(765) Dicrurus annectens.
The Crow-billed Drongo.
Buchanga annectens Hodgs., Ind. Rev., i, p. 326 (1837; (Nepal). Dicrurus annectens. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 312
Vernacular names. Kak-raja-sorai (Assamese).
Description. Whole plumage black, glossed with steel-blue except on the lores, ear-coverts, inner webs of wing-quills and inner webs of rectrices ; the tips of: a tew of the under wing-coverts and axillaries are nearly always tipped with tiny white dots.
Colours of soft parts. Iris bright hazel to deep brown ; bill and legs black.
Measurements. Total length about 2G0 to 270 mm.; wing 139 to 152 mm.; tail 116 to 130 mm ; tarsus 19 to 20 mm.; bill, measured for the sake of accuracy from the anterior edge of nostril to tip, 17 to 20 mm.; width at nostrils 8.5 to 11.5 mm.
Kloss has (' Ibis,' 1918, p. 226) separated the Siam bird as a new race, under the name of D. a. siamensis, the supposed distinguishing feature being the small bill. A very exhaustive examination of the immense amount of material in the British Museum and in the Tring Museum shows that this form cannot, be maintained, as birds with bills as small in all respects as the smallest in Siam have been obtained in Assam, Nepal and Burma, whilst other specimens from Siam have bills as large as, if not larger than, have any individuals from these parts.
Young birds have bold white tips to the axillaries and under wing-coverts and the lower plumage from breast to under tail-coverts more or less barred with white.
Nestling. Deep brown, barred more heavily on the lower plumage with white and the under tail-coverts nearly all smoky-white.
Distribution. Nepal, Sikkim, Oudh, Assam, North and South of the Brahmaputra, Chin and Kachin Hills, Shan States, Karen Hills, Tenasserim, Siam and Malay Peninsula.
Nidification. The Crow-billed Drongo breeds during April, May and June in the foot-hills of the Himalayas and up to some 2,000 feet throughout its range. The nest is a typical Drongo's nest, very much the same as those of the Pericrocotidae, shallow saucers made of roots, weed-stems, bents and a few chips of leaves and grass-blades, well-intertwined and bound round the supporting branches and further strengthened with innumerable cobwebs and decorated with a little lichen, bits of bark or spiders' egg-bags, etc. They are always built in a horizontal fork of one of the outer branches of a tree, often at a great height, sometimes almost or quite within reach of one's hand, invariably,however, in a swaying blender branch, so that at every swing in a high wind it looks as if the content's must fall out. The site selected is one in thin or scattered forest, or in mixed bamboo and tree forest. The eggs number three or four and are very handsome. The groundcolour varies from a creamy-white to a warm salmon, and the primary markings consist of longitudinal streaks and blotches of reddish or chestnut-brown with similar secondary markings of neutral tint and grey. In many eggs the marks are most numerous and often more or less confluent at the larger end. Aberrant eggs are speckled or spotted rather than streaked. One hundred eggs average 26.3 x l9.4 mm. : maxima 29.5 x 20.0 and 26.5 X 20.2 mm.; minima 24.1 X 18.4 and 27.0 x 18.3 mm.
Habits. Although the Crow-billed Drongo is not really migratory, it is a curious wanderer in the non-breeding season backwards and forwards within a small area. It is a breeder only in the lower hills and the plains immediately in their vicinity but from September to February or early March it may be found all over Assam and in many parts of Burma at a distance of 50 to 100 miles from its breeding-haunts. They are not gregarious birds and are not found in flocks, but they are very sociable and several individuals are often to be seen feeding amicably together. They are as plucky and pugnacious as the other members of their family, and will tackle any hawk, eagle or four-footed adversary that, enters their domain, assisting one another against their common enemy. They have an immense variety of notes, both pleasant and the reverse. Their flight is like that of the common Black Drongo, but rather heavier and slower, though they display great activity in the pursuit of termites and flying insect-prey. Their diet is entirely insectivorous.