BIRD FAMILIES OF THE WORLD
last revised April 2014
this list has 241 extant families
The purpose of this list of Bird
Families of the World is as an aid to world birders who
want to maximize their enjoyment of avian diversity by observing examples
of as many bird families as is reasonable within the time and money
available for travel, and as a study tool for all interested
readers. It is exhilarating to see or learn about unique birds, and
bird families structure the avian world into the most discrete and
Early editions of this list generally followed the Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW) project but publication of a new Australian list (Christidis & Boles 2008), and updated decisions of the IOC world checklist, the Clements world checklist, and the South American Checklist Committee have been considered. John Boyd's Avian Taxonomy in Flux
has much additional information, including a world checklist (his
family list is also fairly close to this one but not identical). [Full
disclosure — I have been a volunteer junior member of the Clements team
since 2011. Yet I continue to depart from Clements for purposes of this
project; see next paragraph.]
For this 13th edition, the changes highlighted below bring my list to
241 extant families.
I continue to accept a few families not included by Clements, IOC, or
Howard & Moore (Dickinson et al. 2003, 2013). The current (Aug
2013) Clements list has 229 families, including a three-way split in
Babblers that I discontinued in the last edition. I depart from
Clements by elevating 11 groups as Families that Clements does not
currently accept [Magpie-goose, split of Parrots, Whitehead &
allies, Crested Bellbird & allies, Shrike-vireos, Erpornis,
Bristle-flycatchers, Hylias, Cinnamon Ibon, and the five new families
in this edition]. The current IOC list has 238 families (plus 17 incertae sedis).
The ambiguity in the latter makes it difficult to compare that list to
other lists. There are at least 16 differences in Family level
decisions between my list and IOC. For example, IOC accepts
Arcanatoridae [Dapplethroat & allies]; Scotocercidae [Scrub Warbler
Scotocerca inquieta; Fregin et al. 2012]; and Coerebidae
[Bananaquit]. I continue to lump Dapplethroat et al. with Sugarbirds,
awaiting further evidence; the proposed "Scotorercidae" is neither
distinctive nor sufficiently ancient [see a Nov 2012 essay, posted
after the Family list]; and Bananaquit is undoubtedly a tanager (Burns
et al. 2013). My six "new" families in this edition are not yet
resolved in Clements or IOC, but Boyd's project has accepted five of
HIGHTLIGHTS OF CHANGES in this 13th edition
One new monotypic Asian family is recognized — Spotted Elachura
[Elachuridae] — and four new families among the nine-primaried New
World passerines. These latter families are provisional, based on a
conservative approach to the evidence in Barker et al. (2013): Rosy Thrush-tanager [Rhodinocichlidae], New World Sparrows [Passerellidae], Mitrospingid tanagers [Mitrospingidae] and Caribbean tanagers [Phaenicophilidae]. These are discussed in more detail in a new Further Essay on 'Defining' a Bird Family
(below, following the list of Families). In addition, Peter Kovalik has
kindly pointed out that my "Pteruthiusidae" was both misspelled and
paraphyletic; the latter requires splitting Erpornis as its own family [Erpornithidae].
In early April 2014, the SACC accepted a split in the Psittacidae,
restricting that family to New World & Gray Parrots and erecting the Psittaculidae for Lories, Lovebirds, & Old World Parrots. I now follow; I expect Clements and IOC to also follow at their next updates.
Net result: + 7 families
I have also re-sequenced
the order in which I list the Families to adopt changes in the AOU/SACC
and Clements sequence (updated 2013) which reshuffled the
Charadriiformes. My sequence mostly follows Clements; in the Sylvioidea
[Nicators through Bush-Warblers] I follow Fregin et al. (2012).
the 12th edition, I had included special pages on four birds of
"uncertain affinities." The two from Sulawesi are now resolved. Malia Malia grata is allied with grassbirds in family Locustellidae (Oliveros et al. 2012). Geomalia Geomalia heinrichi is a thrush [Turdidae] in genus Zoothera (Olsson & Alström 2013). I retain the other two "mysteries" on separate pages after the list of families. Boyd's on-line project considers each of them, and also genus Melampitta, to constitute separate families.
My listing is of extant
bird families. Clements and IOC include the recently described
Mohoidae, an endemic family from Hawaii that included 5 species in
genus Moho and one in genus Chaetoptila that had
traditionally been considered honeyeaters in the Meliphagidae. Genetic
evidence proved they were not honeyeaters, but that they were related
to silky-flycatchers, waxwings, and other bombycillids. The Mohoidae is
now extinct, so it is not possible to search for any
of its members. The last remaining species was Kauai Oo, last proven
alive in 1987, and now considered extinct. Thus, when comparing number
of families between various list, it is important to use the list of
extant families. Clements states this number explicitly; IOC apparently
OF CHANGES in the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th and 12th editions are now available through this separate link to the 12th edition (2012).
This site is not affiliated with
the Handbook project but I highly recommend the books; click on
the banner below
Those families with links have separate web
pages that I created over the years. Some are now very dated and need
revision, but there are still some to create. Each page has photos taken
in the wild.
|Acanthisittidae New Zealand Wrens
||Pityriaseidae Bristlehead 
||Zosteropidae White-eyes, Yuhinas & allies 
|Calyptomenidae African & Green Broadbills 
||Timaliidae Babblers & allies 
|Eurylaimidae Asian & Grauer's Broadbills 
||Phylloscopidae Leaf-Warblers 
|Sapayoidae Sapayoa 
||Aegithalidae Long-tailed Tits
|Philepittidae Asities 
||Pachycephalidae Whistlers, Shrike-Thrushes, Shrike-tit &
||Hyliidae Hylias 
||Erythrocercidae Bristle-flycatchers 
|Thamnophilidae Typical Antbirds 
||Pteruthiidae Shrike-babblers 
||Cettiidae Cettids: Bush-Warblers, Stubtails & allies [59, 66]
|Melanopareiidae Crescentchests 
|| Erpornithidae Erpornis 
||Promeropidae Sugarbirds & allies 
||Vireonidae Vireos & Greenlets 
|Grallariidae Antpittas 
||Oriolidae Old World Orioles, Figbirds & true Pitohuis 
||Hyliotidae Hyliotas 
||Muscicapidae Old World Flycatchers & Chats 
|Formicariidae Antthrushes 
|Furnariidae Ovenbirds, Miners, Leaftossers & Woodcreepers 
||Monarchidae Monarchs & allies, including magpie-larks 
||Mimidae Thrashers & Mimids
|Tyrannidae Tyrant Flycatchers
||Corvidae Crows, Jays & allies
||Sturnidae Starlings, Mynas & Rhabdornises
|Oxyruncidae Sharpbill 
||Buphagidae Oxpeckers 
||Petroicidae Australo-Papuan Robins
|Tityridae Tityras, Becards & allies 
||Picathartidae Rockfowl 
||Nectariniidae Sunbirds & Spiderhunters
||Chaetopidae Rockjumpers 
||Eupetidae Rail-babbler 
||Motacillidae Pipits & Wagtails
|Ptilonorhynchidae Bowerbirds 
||Regulidae Kinglets 
||Urocynchramidae Przevalski's Rosefinch [Pink-tailed Bunting] 
|Climacteridae Australasian Treecreepers
||Stenostiridae Fairy Flycatchers
||Peucedramidae Olive Warbler 
|Maluridae Fairywrens & Grasswrens
& Chickadees 
||Elachuridae Spotted Elachura 
|Meliphagidae Honeyeaters & allies 
||Remizidae Penduline Tits
|Dasyornithidae Bristlebirds 
|Pardalotidae Pardalotes 
||Tichodromidae Wallcreeper 
|Acanthizidae Australo-Papuan Warblers 
||Hylocitreidae Hylocitrea 
||Hypocoliidae Hypocolius 
||Calcariidae Longspurs & Snow Buntings 
|Cnemophilidae Satinbirds 
||Rhodinocichlidae Rosy Thrush-tanager 
|Melanocharitidae Berrypeckers &
||Nicatoridae Nicators 
World Warblers 
|Paramythiidae Painted Berrypeckers 
||Panuridae Bearded Reedling 
||Phaenicophilidae Spindalis & Caribbean tanagers 
|Callaeidae New Zealand Wattlebirds
||Thraupidae Tanagers 
|Notiomystidae Stitchbird 
||Macrosphenidae Crombecs & African Warblers 
