- 1 species worldwide
- DR personal total: 1 species (100%), 0 photos
Elevating the Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus
to family level status is preliminary and tentative. This passerine of
reedy marshes is patchily distributed across the Palearctic from
England to China. They live in small flocks and are probably best known
from a few local marshes in southern or eastern England (left in an
individual portrait of a banded bird © W. Ed Harper) where it is
known as the "Bearded Tit."
Reedling has been considered a part of the Parrotbill assemblage, and
that family was often known as the Panuridae, since it was the earliest
of the family to be formally named. The rest of the 'family' was
composed of 18 species of Paradoxornis parrotbills and Great Parrotbill Constomas oemodium. Indeed, the Handbook of the Birds of the World
series (Vol. 12, due out in fall 2007) will have a Parrotbill 'family'
known as the Paradoxornithidae. I am not sure where they will place Panurus
— possibly in the Babblers. It is clear, however, that even the HBW
'family' will last only temporarily. They presumably have retained it
for traditional purposes pending more research.
problem is that recent biochemical evidence (Alström et al. 2006,
Jønsson & Fjeldså 2006, Barker et al. 2004, Cibois
2003) has found that the Paradoxornis parrotbills are
"embedded" within the Babblers. The evidence also suggests that the
Babblers may be a huge assemblage that might constitute two or more
clades, and that some birds traditionally considered Old World Warblers
are, in fact, babblers (particularly those in the genus Sylvia). The preliminary DNA evidence suggests Panurus
is an early offshoot of the Old World Warbler group. Whether it
deserves family rank is not yet known. I do so here provisionally,
because it 'must' appear somewhere for world birding purposes. It is
possible that further research may show that the reedling is actually
closer to the other parrotbills than this assignment might suggest (see
Alström et al. 2006, Jønsson & Fjeldså 2006).
its final taxonomic resting place, Bearded Reedling is an interesting
species. It is patchily distributed in the western Palearctic. In
Britain, for example, it occupies less than 1% of available habitat
(Cramp & Perrins 1993). It prefers large tracts of Phragmites
reeds in fresh or brackish marshes. Populations are primarily resident,
but the breeding range has expanded in good climates and retracted
after harsh winters.
The reedling is a highly
gregarious species outside the breeding season. Youngster form flocks
after they gain independence and these flocks increase in size as they
are joined by adults after the nesting season. Flocks can grow to 200
birds. These flocks break up in spring as nesting territories are
formed. Birds in flocks are quite vocal but as nesting season takes
over, birds are quieter and become inconspicuous (Cramp & Perrins
John Marchant took this shot of a part of a
flock in Norfolk, England (right). Populations here have been studied
extensively. Populations are much less known across eastern eastern
Russian and northern China.
Photos: W. Ed Harper photographed the banded Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus
in southern England in May 2000. John Marchant photographed the group
of reedling at Titchwell, Norfolk, England, on 20 July 1980. All
text © 2007 Don Roberson; photos © 2007 W. Ed Harper or John
Marchant, as attributed (used with permission); all rights reserved.
Bibliographic note: There is no "family book" per se; I assume this species will be covered by the next volume in the HBW series.
P., P.G.P. Ericson, U. Olsson, and P. Sundberg. 2006. Phylogeny and
classification of the avian superfamily Sylvoidea. Molecular
Phylogenetics & Evolution 38: 381-397.
F.K., A. Cibois, P. Schikler, J. Feinstein, and J. Cracraft. 2004.
Phylogeny and diversification of the largest avian radiation. Proc.
Nat. Acad. Sci. 101: 11040-11045.
Cibois, A. 2003. Mitochondrial DNA phylogeny of babblers (Timaliidae). Auk 120: 35-54.
S., and Perrins, C.M., eds. 1993. Handbook of Europe, the Middle East
and North Africa: the Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. VII. Oxford
Univ. Press, Oxford.
Jønsson, K.A., and J.
Fjeldså. 2006. A phylogenetic supertree of oscine passerine
birds. Zoologica Scripta 35: 149-186.