Lanius Linn., S. N., ed. x, p. 93 (1758). Type, Lanius excubitor.
The genus Lanius comprises a very extensive group of birds found over the whole of Europe, Asia, and Africa and parts of North America. The genus has been split into several genera by some scientists but the characteristics employed in separating them seem trivial and the divisions quite unnecessary and, possibly, misleading. The genus is very well represented in India both by residents and by migratory species and subspecies.
In Lanius the sexes are alike; the bill is very strong and laterally compressed, with a large tooth and a deep notch near the tip of the upper mandible, which is bent down and hooked. The nostrils are nearly round and are almost hidden by numerous hairs and bristles. The wings are strong and pointed; the tail is either equal to or longer than the wing and is strongly graduated ; the plumage is firm but not spinous.
Key to Species.
A. Upper tail-coverts and central tail-feathers of totally different colours.
a. A white patch on primaries.
a1. Tail all black and white, the colour's sharply defined.
a2. Back grey. L. excubitor, p. 285.
b2. Back chestnut.
a3. Upper tail-coverts pale grey L. vittatus, p. 289.
b3. Uppur tail-coverts chestnut L. collurioides, p. 291.
c2. Back black L. senator, p. 299.
b1. Tail black or brown and rufous, the colours blending.
d2. Grown of head black L. nigriceps, p. 292.
e2.. Crown of head grey L. schach, p. 294.
b. No white patch on primaries.
c1. Head and back grey L. tephronotus, p. 297.
d1. Head grey, back chestnut L. collurio, p. 298.
B. Upper tail-coverts and central tail-feathers same colour.
c. Colour of crown and back nearly the same
rufous or brown L. cristatus, p 300.
d. Crown grey: back chestnut, barred with
black L. tigrinus, p. 304.