||Mitrospingidae Mitrospingid tanagers 
|Mohouidae Whitehead & allies 
||Cisticolidae Cisticolas & allies
||Emberizidae Old World Buntings
|Psophodidae Whipbirds & Wedgebills 
||Locustellidae Grassbirds & allies 
||Passerellidae New World Sparrows 
|Cinclosomatidae Quail-Thrushes & Jewel-Babblers 
||Donacobiidae Donacobius 
||Cardinalidae Cardinals, Grosbeaks & allies 
|Oreoicaedae Crested Bellbird & allies 
||Bernieridae Malagasy Warblers 
|Platysteiridae Batises, Wattle-eyes & allies
||Pnoepygidae Cupwings 
||Fringillidae Finches 
|Vangidae Vangas, Helmetshrikes, Woodshrikes & allies (vangids) 
||Acrocephalidae Reed-Warblers & allies 
||Hypocryptadiidae Cinnamon Ibon 
||Hirundinidae Swallows & Martins 
||Passeridae Old World Sparrows
|Machaerirhynchidae Boatbills 
|Artamidae Woodswallows 
||Sylviidae Sylvids 
||Estrildidae Waxbills, Munias & allies
|Cracticidae Butcherbirds & allies 
||Paradoxornithidae Parrotbills, Fulvettas & allies 
||Viduidae Whydahs & Indigobirds
web pages on selected species of uncertain affinities
An further essay on
'Defining' a Bird Family [March 2014]
is sometimes said, defining the limits of a bird Family is “more art
than science.” Ornithologists do not yet attempt to define this ordinal
level. In 2012, in an essay on this site that was an effort to define
Family level status in passerines, I wrote that “I have evolved a
preference for Family level taxa to be (a) distinctive and diagnosable
and (b) to have been evolving on their own evolutionary path since at
least the early Miocene (i.e., 16-23 mya). I don't advocate drawing any
hard lines as to how old a clade must be for Family status — indeed,
many lineages of birds appear to be diversifying at different rates —
but younger monophyletic lineages may be better addressed as
subfamilies. Families should be ancient and distinctive.”
research (e.g., Barker et al. 2013, Burns et al. 2014), a review of
prior papers (e.g., Graur & Martin 2004, Pereira & Baker 2006),
and commentary on BirdForum and elsewhere have compelled a modification
of my prior summary. The evidence for differences in the rate of
diversification among bird lineages continues to grow. Barker et al.
(2013) explain that:
crown-clade estimate of diversification rate (without extinction) in
this lineage [Thraupidae] is . . . nearly 40% above the average for the
9-primaried oscine clade as a whole. . . This high rate is comparable,
for example, rates estimates for Hawaiian silverswords [a plant]
although lower than estimated rates of from other putative radiation
(e.g., salamanders of the Plethodon glutinous group) . . . It
is nearly an order of magnitude higher than the pure birth estimate for
vertebrates as a whole … and 5 times the estimated net diversification
rate of Neoaves. These estimates suggest that diversification of this
lineage [Thraupidae tanagers] has made a substantial contribution to
the remarkably high overall diversity of the Neoaves.”
more detailed study of the Thraupidae found that within that lineage,
the diversification rates of several “finch” lineages – and especially
Darwin’s finches – were exceptional, “even when compared to the overall
rapid rate of diversification within tanager;” If diversification rates
are different among various evolutionary lineages, then it makes
rational sense to develop the construct of a “Family” in light of those
& Ahlquist (1990) once attempted to define ordinal levels of bird
diversity within specific limits of “melting curves” when molecular
relationships were viewed from DNA-DNA hybridization studies. This
proved essentially unworkable. Now, with direct sequencing of genetic
evidence available, we are closer to understanding the timing of
evolutionary changes – especially when molecular signals are
constrained against the background of the fossil and geologic evidence
– and yet no single approach has gained wide acceptance.
the prior essay, I expressed a preference that Family level taxa in the
passerines be those clades that had been “evolving on their own
evolutionary path since at least the early Miocene (i.e., 16-23 mya).”
This definition does not work well if applied to, say, waterfowl or
parrots or other non-passerines. Most if not all of the currently
accepted Families in non-passerines are much older. My passerine
definition would, if applied to parrots, produce at least 11 families
of parrots, and probably more (based on evidence in Rheindt et al.
2014, which did not include all the parrot lineages). In the other
direction, my definition, if applied to the nine-primaried passerines,
would create one huge Emberizidae, with tanagers, New World warblers,
icterids, cardinals/grosbeaks all reduced to subfamilies. [Indeed, for
a short time the AOU adopted that concept, following Sibley &
modification of the concept is necessary. Again, it is reiterated that
I do not propose any certain time limit should be used to standardize
Family level status, even within an Order. Rather, bird diversity can
be expressed at the Family level by preferring that such Family level
distinctive and diagnosable;
of ancient lineage, consistent with the history of the Order involved;
for most Passerines, to have been evolving independently since at least
the early Miocene (i.e., 16-23 mya);
for nine-primaried Passerines, to have been evolving independently
since at least the mid-Miocene (i.e., 10-11 mya); (
to preserve stability in Family level taxa when possible within the
rule of monophyly, and
to avoid monotypic (single species) Families of non-ancient lineage in
the Passeriformes when that can be accomplished within the rule of
this expanded preference to new evidence (e.g., Barker et al. 2013,
Burns et al. 2014, Alström et al. 2014), I have added five new
passerine families in this 13 ed. list. One is Asia and five are from
the New World. Alström et al. (2014) discovered that Spotted
“Wren-Babbler" Elachura formosa of the eastern Himalayas is
an early offshoot of the lineage leading to the Bombyciloidea (waxwings
and allies). They proposed Family rank for this lineage, the monotypic
Elachuridae. As the lineage is ancient, I suspect their proposal will
be widely accepted.
New World situation is more complex. Barker et al. (2013) produced a
multilocus phylogenetic analysis of the nine-primaried passerine
radiation in the New World, and proposed it be divided into 16
families. Some of those are long-familiar families [e.g., New World
Warblers, Tanagers, Icterids] and some only recently accepted
[Longspurs & Snow Bunting] but ten are brand-new Family proposals.
I agree with Barker et al. (2013) that a conservative approach is to
“minimize changes to higher level avian classification and to continue
to rank the lineages within [the nine-primaried passerines] as
retain the old familiar families, such as Parulidae and Icteridae,
means accepting as a Family some lineages that are only 10-11 million
years old. Doing so recognizes the rapid rate of diversification
in these birds, compared to all other bird groups, and helps to
structure the phylogeny of this species-rich radiation. I think that at
this moment in time, the same diversity can be shown with the addition
of just four New World families, instead of the ten proposed by Barker
et al. (2013). One of them is a monotypic family [Rhodinocichlidae] for
Rosy Thrush-Tanager Rhodinocichla rosea, and it is moderately
ancient at about 14 mya. The remaining splits are less old (10-13 mya)
but single-species families of younger age can be avoided without
violating monophyly, at least on the current evidence. The splits that
must occur to avoid polyphyletic families are these three: (a) to split
the Old World Buntings [Emberizidae] from New World Sparrows
[Passerellidae]; (b) to create a new family [Mitrospingidae] from 3
genera of “tanagers” (Mitrospingus, Lamprospiza, Orthogonys)
that are neither Tanagers nor Cardinals (I call them the "Mitrospingid
tanagers"); and (c) to create a new family [Phaenicophilidae] from the
lineage of “tanager-like” birds on Caribbean islands. Barker et al.
