Etosha National Park, Namibia
It may not be the only drongo in my suburb of Duffy, but it's the one that interests me the most at present! Drongos, despite most Autralians' perceptions, are actually a group of pretty spiffy medium-sized glossy-sheened long-tailed aerial show-offs, which do so in order to catch flying insects. Most of the world's 25 or so species (these things are dependent on your preferred taxonomy) are found in southern Asia and Africa, but one, the chatty, flashy Spangled Drongo, is found commonly in tropical and sub-tropical near-coastal Australia from the Top End to about Sydney. South of that it gets pretty scarce; inland it's scarcer still, so an appearance in Canberra is a rare treat for those of us who appreciate such things. There have probably been less than 10 individuals reported here, and this bird would be only the fourth or fifth in a decade (it can be hard to know if multiple sightings in a short time refer to one or more birds). In my 30+ years in Canberra it's only the second I've seen here. It's difficult to say what drives such unexpected appearances; we can be pretty confident that overall rising temperatures are pushing warmth-loving species further south, but what made this one decide to leave the relatively balmy coast and head up to Canberra, currently very frosty indeed? It's not saying, as it hangs around the same clump of planted acacias on the western edge of Duffy, on the border of Narrabundah Hill, dashing out to catch insects, sometimes taking a sojourn in the yards across the road. Its brown (not glowing red) eyes tell us that it's not a full adult; maybe its inexperience simply led to it getting disoriented, perhaps accompanying a band of migrating honeyeaters returning from their winter break up north.
|Spangled Drongo, Duffy. August 2012.|
Note bee in beak!
And before we leave this engaging chap to get on with things and presumably eventually go back to where it might find others of its ilk, I should point out that our derogatory use of the word drongo to suggest someone who's not intellectually the full quid is not taken directly from any attribute of the bird (despite what you might read on Wikipedia!). In the 1920s the owners of an Australian racehorse named it Drongo, presumably in the hope that it might prove as dashing as the bird; it didn't quite, though it managed a few gallant second places. In time the word has come to mean someone pretty hopeless, rather than a trier who just fell short, as was the original connotation.