Male: glossy blue-black and white; white wing-patch and white in outer tail distinctive; glossy blue-black throat and breast; white below. Female: rich slaty grey, where male is black. A familiar bird of India. Solitary or in pairs, sometimes with other birds in mixed parties; hops on ground, preferring shaded areas; common about habitation; when perched, often cocks tail; flicks tail often, especially when making short sallies; active at dusk; remarkable songster, very rich voice.
Oriental Magpie Robin
Male: verditer-blue plumage, darker in wings and tail; black lores. Female: duller, more grey overall. The Nilgiri Flycatcher E. albicaudatus of W Ghats is darker blue with white in tail; the Pale Blue Flycatcher Cyornis unicolor (16cm) male is uniform blue, with white on belly; female is olive-brown. Solitary or in pairs in winter, sometimes with other birds; restless, flicking tail; swoops about, ever on the move, occasionally descending quite low; rather more noticeable than other flycatchers because of its continuous movement and habit of perching in open exposed positions, like a bare twig on a tree top.
Male: greenish above (rich black above, with yellowish rump, in summer breeding plumage); black wings and tail; two white wing-bars; bright yellow underbody. Female: yellow-green plumage; white wingbars; greenish-brown wings. Pairs keep to leafy branches, often with other small birds; moves energetically amidst branches in hunt for insects, caterpillars; rich call notes often a giveaway of its presence in an area.
Sexes alike. Glossy black plumage; long, deeply forked tail. Diagnostic white spot at base of bill. The Ashy Drongo D. leucophaeus (30cm) is grey-black, and more of a forest bird, breeding in Himalaya and a winter visitor to the peninsula. Usually solitary, sometimes small parties; keeps lookout from exposed perch; most common bird seen on rail and road travel in India; drops to ground to capture prey; launches short aerial sallies; rides atop grazing cattle; follows cattle, tractors, grass-cutters, fires; thus consumes vast numbers of insects; bold and aggressive species, with several birds nesting in same tree.
Male: glistening black head and upper back; deep scarlet lower back and rump; black and scarlet wings and tail; black throat, scarlet below. Female: rich yellow forehead, supercilium; grey-yellow above; yellow and black wings and tail; bright yellow underbody. Pairs or small parties; sometimes several dozen together; keeps to canopy of tall trees; actively flits about to hunt for insects; also launches aerial sallies after winged insects; often seen in mixed hunting parties of birds; spectacular sight of black, scarlet and yellow as flock flies over forest, especially when seen from above.
Male: dark grey head, back and throat; orange-yellow patch on black wings; black tail; flame-orange breast; orange-yellow belly and undertail. Female: paler above; orange rump; dusky white throat, breast tinged with yellow; yellowish belly and under tail. Pairs or small flocks; keep to tree-tops, actively moving amidst foliage; flutters and flits about in an untiring hunts for small insects, often in association with other small birds; also hunt flycatcher style.
Sexes alike. Glossy black plumage; heavy beak, with noticeable culmencurve. The Carrion Crow C. corone of NW mountains is confusingly similar, except for less curved culmen though this character not easily visible in the field. Solitary or in groups of two to six; most common around villages and only small numbers in urban areas; overall not as ‘enterprising’ as the familiar House Crow; in forested areas, its behaviour often indicates presence of carnivore kills.
Sexes alike. Black plumage; grey collar, upper back and breast; glossy black on forehead, crown and throat. The Eurasian Jackdaw C. monedula (33cm) is similar to the House Crow, but is smaller, thicker-necked and white-eyed; it is common in Kashmir. Described as an extension of man’s society; street-smart, sharp, swift, sociable, sinister, the crow is almost totally commensal on man; snatches food from tables and shops; mobs other birds, even large raptors; performs important scavenging services; occasionally flies very high into skies, either when flying long distance, or simply for fun; communal roost sites.
Sexes alike. Rufous above; sooty grey-brown head and neck; black, white and grey on wings, best seen in flight; black-tipped, grey tail, long and graduated. Pairs or small parties; often seen in mixed hunting parties, appearing as leader of pack; feeds up in trees, but also descends low into bushes and onto ground to pick up termites; bold and noisy; rather tame and confiding in certain areas. The Grey Treepie D. formosae replaces the Rufous Treepie at higher altitudes.
Sexes alike. Pale grey from crown to middle of back; bright rufous from then on to the rump; black forehead, band through eye; white ‘mirror’ in black wings; whitish underbody, tinged pale rufous on lower breast and flanks. Mostly solitary; boldly defends feeding territory; keeps lookout from conspicuous perch; pounces onto ground on sighting prey; said to store surplus in ‘larder’, impaling prey on thorns; nicknamed Butcher-bird.