• They impress potential mates with the breadth and complexity of their performance.
  • However, drongos don’t restrict mimicry to their breeding season alone.
  • They make good use of this skill to fill their stomachs.
  • Racket-tailed drongos join hunting parties of babblers, bulbuls, and warblers.
  • They let the others hop around and flip leaves while they sit on a high perch and keep a sharp eye.
  • When insects stirred up by the hard-working hunters fly out, they snatch them.
  • The drongos don’t hobnob only with other birds.
  • Some mimic bonnet macaques startles the primates to move and rouse up insects.
  • Instead of physical labour, the racket-tailed drongos invest in vocal artistry.
  • They mimic the calls of species with whom they hang out.
  • If they want to join a flock of jungle babblers, they imitate those grating cries.
  • When consorting with woodpeckers, they twitter like them.
  • As sentinels, the drongos impersonate the agitated calls of other species, as if alerting them of an approaching predator in their language spreads the message better.
  • This rallies the entire mob to drive the menace away or flee from it.
  • They amplify others’ warnings too.
  • When giant squirrels warn of a raptor flying over the canopy, the racket-tailed drongos copy the mammals’ toy gun-like rattle.
  • Why mimic squirrels instead of sounding their own alarm calls remains an unsolved mystery.
  • Drongos also scare the daylights out of small predators, such as crows, by imitating eagles.
  • Matching calls to the correct species is a remarkable feat, but they also seem to know who has the upper hand over them.
  • Once the chicks become adults, they will be easier to recognise as individuals.
  • Some drongo parents were baffled by the tree climbers.
  • They mimicked the calls of scimitar babblers.
  • When that didn’t scare the humans, they chose the cries of large animals such as bonnet macaques and giant squirrels.
  • That failed too, and they resorted to eagle shrieks.
  • Despite their ability to fool others, the drongos are not above petty thievery.
  • When other birds have a morsel that one covets, it swoops at them while screaming aggressively.
  • It may throw in some imitations too.
  • The scared bird drops its prey which the drongo grabs.
  • The skill that delivers supper here is not mimicry but straightforward bullying.