(2013) had proposed these as four families, 3 of which were
single-species families. There is little doubt from their evidence that
genera Phaenicophilus, Xenoligea, Microligea, Nesospingus, and Spindalis are all more closely related to each other than to other species, and can easily form a Family grouping. Genus Calyptophilus
[two chat-tanagers from Hispaniola] is less certain, but its placement
in their phylogeny is only “weakly supported” and, if the “species
tree” in their Figure 8 is used, fits closely with the other Caribbean
lineages. For the moment it seems best to tentatively place the
chat-tanagers with the other Caribbean species in a single Family.
This leaves unresolved the position of Zeledonia [wren-thrush], Teretistris [two Cuban warblers], and Icteria
[Yellow-breasted Chat]. Currently these are assigned to the Parulidae
(New World Warblers) but some (especially the chat) may be closer to
Icterids. The situation is not yet fully resolved. For the moment, the
conservative approach is to leave these three intriguing genera in
Parulidae, pending further research. However, the wise world birder
might consider planning trips to Costa Rica (for Zeledonia) or Cuba (for Teretistris).
An essay on
Defining a Bird Family [Nov 2012]
[This essay applies only to Passerine families.]
concept of a bird Family has no universal definition and can be
arbitrary. We are reaching the point at which most birds on earth have
been studied genetically, and there is an evolving consensus about
their relationships. I suspect most major "surprises" about
phylogenetic relationships are behind us.
emerging issue is how to define a bird Family after an accepted
phylogeny of a group has been determined, particularly among the
passerines. For example, when it was shown that Olive-flanked Whistler Hylocitrea bonensis
of Sulawesi was not a whistler but was instead a relict bombycillid
related to waxwings, silky-flycatchers, Palmchat of Hispaniola, and
Hypocolius of the Middle East, the authors of that groundbreaking paper
[Spellman et al. 2008] recommended that each of these be considered a subfamily of an enlarged Bombycillidae. Yet all recent world checklists prefer to split Hylocitrea into its own Family,
consistent with prior treatments of silky-flycatchers, Palmchat, and
Hypocolius. I agreed with that approach — each lineage is so unique and
so ancient as to warrant Family status, at least among Passerine
families. [There is evidence that diversification rates differ among
bird lineages (e.g., Jetz et al. 2012) and standards that may apply to
Passerines may not be applicable to the older non-passerine lineages,
let alone other types of fauna (e.g., some crocodiles may have remained
pretty much unchanged for 55 million years).]
year two major papers reviewed the phylogeny of the babblers: Moyle et
al. (2012), focusing on the babbler lineages, and Fregin et al. (2012),
reviewing a wider set of Sylvioidea [Old World warblers & allies]
that included babblers. Just two years ago, Gelang et al. (2009) had
outlined a "two family" approach to the relationships among the
babblers and sylvids: sylvid babblers and parrotbills [Sylviidae] and
babblers (Timaliidae]. Cibois et al. (2010) outlined a "five family"
approach to the same phylogenic findings: sylvid babblers and
parrotbills [Sylviidae], white-eyes [Zosteropidae], tree babblers and
scimitar-babblers [Timaliidae], fulvettas and ground-babblers
[Pellorneidae], and laughingthrushes [Leiothrichidae]. This "five
family" concept was adopted by several world checklist (e.g., Clements,
IOC) and by me in the 10th edition of this list. This year, both Moyle
et al. (2012) and Fregin et al. (2012) confirmed the relationships
shown by molecular analysis and recognized these five major "clades,"
but differed in their approach to setting Family level status. Fregin
et al. (2012) adopted the "five family" concept (and then added two
more families split off from Cettiidae), but Moyle et al. (2012)
expressed a preference for a "three family" approach to the babblers:
sylvid babblers and parrotbills [Sylviidae], white-eyes [Zosteropidae],
and babblers [Timaliidae]. In their proposal, the three clades of
"core" babblers become subfamilies of a single babbler Family: subfamilies Timaliinae, Pellorneinae, and Leiothrichinae.
now think that Moyle et al's (2012) approach is the best one. The
evidence of evolutionary relationships has not changed — it is just a
matter of where to draw the lines around "clades." Each approach to the
babbler/sylvid problem is "correct" — whether 2 families, 3 families,
or 5 families — because in each proposal the families are monophyletic
groups of related birds. It is simply a matter of preference.
have evolved a preference for Family level taxa to be (a) distinctive
and diagnosable and (b) to have been evolving on their own evolutionary
path since at least the early Miocene (i.e., 16-23 mya). I don't
advocate drawing any hard lines as to how old a clade must be for
Family status — indeed, many lineages of birds appear to be
diversifying at different rates — but younger monophyletic lineages may
be better addressed as subfamilies. Families should be ancient and
distinctive. In the babbler situation, the core babblers split from the
White-eyes and relatives at about 16–21 mya (Moyle et al., 2012). The
three main clades of the core babblers — the tree-babblers, the
laughingthrushes, and the ground-babblers — began diverging 11.2–17.8
mya (Moyle et al. 2012). It seems wiser to consider those clades as
subfamilies. Otherwise, the concept of distinctive families becomes
diluted. Further, there are fulvettas scattered among both the
Leiothrichinae and among the parrotbills; there are "wren-babblers"
assigned to two Babbler subfamilies (not to mention those now in the
Pnoepygidae, now called Cupwings); and there are "scimitar-babblers"
assigned to two different subfamilies. It is essentially impossible to
define the Babbler subfamilies except by their molecular relationships.
Keeping all the "core" babblers together in one family is a good
tentative addition to this discussion is to rethink the Sylviidae
situation. There are two major divisions (clades) within the Sylviidae
— the core sylvids (essentially the genus Sylvia and close
relatives) and the parrotbills & allies. While neither Moyle et al.
(2012) nor Fregin et al. (2012) addressed this situation, the
information provided in their cladograms supports the impression that
these two divisions split about 20 mya and have been evolving
separately since then. Voelker & Light (2011) explicitly determined
the divergence of the Sylvia clade from parrotbills &
allies at ~20mya [19.4 mya for extant lineages.] Accordingly, applying
the same standards, I have tentatively restricted Sylviidae to the
"core" sylvids, and resurrected the family Paradoxornithidae for the
parrotbills & allies (including Wrentit Chamaea fasciata of the New World).
recent sources agree that there are two major basal lineages:
Palaeognathae (ratites and tinamous) and Neognathae (all others).
Within the Paeaeognathae, Dickinson (2003) places Tinamiformes before
Struthoniformes but both HBW, SACC, and new Clements have the opposite
arrangement. Since a 'tree of life' phylogeny of birds is
three-dimensional, there are multiple 'correct' ways to represent the
evolutionary tree in a two-dimensional list. I have resequenced all the
families on my list to follow the 2011 update of Clements' world
checklist, which relies heavily on the AOU and SACC approach to
sequencing the list. [This has no effect on what I decide to list as a
the Neognathae there are also two basal lineages: Galloanserae
(gamebirds and waterfowl) and Neoaves (all others). This means that the
gamebirds and waterfowl must be placed next in the list (after ratites
and tinamous); this was recently done in the AOU checklist (2002).
