The Drongo who cried wolf

Did you know that the Drongo, a small bird that lives in the Kalahari desert has been observed crying wolf? That’s right. The Drongo actually calls out false alarm calls to drive away competition. Sounds that are usually reserved for seeing predators are being used to scare off other birds and cause them to drop whatever juicy insect they’ve got their claws on!

Fork-Tailed Drongo by Mike Richardson
Fork-Tailed Drongo by Mike Richardson

Not only are the Drongos deceiving other birds, but their alarm calls will even send a meerkat scurrying into its tunnel. The DailyMail calls the Drongo the “pathological liar of the animal kingdom.” To be honest that sounds more like my ex! (ha ha just kidding!)

But the Drongo even looks the part of thief, conjuring up scary thoughts of Poe’s The Raven, this black bird has dark, blood red eyes and has been seen attacking birds of prey much larger than themselves.

Ashy Drongo by  Sudhir Naik
Ashy Drongo by Sudhir Naik

The Drongo builds up its reputation as sentry of the Kalahari, giving genuine alarm calls whenever a predator approaches, so that all animals learn to scurry at the sound of a frightened Drongo. But then they learned that they could also make the exact same sounds as a meerkat, and then the Drongo began to abuse its power as sentry and began scaring off meerkats and birds, who would leave their meals behind. The Drongo would then swoop down and steal the food that had just been abandoned.

And saving the best for last, this bird has earned the title of “kleptoparasite.” Now if that isn’t a fantastic title for a lying, red-eyed, little bird, I don’t know what is!

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2 thoughts on “The Drongo who cried wolf”

  1. Great article!! I’ve read that chickens do this, too! I wrote a blog post about it after reading about research on chicken intelligence in Scientific American Magazine.

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