Glossy blue-black head, crest and throat; black in wings; silvery-white body, long tail-streamers. In rufous phase white parts replaced by rufous chestnut. Female and young male: 20cm. No tail-streamers; shorter crest; rufous above; ashy-grey throat and nuchal collar; whitish below. Solitary or pairs; makes short sallies; flits through trees, the tail-streamers floating; strictly arboreal, sometimes descending into taller bushes; cheerful disposition.
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.
Indian Golden Oriole
Male: bright golden-yellow plumage; black stripe through eye; black wings and centre of tail. Female: yellow-green above; brownish-green wings; dirty-white below, streaked brown. Young male much like female. Solitary or in pairs; arboreal, sometimes moving with other birds in upper branches; regularly visits fruiting and flowering trees; hunts insects in leafy branches; usually heard, surprisingly not often seen, despite bright colour; seen only when it emerges on bare branch or flies across.
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.
Sexes alike. A large black and white stork with red legs; glossy black crown, back and breast and huge wings, the black parts having a distinct purplish-green sheen; white neck, lower abdomen and under tail-coverts; long, stout bill black, occasionally tinged crimson. In young birds, the glossy black is replaced by dark brown. Solitary or in small scattered parties, feeding along with other storks, ibises and egrets; stalks on dry land too; settles on trees.