Whether gamebirds (megapodes through quail) or waterfowl (screamers
through ducks) are listed next is a matter of style. Dickinson (2003)
puts the gamebirds first but AOU and SACC put the waterfowl first, and
this fits better with the traditional arrangement (as in HBW). As noted
in footnote 1, I now follow Clements' updated sequence throughout.
the Magpie-Goose as a separate family is a Sibley-Ahlquist (1990)
innovation based on DNA hybridization; they also split the
Whistling-Ducks [Dendrocygnidae] as a family. Dickinson (2003) elevates
Magpie-Goose to family status but not the Whistling-Ducks; this was
supported by Livesey (1997). SACC and AOU also do not elevate the
Whistling-Ducks (at least for now).
(2003) and AOU (1998) consider turkeys and grouse to be subfamilies of
Phasianidae, as the biochemical evidence shows these lineages are
embedded within the larger pheasant/partridge assemblage (e.g.,
Dimcheff et al. 2002). In prior lists I had followed HBW in retaining
each group as a 'traditional' family, each of which is easily
recognized and each of which is a monophyletic group. Now I have
followed the recent evidence, and merge turkeys and grouse into the
Phasianidae. I have given them separate 'subfamily' web pages, though,
5 Grebes and flamingos are each others closest relatives; IOC, AOU, SACC all agree.
& Boles (2008) split the storm-petrels into two families:
Hydrobatidae (northern storm-petrels) and Oceanitidae (southern
storm-petrels). Most others (e.g., SACC) consider these two lineages to
be subfamilies. The Christidis & Boles (2008) approach relied
heavily on Nunn & Stanley (1998) and Penhallurick & Wink
(2004), which argued that the storm-petrels were not monophyletic when
compared to albatrosses (Diomedeidae). Penhallurick & Wink (2004)
has been the subject to compelling criticism (Rheindt & Austin
2005), and the entire system of attempting to date divergence is
flawed (Graur & Martin 2004). Thus I do not split the storm-petrels
at this time. It seems best to await a worldwide consensus on the
families within the Procellariiformes.
7 AOU (1998),
Sibley & Ahlquist (1990), and Sibley & Monroe (1990) put
the New World vultures with storks. This was based primarily on early
DNA evidence but, as Joel Cracraft says in Dickinson (2003), "the
evidence supporting the various alternative hypotheses has not been very
compelling." Morphological evidence (e.g., Griffiths 1994) supports the
traditional placement of the catharids within the Falconidae.
8 Dickinson (2003)
reduces Secretarybird to a subfamily of the Accipitridae without any
comment. Yet even Sibley & Monroe (1990) continued family status,
as did the Birds of Africa handbook (Brown et al. 1982) and, more
recently, HBW and Clements. To me this is an "obvious" family — an exceptionally
unique and distinctive species that deserves its traditional family
rank, as it is not embedded within other lineages.
9 Osprey has been treated
as a subfamily of the Accipitridae by many (e.g., Sibley & Monroe
1990, AOU 1998, Dickinson 2003) but I follow HBW in retaining
traditional family status. The footnote on the SACC web site says
"Although all available data indicate that it is the sister taxon to
the hawks and eagles, the rank at which it is treated is rather
arbitrary. Given its unique karyotype, which differs from that known
for other hawks and eagles, and given that Pandion haliaetus can be recognized as a species in the fossil record as far back as the
Miocene, family rank may be more appropriate." To continue to give
Pandionidae family status also fits well with my belief that
distinctive and unique genera are often best handled as monotypic
work by Hackett et al. (2008) shows the Gruiformes are an artificial
assemblage, and should be restricted to rails, flufftails, finfoots,
trumpeters, cranes, and Limpkin. Hackett et al. (2008) suggests that
Flufftails are distinct from rails; Clements & IOC now raises them
to family level. I concur but more research is needed.
11 The taxonomic status of
Magellanic Plover Pluvianellus socialis is uncertain. Sibley
& Monroe (1990) and Sibley 1996) considered it a monotypic family
on initial DNA hybridization results, but admitted their conclusion was
to stimulate further research, rather than a well-supported decision.
Strauch (1978) and Chu (1995) used an analysis of morphological
characters to argue that it was more closely related to the Chionidae
than in its traditional place among the plovers [Charadriidae]. Recent
genetic data (Paton et al. 2003) support this relationship. SACC (2006)
now considers this a monotypic family. Dickinson (2003) provisionally
includes Magellanic Plover within the Chionidae, but both Clements and IOC consider it a full family.
now places Egyptian Plover in a monotypic family: "It is a separate
lineage that is the outgroup to plovers, ibisbill, stilts and their
allies (Hackett et al. 2008). Therefore separated here to its own
family tentatively named Pluvianidae." Clements added this family in
13 It has been contended that Plovers should be split into two Families:
14 Buttonquails are in the Charadriiformes (Hackett et al. 2008).
I prefer the traditional
approach of gulls, terns, and skimmers in separate families, as each
group is distinctive in the
field, I now follow AOU (1998) and many others in lumping all within
the Laridae. Recent evidence suggests terns and skimmers are embedded
within the Laridae, e.g., Baker et al. (2007).
16 To quote a footnote in
the SACC: "The placement of this order [Opisthocomiformes] is highly
controversial. Genetic data have indicated that it is closely related
to the Cuculiformes (Sibley & Ahlquist 1990) or Musophagiformes
(Hughes & Baker 1999). De Queiroz and Good (1988) found
morphological evidence consistent with its placement near Cuculiformes
or Musophagiformes.... However, the most recent genetic analysis
(Sorenson et al. 2003) failed to find support for a relationship to any
of these groups, but found weak support for a relationship to the
Columbiformes." Dickinson (2003) also takes the approach used by SACC:
Hoatzin is placed just before the Cuculiformes. I now follow them, as does Clements;
there is no support for the HBW sequence that places it near Gruiformes.
17 Sibley & Monroe
(1990) split the cuckoos into four families — based on DNA divergence —
but most other recent checklists continue to place them all (Old World
cuckoos, New World cuckoos, anis, and ground-cuckoos) within a single
family [Cuculidae]. This is the approach of AOU, SACC, HBW,
Dickinson (2003), and Clements.
& Ahlquist (1990) and Sibley & Monroe (1990) split frogmouths
into two families: Australian frogmouths [Podargidae] and Asian
frogmouths [Batrachostomidae]. Neither HBW nor Dickinson (2003) follow
this approach — they consider the two different sets to be subfamilies.
However, Holyoak (2001) acknowledges that they differ not only
biochemically, but also in nest structure, and could be separate
families, and that split is implied in Christidis & Boles (2008).
My personal experience suggests that they are two different sets of
birds, so while one could go either way, I lean toward the split. The
IOC (2009) list does not split them because of the discovery of Rigidipenna inexpectatus,
but surely it is more closely related to one of my families, even if we
don't know which one yet. For the moment I continue to merge them,
following most of the world checklists.
split the two frogmouths into families, as suggested initially by
Sibley & Ahlquist (1990), one must question whether to do the same
with the nightjars, as Sibley & Ahlquist (1990) also split the
Eared-Nightjars from the rest of the caprimulgids. Christidis &
Boles (2008) summarize recent molecular studies that found
eared-nightjars to be the sister group to the rest of them, but the IOC
(2009) did not consider them of equal rank to other family-level
groups. I have waffled on this before, and merge them with Nightjars
& Monroe (1990) divided the kingfishers into three families
[Alcedinidae, Dacelonidae, and Cerylidae] but most major
checklists (HBW, Dickinson 2003) consider these groups to be
subfamilies. Christidis & Boles (2008) reviewed the evidence, and
adopted the three-way split. Since this change affects Australasia much
more heavily than the New World, I followed the approach
of Christidis & Boles (2008) for half-a-year. Now I switch back to
the mainstream, as the IOC list points out that the while the "three are reciprocally monophyletic groups [they] ... are not the same rank as the other families in the Coraciiformes."
web-based checklist had elevated the Ground-Hornbills to family rank
several editions ago, following the persuasive argument by Kemp (1995),
and the arrangement of Sibley & Monroe (1990). HBW did not do so,
even though Alan Kemp authored the family account for all hornbills (a
case where editorial preference trumped the author of the family
account). It is thus very encouraging to find that Dickinson (2003)
also elevates the Ground-Hornbills to family status, and in 2012, so
did Clements. I consider Ground-Hornbills to be the basal lineage, and
thus place them before Hornbills in sequence (contra Clements, IOC).
