characteristics to look out for:

  1. Glossy black plumage with iridescent colors in sunlight
  2. Square-shaped tail
  3. Bright red eyes
  4. Slender, curved beak

These distinctive features, combined with their remarkable flying abilities and complex vocalizations, make spotting a Common Square-Tailed Drongo a truly rewarding experience.

Another important characteristic to note when identifying a Common Square-Tailed Drongo is its size. These birds typically measure around 25 centimeters in length, with a wingspan of approximately 30 centimeters. Their small size and agile flight patterns allow them to navigate through dense vegetation with ease.

In addition to their physical features, the habitat of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo can also provide clues for identification. These birds are commonly found in open woodlands, savannas, and forest edges. They prefer areas with a mix of trees and shrubs, where they can perch and scan for insects and other small prey.

Conservation Efforts for Protecting the Common Square-Tailed Drongo’s Habitat

Preserving the natural habitats of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo is crucial for their survival. Several organizations and conservation groups are actively working towards protecting these birds and their ecosystems.

Efforts include habitat restoration programs, where native vegetation is replanted to create suitable habitats for drongos. Initiatives aimed at combating deforestation, reducing the use of harmful pesticides, and establishing protected areas also contribute to the long-term conservation of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo and other wildlife species.

Tips for Birdwatching and Photographing the Common Square-Tailed Drongo

Birdwatching and photographing the stunning Common Square-Tailed Drongos can be a highly rewarding experience. Here are some tips to enhance your encounters:

  1. Locate their preferred habitats: Research the specific regions where Common Square-Tailed Drongos are known to roam, such as forests, grasslands, or urban parks.
  2. Patiently observe and listen: Spend time silently observing their behavior, paying attention to their vocalizations and flight patterns.
  3. Be prepared: Carry a good pair of binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens to capture detailed images of these beautiful birds.
  4. Respect their distance: Maintain a safe distance from the drongos and avoid disturbing their natural behaviors or nesting sites.
  5. Join local birding groups: Engage with experienced birdwatchers who can provide valuable insights and guidance on spotting the Common Square-Tailed Drongo.

Remember, taking photographs and appreciating the beauty of these birds should always be done ethically, ensuring their well-being and natural habitats are not disrupted.


The Common Square-Tailed Drongo, with its remarkable physical characteristics and intelligent behavior, is an extraordinary bird species worth admiring and protecting. Through this comprehensive guide, we have delved into its habitat, behavior, feeding habits, and conservation status. We hope that this article has provided you with valuable insights into the fascinating world of the Common Square-Tailed Drongo and encouraged a greater appreciation for the rich biodiversity of our planet.

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