(787) Dissemurus paradiseus paradiseus.
The Siam Large Racket-tailed Drongo.
Cuculus paradiseus Linn., S. N., ed. xii, p. 172 (1766) (Siam). Dissemurus paradiseus. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 325.
Vernacular names. Nok-seng-sao-hang-buang (Siam); Lin-mi-rui-ami-m-gua (Tenasserim).
Description. Whole plumage black, glossed with blue, except on the inner webs of the wing-quills, throat, abdomen and vent; the axillaries and under tail-coverts are tipped with white in all but very old birds.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red to crimson-lake; bill, feet and claws black.
Measurements. Wing 138 to 163 mm.; tail up to about 420 mm., generally about 400 mm.; tarsus about 28 mm.; culmen 27 to 30 mm.
Young are browner, less glossed and have the white under wing-spots more pronounced.
Distribution. Central and South Siam and Peninsular Burma. Birds from the West run rather larger than birds from the East, North of the Malay Peninsula. Thus a series of specimens from Tavoy and Mergui have a wing-average of 153 mm., as against 143 for Siam birds. On the other hand, the crests and bills are small as in that bird and the tail also is somewhat shorter with smaller rackets.
Nidification. Mr. E. G. Herbert says that this Drongo breeds in May, building its nest in mango-trees, in gardens and the outskirts of villages, making a flimsy nest, " cup-shaped, but very shallow, of tiny creepers, roots and stems of grasses, often so thinly put together that one can see from below if there is anything in it. The materials are bound round the sides of a horizontal fork at the end of a branch, so that the nest hangs in the fork like a cradle."
"The position of the nest is on the very fringe of the tree at about 20 feet from the ground, so it is quite inaccessible from the tree itself."
The eggs, which number two or three only, are long ovals; ground-colour white or cream to warm pink with blotches, few at the smaller end, numerous at the larger, of reddish brown, purple or claret and secondary markings of lavender or pale grey. Twenty eggs average 28.6 x 20.0 mm. : maxima 33.2 x 20.2 and 30.2 x 22.0 mm.; minima 26.9 x 20.0 mm. and 30.0 x 19.5 mm.
Habits. The Siam Large Racket-tailed Drongo is a bird both of the forests and of the open country round about villages and houses and may often be found in gardens. Where the food-sup ply is sufficient two or three pairs may often be seen feeding together, for, though a very bold bird against all vermin and raptores, it is far from quarrelsome or a bully. It feeds entirely on the wing, generally selecting a post of observation on some high branch, from which it swoops in graceful flight after passing insects, returning, like a Shrike, to its perch to devour them. Like a Shrike it also sometimes holds its prey, if large enough, in its claws when feeding. Birds of this species have been known to seize and eat small lizards and tiny frogs but it keeps principally to insects, grasshoppers and locusts forming a large proportion of its diet. Its calls are very sweet and full and it has a strong, though short, melodious song. It is, like all the races of this species, an excellent mimic.