22 Biochemical evidence
supports the concept that jacamars and puffbirds are sister groups, but
whether they should have their own Order [Galbuliformes] has been
controversial. I follow Clements, HBW and SACC in considering them an Order and
placing them here before the Piciformes (barbets through woodpeckers).
Dickinson (2003) places them within the Picidae and at the end of that
23 The barbets and
relatives have been a problem ever since Prum (1988) showed that the
traditional classification of Barbets [Capitonidae] and Toucans
[Ramphastidae] as separate families was not supported by biochemical
evidence. The toucans were more closely related to other New World
barbets than the New World barbets were to any of the Old World
barbets. Sibley & Monroe (1990) proposed to lump toucans into New
World barbets and separate Old World barbets into two different
families: Megalaimidae [Asian Barbets] and Lybiidae [African Barbets].
HBW followed the old traditional approach but acknowledged the problem.
Dickinson (2003) and AOU (1998) just lumped them all within a single
family [Ramphastidae]. This would mean the loss of toucans as a
distinctive family, and disguise the significant biodiversity within
In my view, the SACC has
adopted a better approach. It divides these birds into five separate
families, explaining: "The families Capitonidae, Semnornithidae, and
Ramphastidae are each other's closest relatives
with respect to Old World barbets (Burton 1984, Prum 1988, Sibley and
Ahlquist 1990, Lanyon & Hall 1994, Barker & Lanyon 2000,
Johansson et al. 2001, Johansson & Ericson 2003, Moyle 2004). Old
Word barbets are here tangentially treated as separate families, Asian
Megalaimidae and African Lybiidae; recent genetic data (Moyle 2004)
support the monophyly of the barbet radiations within each region. To
emphasize the close relationships among New World taxa, these three
families were treated as subfamilies of a single family, Ramphastidae,
by AOU (1998). SACC proposal passed to treat these taxa at family rank. Semnornis [Toucan-Barbets] is treated as
separate family until affinities resolved. . . Genetic data indicate
that Semnornis may be basal to both families (Barker and Lanyon
2000); Moyle (2004) found weak support for that relationship, but also
weak support for a sister relationship to Ramphastidae."
most astonishing evidence presented in Hackett et al. (2008) was that
falcons [Falconidae] were not closely related to raptors [which now
becomes Accipitridae], and might be entitled to Order level. They
suggested that its closest relatives were parrots. This innovation
requires further confirmation; both IOC and Clements place Falconidae
here in sequence.
25 Sibley & Ahlquist
(1990) and Sibley & Monroe (1990) raised the Cockatoos to family
level distinct from the other Parrots. HBW followed. Dickinson (2003) combined them again into a
single Psittacidae noting, in footnotes, that various other groups
(e.g., Kakapo Strigops habroptila, the hanging-parrots Loriculus
et al.) could also qualify for family status. Christidis & Boles
(2008) reviewed the evidence and split the psittaciformes into
three families: Cockatoos, Typical Parrots (Psittacidae), and New
Zealand Parrots (Strigopidae, which includes Kakapo). I followed that
arrangement through the 12th ed. Joseph et al. (2013) suggested a
six-way split but Cracraft (2013) reduced this to four families:
Strigopidae, Cacatuidae, Psittacidae, and Psittaculidae. That is the
approach I follow here.
26 Barker et al. (2004)
showed that the New Zealand Wrens were a very early offshoot, basal to
all other passerines.
27 Prum (1993) concluded,
on the basis of syringeal and osteological characters, that the Asities
were embedded within the Broadbill clade and merged them together, but
this was challenged on DNA sequence data by Irestedt et al. (2001).
That study lacked, however, some broadbill genera. HBW took the more
conservative and traditional approach in maintaining the Asities as a
Moyle et al. (2006a)
provided the necessary new research to sort this all out. They showed
that there were two major clades within the Broadbills — (1) a grouping
of the Calyptomenna broadbills of Asia (these are the green
broadbills) and the Smithornis broadbills of Africa (these are
the lowland forest broadbills in Africa), and (2) a grouping of the
remaining Asian broadbills (5 genera) plus Grauer's Broadbill Pseudocalyptomena
graueri (a montane species which is an Albertine Rift endemic),
plus Asities in Madagascar and the Sapayoa of the New World (see note
29). The Broadbills as a traditional family are only monophyletic if
one considers Asities and Sapayoa to be broadbills. The situation
is comparable to the barbet/toucan conundrum in which the options are
either to lump all toucans/barbets together or separate them into
5 families, including elevating Toucan-Barbet to family status. The
SACC chose the batter option with the barbet/toucan assemblage.
The DNA evidence in the
broadbills best supports (in my view) creating two families of
broadbills — the Calyptomenid Broadbills [genera Calyptomena and Smithornis] and the Eurylaimid Broadbills [all other
genera, including Pseudocalyptomena]
— and retaining the Asities and the Sapayoa as separate families.
Finally, AOU, SACC, and Clements have seen the light, and adopted this
same common-sense and commendable approach. Clements coined better
names: the Calyptomenid Broadbills [genera Calyptomena and Smithornis] become the African & Green Broadbills, and the Eurylaimid Broadbills become the Asian & Grauer's Broadbills.
Moyle et al. (2009) showed that the Thamnophilidae are the sister of
all other closely related families, and that this sequence best
represents their relationships. SACC just adopted this new sequence
[antbirds through furnarids] in August 2001, and Clements in the 2012
29 The crescentchests of central & southern South America are not
closely related to the tapaculos, where they have been traditionally
placed (Irestedt et al. 2002, Chesser 2004b). The South American
Checklist Committee has created a new family for this group, the
Genetic work (e.g., Irestedt et al. 2002, Chesser 2004b, and
others) showed that there were three distinct lineages in the
"Formicariidae." The South American and North American checklist
committees have handled this by restricting Formicariidae to just two
genera of antthrushes [Formicarius, Chamaeza]; created the family Grallariidae for all antpittas except the genus Pittasoma;
and assigned the two species of Pittasoma antpitta to the Gnateater
family [Rhinocryptidae]. This seems like only a temporary solution to
me — the two Pittasoma antpittas are huge compared to the tiny
gnateaters; they don't behave like gnateaters; and they may deserve
their own family.
31 Genetic data (Irestedt et al. 2002, 2006, Chesser 2004a) indicates that
the woodcreepers, traditionally considered a family [Dendrocolapidae]
are embedded within the Furnariidae, and within that large group, Geositta and Sclerurus are sister genera that are basal to all Furnariidae (including
dendrocolaptids). The SACC (2008) has lumped the woodcreepers with the
ovenbirds; I simply follow suit here.
The relationships of Sharpbill have been controversial and remain
unresolved. It has been included in the Cotingidae, Tyrannidae, or
Tityridae. Chesser (2004b) found no strong support for any of these
relationships, and Ohlson et al. (2007) found strong evidence against
inclusion of Oxyruncus in the Cotingidae. Thus the "traditional ranking of Oxyruncus
as a monotypic family was the best portrayal of our understanding of
its relationships at that time," said the SACC. Tello et al. (2009)
have confirmed the distinctiveness of Oxyruncus relative to the traditional family groupings but found that the tyrannid genera Onychorhynchus, Myiobius, and Terenotriccus grouped with Oxyruncus, and proposed that these genera be moved to Oxyruncidae.
No action has yet been taken by SACC on that idea; IOC places it among
the Tityridae, although with the three associated 'flycatcher' genera.
