Bird news by Leslie Hurteau
On June 10th, 2022, the Jeju Wildlife Research Center (제주야생동물연구센터) found a Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectens on Mara Island, the most southern point of the ROK. This species has never been recorded in the Republic of Korea, making it a national first. The bird was caught for measurements, banded, and then released. Hearing the news, I took a trip to Mara Island the morning of June 15th. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but amazingly the bird was relocated within less than an hour of being on the island. I spent some time with the bird, taking record photos (at a safe distance), and admired the random chance of viewing this species at this particular time and place.
According to eBird, the range of the Crow-billed Drongo is restricted to South and Southeast Asia. Southwestern China has the closest records geographically to Korea, with no sightings north of the Yangtze River in PR China, Taiwan, or Japan. So unless there are other sightings that have gone unreported, this is both the first documented record of a Crow-billed Drongo in the ROK and the most northern record. The species has been given a tentative Korean name 큰부리바람까마귀, roughly translating to Large-billed Windcrow (or Drongo), which I personally feel is fitting.
One of several media announcements can be read here (via the local Halla Daily):
Certainly more questions come up than answers. Was this individual simply lost on winds? Is this a hint at an attempt of range expansion (either by chance or due to climate change)? Was there any assistance at all to the bird’s arrival in Korea (ship-assisted)? Clearly some of these are not easily answered but perhaps with time and more careful observations in the birding community we can get a better overall picture.
Because the record is adequately documented (with images and measurements), the species will be added to Category One of the Birds Korea Checklist in the next update (as intended, within 2022).
This is the fourth drongo species recorded in the ROK (and on the Korean Peninsula), the other three being Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus 검은바람까마귀, Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus 회색바람까마귀 and Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus, 바람까마귀. With other tropical species being more frequently reported (and / or noticed?), such as Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis 작은뻐꾸기사촌 and Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus 검은뻐꾸기, have to wonder what might be next!