Family Drongos (Dicruridae)

Least Concern

Square-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus ludwigii)


French: Drongo de Ludwig German: Geradschwanzdrongo Spanish: Drongo de Ludwig

Edolius ludwigii

A. Smith

, 1834,

Durban, South Africa


DNA studies#R indicate that closest relative is D. atripennis. Distinctive race sharpei may merit treatment as a separate species (with saturnus), differing in a series of minor characters: blue vs green sheen in both sexes (1); all-dark vs white-tipped underwing-coverts in both sexes (sometimes reported inversely, in error) (1); female as glossy as male vs less glossy than male (1); female close in size to male vs perceptibly smaller (on wing length at least 1); and almost squared-off vs more obviously forked tail in both sexes (1); but vocal differences not apparent in limited samples available, although recent genetic study supports treatment as separate species#R. Proposed race elgonensis included in saturnus, which may itself be synonymous with sharpei, while populations W of R Niger may represent a further, as yet undescribed, subspecies#R; race tephrogaster appears to be transitional, and may be better included in nominate. Five subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. l. sharpei Oustalet, 1879 – Sharpe’s Drongo – S Senegal E to Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, S South Sudan, Uganda and W Kenya, extending S to NW Angola and N DRCongo.
  • D. l. saturnus Clancey, 1976 – C Angola (W escarpment E to Moxico), SE DRCongo (Katanga) and N Zambia.
  • D. l. muenzneri Reichenow, 1915 – S Somalia, E & SE Kenya, and E & S Tanzania.
  • D. l. tephrogaster Clancey, 1975 – S Malawi, E Zimbabwe, and Mozambique (N of R Limpopo).
  • D. l. ludwigii (A. Smith, 1834) – Square-tailed Drongo – extreme S Mozambique, E South Africa (S Limpopo and E Mpumalanga S to coastal E Eastern Cape) and Swaziland.
  • Descriptive notes

    18–19 cm; 25–35 g. The smallest African drongo, with slightly notched, almost square-cut tail (c. 85–95 mm). Male nominate race is entirely black, with... read more


    Very vocal, with extensive repertoire combining repeated disyllabic calls e.g. "tyip-tyip", single... read more


    Wide variety of woodland habitats, with preference for edges, patches, glades, clearings and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, e.g. moths (Lepidoptera), locusts (Acrididae), mantises (Mantidae), beetles (Coleoptera), termites (Isoptera); in S Africa,... read more


    Season roughly Feb–Jun N of equator and Sept–Apr in S, e.g. Nov–Apr in Gabon and Sept–Jan in S (peak Oct–Nov... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common; rare or uncommon in some regions, such as Somalia (where largely confined to lower Jubba riverine forest), N & E of Gambia, N... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rocamora, G. & Yeatman-Berthelot, D. (2019). Square-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus ludwigii). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 May 2019).