Given this continuing uncertainty, it seems best to elevate the
Oxyruncidae as a Family, so that birders continue to be aware of its
uniqueness, but perhaps with the understanding that the Family may, in
due course, be expanded to include Royal Flycatcher and various other
33 The problematic group that includes tityras, becards, mourners and
others has been handled many different ways in recent decades (e.g.,
Ridgely & Tudor 1989). Ericson et al. 2006 proposes the family name
Tityridae for the "Schiffornis assemblage," and they also
include Sharpbill Oxyruncus cristatus in this new family. Barber & Rice (2007) confirmed the monophyly of
the primary elements of this group and also proposed elevation to
family rank. The SACC (2008) has accepted this proposal, and so do I.
However, there is still uncertainty about Sharpbill and SACC (2008) has
provisionally retained it as a family. I merge it with the Tityridae,
following Ericson et al. (2006), as that evidence looks persuasive to
me at this point.
34 The sequence of the
Oscine Passerines (all the rest of the families) is perhaps the most
problematic of all issues. As an American, I am most comfortable with
the general arrangement of AOU (1998), which has also been generally
adopted by SACC, and Clements thus follows suit. These checklists deal only with the New World and do
not address the myriad of problems in arranging the Old World families.
The proposals of Sibley & Monroe (1990) — wrongly adopted by some
field guides — have proved to be partly right but quite wrong in
others. The idea of a monolithic Corvidae that arose solely in
Australasia is both partly right and partly wrong. Nuclear gene
sequencing (Barker et al. 2002) provides some potential directions but
is still preliminary. It is, however, now quite apparent that the
sequence adopted by HBW (and by me in the 5th edition of this web-based
list) was quite out-of-sync with reality.
In this 9th edition I adopt most of the Oscine Passerine
sequence of Gill et al. (2009) except for the final sequence (pipits to
Old World sparrows) where I use a sequence similar to AOU/SACC. It
seems to me that the IOC sequence is better supported by current
literature than Dickinson (2003), which I had used as my primary list
in the 8th edition.
Both the IOC list (Gill et al. 2009) and the
Cracraft/Dickinson (2003) list has multiple genera listed as incertae
sedis; in other words, a cop-out for now. Alas, I want a complete
list even if we have to make our best guesses at this point in time. I
have provisionally elevated a few of those genera to family status.
Others may warrant similar treatment although, for the most part, it
seems likely that most of the 'difficult' genera will eventually go
into established families.
& Monroe (1990, Christidis & Boles (1994, 2008), and Dickinson
(2003) all lump the Australian Chats with the honeyeaters; so do I. HBW
may maintain the Australian Chats as a separate family but the DNA
evidence is that that they deeply embedded within the Honeyeaters.
36 Many lists (e.g.,
Sibley & Monroe 1990, Christidis & Boles 1994) placed the 3
bristlebirds within a broad Pardalotidae that also includes\d the
Australasian warblers [Acanthizinae]. Schodde & Mason (1999)
explained why the Pardalotidae should be a family, separate from the
Acanthizidae (contra Sibley & Monroe 1990); Dickinson (2003)
agreed with this separation and further elevated the Bristlebirds
[Dasyornithidae] to family status. Christidis & Boles (2008) also adopt this approach.
floccosus, Rockwarbler Origma solitaria, and Fernwren Oreoscopus
guttaralis are all now placed within the Acanthizidae [Australasian
Warblers]. Dickinson (2003) takes the same approach to the three
whitefaces Aphelocephala, as well as the New Zealand endemics
Yellowhead Mohoua ochrocephala and Pipipi Finschia
novaeseelandiae that are sometimes placed with whistlers.
37 Cracraft &
Feinstein (2000) published biochemical and morphological evidence that
the three cnemophiline birds-of-paradise (genera Cnemophilus and Lobparadisea) are not closely related to other
birds-of-paradise at all, but are quite removed and somewhere near the
base of the corvoid phylogenetic tree. This persuaded me to elevate
them as a family in my 5th edition on-line family list. Dickinson
(2003) now does this in print and places them here, very far removed
from the birds-of-paradise. Gill et al. (2009) quite properly now call them all Satinbirds.
the berrypeckers to family status, and then making them into two
separate families [Melanocharitidae and Paramythiidae], is a Sibley
& Ahlquist (1990), Sibley & Monroe (1990) innovation based on
DNA-DNA hybridization studies. The first Passerine volume of HBW states
that they plan to follow this approach — so I have the two separate
families here. Dickinson (2003) merges all the berrypeckers into one
family [Melanocharitidae] but there is no explanation. Data published
in Barker et al. (2004) suggests that the two berrypecker groups may
not be closely related. Gill et al. (2009) split them into two
families, but placed the families next to each other in their sequence.
39 Stitchbird Notiomystis cincta, a New Zealand endemic and an
endangered species, has long been considered a Honeyeater. New
molecular evidence shows that it is not related to Honeyeaters; the
closest relatives are the New Zealand Wattlebirds (the Callaeidae). It
has been proposed as a distinct family (Driskell et al. 2007) and I
find the evidence compelling. Gill et al. (2009) agreed.
40 Norman et al. (2009) also found that the New Zealand Mohoua
[Whitehead, Yellowhead] have no close affinities to any current family.
Given what has occurred with Stitchbird (i.e., evidence showed it was
an endemic family of New Zealand) and similarly to New Zealand parrot
[Strigopidae], it seems that the handwriting is on the wall that the
Mohouidae will become a new family in due course.
41 Sibley & Ahlquist
(1990) and Sibley & Monroe (1990) had the whipbirds, wedgebills,
jewel-babblers, rail-babbler, quail-thrushes, and Blue-capped Ifrit Ifrita
kowaldi all within the subfamily Cinclosomatinae in their broad
Corvidae assemblage. Dickinson (2003), presumably on unpublished
DNA sequencing, split most of these into two families: the five
species of quail-thrush Cinclosoma within one family
[Cinclosomatidae] with the whipbirds, wedgebills, jewel-babbler and
rail-babbler in the other family [Eupetidae]. Jønsson et al. (2007) showed that the Rail-Babbler Eupetes macrocerus
was not closely related at all, but was an ancient lineage closer to
Rockfowl and Rockjumpers, and it is given family status here.
al. (2009) used nuclear DNA to determine the relationships in those
groups. They found that Psophodidae should be reserved for just the
whipbirds & wedgebills, leaving the jewel-babblers of New Guinea to be
placed with quail-thrushes in the Cinclosomatidae. I follow their
recommendations. The Ifrit
from New Guinea is considered by some authors as incertae sedis and
placed (with the two melampittas Melampitta)
next to the Birds of Paradise. Norman et al. (2009) showed that Ifrit
had no relationship to the Psophodidae, and seems (like the two
melampittas) be be most closely related to Monarchidae.
Norman et al. (2009), in reviewing the nuclear DNA of many
Australo-Papuan aberrant genera, found that three genera, previously
considered to be in three different families, showed close
relationships with each other and no other groups. These were Crested
Bellbird Oreoica gutturalis of arid Australian scrublands, Rufous-naped "Whistler" Aleadryas rufinucha of New Guinea mountains, and Crested "Pitohui" "Pitohui" cristatus
of New Guinea hill country. Norman et al. (200) suggested that the
relationships of these three were close enough to be united into a
single genus (Oreoica) but preferred instead to resurrect Ornorectes
for the "Pitohui." While they did not formally designate family–level status for
this group, the birds showed no relationship to other families, so I
tentatively erect a new family–level taxon here.
This work, and others, now split the
paraphyletic Pitohuis into four genera — and then place them in four
families! The "true" Pitohuis (all that is left of genus Pitohui), are closely related to Old World orioles, and I tentatively place them there.
