In this fascinating new book, Nick Davies describes the natural histories of these brood parasites and examines many of the exciting questions they raise about the evolution of cheating and the arms race between parasites and their prey. Brood parasites fill their armory with adaptations including exquisite egg mimicry, rapid laying, ejection of host eggs, murder of host young, chick mimicry and manipulative begging behavior: ploys shown by recent research to have evolved in response to host defense behavior or through competition among the parasites themselves. While many host species appear defenseless, accepting parasite eggs quite unlike their own, many are more discriminating against odd-looking eggs and some have evolved the ability to discriminate against odd-looking chicks as well. How is this arms race conducted? Will defenseless hosts develop defenses in time, or are there constraints which limit the evolution and perfection of host defenses? And why are so few species obliged only to lay eggs in host nests? Have host defenses limited the success of brood parasitism, or is it in fact much more common than we suspect, but occurring mainly when birds parasitize the nest of their own kind? All of these puzzles are examined in descriptions of the natural history of each of the groups of parasites in turn.
Here is a book with wide appeal, both to amateur naturalists fascinated by this most singular and macabre of behaviors and by ornithologists and ecologists interested in the evolution of ecology and behavior. The story takes us from the classic field work earlier this century by pioneer ornithologists such as Edgar Chance, Stuart Baker, Herbert Friedmann and others, through to the recent experimental field work and molecular techniques of today's leading scientists. We visit brood parasites in Europe, Asia, Japan, Africa, Australasia, and North and South America, to look at some of the worlds most interesting birds and some of biology's most interesting questions, many of which still beg answers from ornithologists in the future.
Brilliant illustrations by David Quinn illuminate the species discussed, showing many behaviors never before illustrated and conveying the thrill of watching these astonishing birds in the wild.
"A fascinating story very well told."--Winging It
"[A] brilliantly accessible book. . . . This book is one of the best behavioural ecology texts ever written and demonstrates again why Nick Davies is one of the world's foremost naturalists. He has also put 'fun' firmly back into the functional approach. This book is a joy to read, full of lively anecdotes and enthusiasm. I cannot recommend this book highly enough; it bridges pure theoretical science and natural history perfectly."--Ibis
"This book won the British Birds' Bird Book of the Year competition by a mile. At the award ceremony, Jeremy Greenwood asserted that he had sat down and read the book from start to finish without being able to put it down. . . . You have to get this book."--Martin Collinson , Scottish Bird News
"Gripping stuff! An enthralling bit of natural history, some excellent scientific work, and very well written."--BTO News
"Nick Davies clearly has an understanding and love of the subject that shines through in his writing, while David Quinn's line drawings are superb. . . . This book is not a dull scientific treatise. It is always accessible, and at times it makes for gripping reading."--Tim Harris, Birdwatch
"This charming and well-written volume gives a remarkably complete compendium of information on avian brood parasitism and comes up with answers to the major questions in parasitology and evolutionary biology that its study provokes. The book is filled with novel ideas and logical, incisive interpretations of empirical results. Every twist and turn of an argument is laid out clearly and precisely. . . . This is a remarkable book, which describes brood parasitism and its evolution clearly and comprehensively, and sets the stage for the next round of exciting discoveries."--Robert C. Flelscher, Nature
Formerly published by Academic Press
File created: 7/11/2014