The Spangled Drongo is a beautiful bird to observe and is capable of amazing aerial acrobatics. Unfortunately, it’s name has been incorporated into Australian slang for a person prone to making foolish decisions.
The Spangled Drongo is a medium sized, all black bird, much smaller than the Raven or Currawong. It will often betray its presence by metallic whistles and loud chattering. The adult has glossy, metallic black plumage, “spangled” over the head, neck and breast with blue-green iridescent flecks. It has a slightly curved black bill, vivid red eyes, and a long forked tail spreading out to form its characteristic fish-tail appearance. Immature birds tend to have a more dull and dusky appearance with brown eyes.
The core breeding territory of the Spangled Drongo is through eastern Queensland and northern Australia. After breeding throughout the summer the population spreads out, with some remaining in the core territory, some moving further north into New Guinea and eastern Indonesia, and some making their way south down the east coast as far as Victoria. Occasional birds can find their way, as vagrants, into the parklands at any time of year.
The Spangled Drongo primarily feeds on large flying insects like dragon flies, beetles, wasps and bees. It will take a perch on an exposed branch and launch itself on an acrobatic flight in pursuit of its prey, or hover around foliage to pick off insects. It will return to its perch to swallow its catch, aided by long bristles around the bill which help guide the insect into its mouth. They may also take some fruit or nectar and have even been reported taking small birds and lizards.
The Spangled Drongos seen in the park breed during spring and summer along the eastern Queensland coast and hinterland, ranging from rainforest to woodlands and mangroves. Their nest is a delicate saucer shape of vines, plant stems and grass held together with spider web, attached to a slender horizontal fork in the canopy. After mutual displays of wing-fluttering and pecking near the nest a pair will mate and the female lay three to five eggs. Both sexes share incubation and the raising of the young.
In the Park:
There is no regular location in the park that the Spangled Drongos return to, but they will remain in an area as long as suitable insect prey is available. Watch out for a black bird, usually seen perched upright on an exposed branch or powerline with the distinctive “fish-tail” held straight down below the perch.