Norman et al. (2009) also found that the Daphoenositta
[Pink-faced "Nuthatch", sometimes placed in Sitellas] of New Guinea, was unrelated to current families.
Mottled "Whistler" Rhagologus leucostigma is related to
either woodswallows and allies [Artamidae] or African bush-shrikes.
These is not yet any good place to put these enigmatic birds.
The 'core' lineages appear to be: (a) the core bush-shrikes, (b) the
batises and wattle-eyes, and (c) the rest of the malaconotoids; e.g.
Fuchs et al. (2004). The helmet-shrikes,
vangas, and shrike-flycatchers are all on the same evolutionary branch;
Reddy et al. (2012) and proposed that this lineage be designated the
Vangidae. In doing so, helmetshrikes become a subfamily [Prionopinae]
as to a set comprised of shrike-flycatchers Megabyas & Bias, flycatcher-shrikes Hemipus, wood-shrikes Tephrodornis [Tephrodornithinae]. The two Asian Philentoma are now placed in this expanded Vangidae family.
Dickinson (2003), presumably on unpublished DNA sequencing, created
this new family, and Christidis & Boles (2008) and Gill et al.
(2009) followed. Norman et al. (2009) found that boatbills were a
unique lineage, but waffled on where it belonged. It could conceivably
belong with an expanded Artamidae.
Although Dickinson (2003) separated the woodswallows Artamidae from the
butcherbirds & bell-magpies Cracticidae, and implied that Peltops
was among the latter, Norman et al. (2009) found that these three
lineages formed a single clade; they recommend that Artamidae include
all these groups: woodswallows, Peltops,
and the butcherbirds
& allies. Christidis & Boles (2088) lumped them, but Gill et
al. (2009) continues
to split them, as does HBW. For the moment I continue to split them
into two families, consistent with most world lists. They are quite
different types of birds. Mottled "Whistler" Rhagologus leucostigma may belong with the Cracticidae.
46 Moyle et al. (2006b) published genetic evidence that Bornean
Bristlehead is an isolated relict from the diversification of
shrike-like birds across the Old World tropics. It is in the radiation
that includes vangas, bush-shrikes, helmet-shrikes and allies. I follow the placement of Gill et al. (2009).
The pachycephaline assemblage of Whistlers, Pitohuis, and allies has
been all messed up in prior taxonomies. Jønsson et al. (2008)
and Dumbacher et al. (2008) showed that the genus Pitohui was
polyphyletic; by the time it was sorted out only half of the Pitohuis
remained as even related to pachycephalids, and Norman et al. (2009)
suggest that two of these (P. ferrugineus & P. incertus) be assigned to genus Colluricincla; in other words, they are shrike-thrushes. Further, Mottled "Whistler" Rhagologus leucostigma is not a whistler, but rather it is a malaconotoids, while Olive-flanked "Whistler" Hylocitrea bonensis of Sulawesi is related to waxwings! (Spellman et al. 2008).
(2003) list had its own innovations, elevating the Shrike-Tits
and Shrike-Thrushes & Allies [Colluricinclidae] to family level without discussion.
I had followed those decisions, tentatively, in the 8th edition list
but Norman et al. (2009) appear to suggest that family Pachycephalidae
should include all the pachycephalid whistlers & pitohuis (after
the non-related species are removed), plus the shrike-tits and the
shirke-thrushes & allies. I do so here, although again this is
tentative, awaiting further confirmation and consensus.
48 Reddy &
Cracraft (2007) found that the Pteruthius shrike-babblers were related to vireo and Erpornis, and unequivocally placed them among the Vireonidae. In further research by Reddy (2008) the evidence suggests that Pteruthius diverged ~29 million years ago and Erpornis diverged ~24 mya (comparable to Donacobius and Olive Warbler, considered by most to be Family-level taxa isolated in
the New World, as well as many other family level clades), so I
elevate each lineage to Family status. Peter Kovalik kindly advised
that lumping the two Old World lineages together, as I initially had
intended, would render such a family paraphyletic.
49 The Vireonidae was formerly placed in or next to the nine-primaried
oscines in linear sequences (e.g., Ridgely & Tudor 1989). Genetic
data (e.g., Barker et al. 2002, 2004) have confirmed Sibley &
Ahlquist's (1990) once-controversial finding that the Vireonidae is
part of the Corvida lineage.
On a level equivalent to the finding that Donacobius was an Old World megalurid isolated in the Amazon was the finding that Erpornis zantholeuca
(White-bellied 'Yuhina') of Asia is an Old World relict in a clade with
New World vireos (Cibois 2003, Alström et al. 2006). Reddy & Cracraft (2007) placed
shrike-babblers and Erpornis in Vireonidae, and so have IOC, Clements, etc. But shrike-babblers diverged ~30 mya while Erpornis diverged ~24 mya (Reddy 2008). Given these ancient ages, it is more consistent to place these within their own families.
50 The Magpie-lark and Torrent-lark, formerly considered a separate family
Grallinidae [Mudnest-Builders] are embedded within the Monarchs
(Baverstock et al. 1992, Christidis & Boles 2008). They no longer
warrant even subfamily rank (Dickinson 2003). Other birds thought to be
Monarchs, including the Elminia crested-flycatchers of Africa, the African Erythrocercus flycatchers, the Asian genus Philentoma, the Australasian boatbills in genus Machaerirhynchus and others are not. These now appear in other families [e.g.,
Machaerirhynchidae, Stenostiridae]; Barker et al. (2004), Beresford et
al. (2005), Filardi & Moyle (2005). Blue-capped Ifrit Ifrita
kowaldi may also be a monarch.
Rockfowl and Rockjumpers are early relict offshoots in the passerine
assemblage; Cracraft et al. (2004), Jønsson et al. (2007). Each
group is exceptional and unique. HBW has given Rockfowl family status.
I believe the evidence of early divergence and a long history of
isolation and evolution into unique groups, warrants family status for
each. The enigmatic Rail-Babbler is most closely related to the Rockfowl and
Rockjumpers; Jønsson et al. (2007). Its divergence from them was
so long ago that I believe it warrants family status. It is a unique
taxon. [Clements (2012 update) finally moved Blue-capped Ifrit Ifrita
kowaldi out of the Eupetidae, and to the base of the Pachycephalidae].
52 When HBW began production in the 1990s, there was no intent to list the
Kinglets as a family. The evidence that they are a distinct lineage
developed, though, and by Vol. 11 the HBW series had a family chapter
for them. This location is nearer the base of the
passerine tree than traditionally thought; Alström et al. (2006), Jønsson &
Fjeldså (2006), Barker et al. (2004), Fregin et al. (2012).
53 The Elminia crested-flycatchers, two Asian canary-flycatchers in the genus Culicicapa,
and "fantail in Asia are now formally proposed as family
Stenostiridae [Fairy Flycatchers]; Fuchs et al. (2009), see also
Beresford et al. (2005). The new family may include other species that
have not yet been tested.
54 The enigmatic Hume's Groundpecker Pseudopodoces humilis, traditionally considered a jay, is a terrestrial tit; James et al. (2003), Gill et al. (2005). Many now call it Ground-Tit.
55 Wallcreeper is allied with Nuthatches; e.g., Jønsson &
Fjeldså (2006). Whether to lump them with Nuthatches or maintain
their traditional family status is a matter of opinion, not science. I
prefer the traditional family rank; HBW and Gill et al. (2009) maintained it as well.
56 Beresford et al. (2005) showed that the Nictators were a separate
lineage that diverged long ago. This enigmatic group has been variously
placed in bulbuls or babblers. Fregin et al. (2012) placed it here in the sequence.
57 Initial genetic evidence suggests that Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus was not closely related to the parrotbills with which it has been
traditionally placed; Alström et al. (2006), Jønsson &
Fjeldså (2006), Barker et al. (2004), Cibois (2003). Fregin et al. (2012) place it here in sequence.
