On 17th April 2016, I was startled by an Oriental Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhyncus, flying out from a small patch of Albizia woodlands next to a condo at one-north. A Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, was mobbing it. After chasing the Buzzard away, it settled down on a mid storey perch.
But I knew that it must be protecting a nesting nearby. Sure enough it then flew up to a cup nest built on a forked twig about 5 stories high. It is not usual that they chose to nest so close to an urban setting instead of a forest edge. The only thing I can think of was that the nearest forest a block away was being developed into a park. All the matured Albizias were cut down “for safety reasons”. I recorded a breeding there in 2009.
In the 1980s they are found within the central core but began spreading out to other woodlands like the Botanic Gardens and Malcolm Park. Their presence in the Southern Ridges and Sentosa was quite recent as there was no mention in “The Avifauna of Singapore” published in 2009.
I could just see two heads of the chicks hanging out the side of the nest. They looked not more than a week old. One parent would always be on guard while the other was out looking for food. They were very aggressive at this time of nesting. Every bird or perceived predator that were larger than a bulbul will be chased away if they perched anywhere near the nest.
During the 10 days that I was observing them, the parents did not make any loud metallic calls that we normally hear in the forest. Instead they will give a low soft call to communicate with each other.
I seen them bring back beetles, cicadas, dragonflies to feed its chicks but no lizards or other “meaty” food. Two days after I found this nesting, only one chick was in the nest. I can only guess that it had been predated, forced out by the dominant chick or even kicked out by the parents if they think they cannot look after both.
The chick fledged on 27th April, about two weeks after hatching. It left the nest and walk to the branches nearby flapping its wings. I did not see it fly but I can only see the parents around the next day. It may be hiding in some deep undergrowth for protection.
I noticed that all the GRT Drongo’s nests that I came across in the past decade, at Hindhede Park, Venus Loop and Bukit Brown were very high up. But the first nest that I saw in the mid 90s were just above head level. Have they adapted to more disturbances and human presence and play safe? Let me know what your experience was with our paradiseus birds.
Reference: Lim Kim Seng, The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Nature Society (Singapore).