This book is the first monograph in English on the 34 shrike species distributed across Africa, Eurasia and North America. These birds have attracted the attention of ornithologists for a long time, mainly because of their predatory nature and the methods which they use to dispatch their prey. In the book, the most important information on shrikes of the World is summarized, much of which has accumulated in the ornithological literature and obtained by the author himself. These voluminous empirical data are also used by the author in an attempt to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the group at different stages of its phylogenesis, from the early origins of the family Laniidae, presumably in Africa, through the secondary expansion of species across Eurasia and into the New World.
Also examined here, all within the framework of an integral system of adaptation, are evolutionary trends affecting changes in body size and plumage coloration, foraging behavior, breeding dispersion, motor signal behavior and vocalizations. Special attention is paid to the development of signal and communication behavior in groups of closely related species at different stages of their divergent evolution. The breakdown of isolating mechanisms, leading to hybridization and a local fusion of closely related species in their secondary contact zones, its causes and dynamics, is another fascinating topic dealt with in the book. The results of recent molecular studies on shrikes are discussed as well.
The author, an exceptionally skilled observer and interpreter of bird behavior, has drawn on his immense experience of many hours spent watching shrikes in the field and has reared young shrikes in captivity. The book's thought-provoking text is well supported by an array of diagrams, tables, drawings by the author, and color photographs of birds and habitats.