Small but wouldn’t mind taking birds double its size as they fiercely protect its territory, Drongo is known for its aggressive nature so much so other small birds (like bulbuls, doves, orioles so on) prefer nesting in the vicinity of Drongo nest to gain protection. The reason why they are also referred to as kotwal (policeman) in Hindi, in malayalam it is kakka thampuratti meaning queen of crows. Unfortunately drongo is an Australian slang for idiot or dullard, there is an interesting story behind it. It so happened that in 1920s there was a horse in racing circuit here that was named drongo and was quite rated but never won a race, frustrated punters made it a generic for their disappointment!. Nothing against Drongo but I do understand punter’s feelings!!.
Most of us have often seen Black Drongo, it conspicuously sits on the power line along the open field or grassland, with an unmistakable distinctive long forked tail (the reason why in Tamil they called erattai valan), a common sight while traveling across the country. It mostly feeds on insects by swooping on them- the accompanying acrobatics is a treat to watch. They can also be seen perched on cattle; many times farmers too create artificial perches for them as they feed on pests. The repertoire of this enterprising bird also include mimicking, they can even imitate alarm calls of birds of prey for defense as also to steal grubs from other startled species. Studies on these birds confirm that they imitate keeping the context like for instance when encounter a snake they make noise of its predator-hawk. There also a mention by
Edward Hamilton Aitken (popularly known as EHA,1851-1909) was closely involved in founding of Bombay Natural History Society. He wrote several books on natural history, including the Birds of Bombay. Here is a amusing and insightful description of drango’s tail and women’s hat !!
The drongos, which are flycatchers in habit, wear their tails very long and deeply forked; and one of them, the racket-tailed drongo, has the two side feathers extended beyond the rest for nearly a foot, and as thin as wires, expanding into a blade at the ends. I have seen nothing in ladies' hats more preposterous. It is vain to object that there can be no proper comparison between tails and hats because the woman chooses her own hat while the bird has to wear what Nature has given it. I know that, but the contention is utterly superficial. What choice has a woman as to the style of her hat? Fashion prescribes for her, and Nature for the birds; that is all the difference. No doubt she acquiesces when theoretically she might rebel. The bird cannot rebel, but does it not acquiesce? Does a lyre bird submit to its tail—wear it under protest, so to speak? Believe me, every bird that has an aesthetic tail knows the fact, and tries to live up to it. We may push the argument even further, for the motmot of Brazil is not content with a ready-made tail, but actually strips the web off the two long side feathers with its own beak, except a little patch at the end, so as to get the pattern which Nature, if one must use the phrase, gave to the racket-tailed drongo.
As I got to know him better I found he was an exceptional writer, even a short story on-line, though one need add there is a patronizing attitude towards common Indians (but I guess I need put it in context of the time he lived, the colonialists and associated imperial headiness can be dizzying). Many of his writings are amusing and sense of humor distinctly British. Here a brilliantly witty paragraph from the essay “The Indian Snake Charmer”
Scientific men aver that a snake has no ears and cannot possibly hear the strains of the pipe, but that sort of science simply spoils a picturesque subject like the snake-charmer. So much is certain, that all snakes cannot be played upon in this way: there are some species which are utterly callous to the influences to which the cobra yields itself so readily. No missionary will find any difficulty in getting a snake-charmer to appreciate that Scripture text about the deaf adder which will not listen to the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely.
He was amazingly observant and this blogger did get vivid glimpses of
"How many times more true is all this in the case of the moral sense? When the heart is still young and tender, how spontaneously and sweetly and urgently does every vision of goodness and nobleness in the conduct of another awaken the impulse to go and do likewise! And if that impulse is not obeyed, how certainly does the first approving perception of the beauty of goodness become duller, until at last we may even come to hate it where we find it, for its discordance with the 'motions of sins in our members'!
"But not less certainly will every earnest effort to bring the life into unison with what we perceive to be right bring its own reward in a clearer and more joyful perception of what is right, and a keener sensitiveness to every discord in ourselves. How all such discord may be removed, how the chords of the heart may be tuned and the life become music,—these are questions of religion, which are quite beyond our scope. But I take it that every religion which has prevailed among the children of Adam is in itself an evidence that, however debased and perverted the moral sense may have become, the painful consciousness that his heart is 'like sweet bells jangled' still presses everywhere and always on the spirit of man; and it is also a conscious or unconscious admission that there is no blessedness for him until his life shall march in step with the music of the 'Eternal Righteousness.'"