The names of birds

In the May 2nd issue of New Scientist, a piece “The Impersonators” by Daniel Cossins, about birds mimicking all sorts of sounds. It’s full of wonderful names of birds (mimics and those mimicked) from around the world:

the greater racket-tailed drongo, the forked-tailed drongo, orange-billed warblers, ashy-headed laughing-thrushes, southern pied babblers, the cape glossy starling, the superb fairy wren

The drongos are the stars here.

From Wikipedia:

The drongos are a subfamily of small passerine birds of the Old World tropics in the family Dicruridae.

… The name is originally from the indigenous language of Madagascar, where it refers to local species, but is now used to refer to all members of the subfamily. The family is usually treated as having two genera, Chaetorhynchus and Dicrurus. The genus Chaetorhynchus contains a single species, the New Guinea endemic pygmy drongo. … The remaining genus contains the remaining 25 species of drongo.

… Some drongos, especially the greater racket-tailed drongo, are noted for their ability to mimic other birds and even mammals. … Several species of animals and birds respond to drongos’ alarm calls, which often warn of the presence of a predator. Fork-tailed or common drongos in the Kalahari desert are known to use alarm calls in the absence of a predator to cause animals to flee and abandon food, which they eat, getting up to 23% of their food this way. They not only use their own alarm calls, but imitate those of many species, either their victim’s or that of another species that the victim responds to. If the call of one species is not effective, perhaps because of habituation, the drongo will try another

… The word drongo is used in Australia as a mild form of insult tantamount to the term “idiot”. This usage derives from an Australian racehorse of the same name (apparently after the spangled drongo, Dicrurus bracteatus) in the 1920s that never won despite many starts.

The spangled drongo:

Inspired by the name racket-tailed drongo, I embarked on writing a new verse form, the compressed double dactyl (in two lines — hey, the birds are small):

The racket-tailed drongo is
Dactyloduplicate.

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