58 The Macrosphenidae is a lineage that includes crombecs and
certain African warblers, a group described by Beresford et
al. (2005), and only recently (2011) acknowledged by Clements and others.
59 The break-up of the Old World Warblers is discussed in a separate three-page web set; Alström
et al. (2006) formally proposed a number of the new family names used
here. "Megaluridae" was initially proposed for the Grassbirds, but Locustellidae has priority.
60 The genus Donacobius ("Black-capped
Mockingthrush") of South America is an ancient offshoot of the locustellid warbler group
(Barker 2004, Alström et al. 2006). Some prefer to include Donacobius within the Grassbirds to emphasize its closest relatives, but it has
evolved in isolation for so long that I think it should be considered
it own family [Donacobidae], consistent with the treatment of
other similar situations.
et al. (1999, 2001) showed that there was a distinct radiation of
warbler-like birds in Madagascar eons ago. For the moment, I call them
the Bernieridae [Malagasy Warblers], and this has since been adopted by Clements and IOC.
62 A surprise in the DNA analysis of babblers was that genus Pnoepyga,
which includes 4 species of tiny, short-tailed, terrestrial
"wren-babblers," were not within the babbler evolutionary radiation;
Gelang et al (2009). They did not know exactly where to place this
"long-branch" lineage, but it is clearly not within the other babbler
families. Gelang et al. (2009) proposed the family name Pnoepygidae.
They did not propose an English name of the birds within this new
family. Pnoepyga is just one of a half-dozen genera that have been called Wren-Babblers (e.g., Rimator, Ptiolcichla, Kenopia, Napothera, Spelaeornis),
so the new family must be called something other than just
"wren-babblers." The 2011 update of Clements checklist calls them "cupwings," and I follow.
63 This surprising location for the swallows was revealed using 7 nuclear markers in Reddy et al. (2012).
64 Some of the "Old World Warblers" [the previous Sylviidae] are actually babblers, including the Sylvia
'warblers'. This had implication for the proper use of the "Sylviidae"
name, but that was sorted out satisfactorily. The babblers themselves
an eclectic group of birds that can be handled taxonomically in various
ways. Gelang et al. (2009) proposed setting up five babbler
subfamilies, but various world checklists (e.g., Clements, IOC) and I
initially chose to raise them to Family level. More recently, a better
reasoned and more nuanced position was proposed by Moyle et al. (2012):
the three core babbler clades are best considered subfamilies, but
White-eyes & allies are better considered a family, as are Sylvids.
I now follow that proposal with one addition. I split the main two
sylvid clades into two Families, re-erecting the Paradoxornithidae for
parrotbills & allies.
65 Fregin et al. (2012) found molecular evidence that the enigmatic African species Green Hylia Hylia prasina
was near the long-tailed tits, just had been suggested by Beresford et
al. (2005). Sefc et al. (2003) had found a sister relationship between Hylia and Tit-hylia Pholidornis rushiae,
based on mt DNA. Fregin et al. (2012) considered the elevation of these
two species in family Hyliidae to be "reasonable," but awaited nuclear
DNA evidence on Pholidornis before making that proposal. As
it does seem likely the Hyliidae will be proposed in the future, I
elevate that Family provisionally now.
Fregin et al. (2012) used nuclear DNA evidence to better locate the
taxonomic position of the Cettiidae here, but they also proposed two
offshoot Families: the Scotocercidae for Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta
of north Africa and the Middle East, and the Erythrocercidae for the
three species of "warbler-like flycatchers" in the African genus Erythrocercus.
Scrub Warbler fits well within the morphologically diverse Cettiidae
and has not previously been proposed as anything like a Family-level
taxon. Fregin et al. (2012) propose family status primarily because "it
is separated from [the core] Cettiidae . . . by a long internode." If
the evidence of a "long internode" were to be adopted as a marker for
Family level status, there are a host of similar examples in the
Passerines, including within the families Macrosphenidae and Sylviidae
in their own study, to which they do not apply the same standard. My
feeling is that the "Scotocercidae" is overreaching and not consistent
with modern views of Family level status. However, the three species of
Erythrocercus "flycatchers" are morphologically and ecologically distinctive, and separated more distantly separated from the Cettiidae plus Scotocerca.
The Erythrocercidae proposed by Fregin et al. (2012) might marginally
be on the cusp of Family status (evidence about the age of the lineage
would be useful; the vast majority of passerine families are 20 mya
plus in age of divergence), and so I very tentatively accept it for the
Gill et al. (2009) and Clements (2011) include
Spot-throat Modulatrix stictigula, Dapplethroat Arcanator orostruthus, and Gray-chested Babbler Kakamega poliothorax in this family, as well as the two Promerops sugarbirds. Whether that holds is something to watch in the future.
Fuchs et al. (2006a) showed that the Hyliotas were an early radiation
at the base of the passerine tree. I give family rank to each of these
early lineages, pending more thorough analysis. Whether this status
will survive will depend upon future studies. Gill et al. (2009) gave
it family status and placed it here.
The Muscicapidae includes not only the traditional Old World
Flycatchers, but numerous Old World chats and redstarts that used to be
placed with Thrushes. It is now a huge assemblages containing all
these birds; Sibley & Ahlquist (1990), Dickinson (2003),
Jønsson & Fjeldså (2006). It does not, however,
include the canary-flycatchers in the genus Culicicapa, and a few other genera, that belong to the family Stenostiridae or other families; e.g., Barker et al. (2004).
70 The exact relationships of the Philippine endemic genus Rhabdornis
was not known until Lovette & Rubenstein (2007). They found them to
be the earliest offshoot of the Asian-Pacific clade of starlings, but
after the split of African starlings, thus making Rhabdornises embedded
within the Sturnidae. Zuccon et al.
(2006) had foreshadowed this possibility, which has since been followed
by the IOC list (Gill & Donsker 2010) and Clements.
71 The Oxpeckers have long been considered aberrant Starlings, but they
diverged quite some time ago and are only rather distantly related;
Cibois & Cracraft (2004). Fry & Keith (2000) gave them family
rank, and I followed them several editions ago in this on-line list.
This still seems to be the preferred treatment; e.g., Zuccon et al.
(2006), Lovette & Rubenstein (2007).
72 The Chinese endemic Przevalski's 'Finch'/Pink-tailed 'Bunting' Urocynchramus pylzowi is not closely related to buntings or finches; Groth (2001). It is
placed in a separate clade by Jønsson & Fjeldså
(2006). I gave it preliminary
family status, and so did both Clements and Gill et al. (2009).
73 The A.O.U. (1998) considers Olive Warbler a family. It is an Old World
relict, most closely allied to Accentors, that is isolated in the New
World; Jønsson & Fjeldså (2006).
74 A real surprise discovered while genetic sequencing of "wren-babblers" was that Spotted “Wren-Babbler" Elachura formosa
of the eastern Himalayas was an early offshoot of the lineage leading
to the Bombyciloidea (waxwings and allies). Alström et al. (2014)
proposed Family rank for this lineage, the monotypic Elachuridae. For
the moment I place it here, before the rest of the Bombyciloidea.
75 Another big surprise was the finding that Olive-flanked "Whistler" Hylocitrea bonensis of montane Sulawesi was not a pachycephalid but rather most closely
related to the bombycillids (e.g., Spellman et al. 2008). As stated
above, I prefer to give family rank to each of the bombycillid clades
(waxwings, silky-flycatchers, Palmchat, Hypocolius, and now this one).
Thankfully, so does Gill et al. (2009) and Clements.
Hypocolius is traditionally given family rank. Genetic evidence
confirms that its closest affinities are with waxwings and relatives
(e.g., Spellman et al. 2008). It is equally appropriate to
put all these groups into one family, with multiple subfamilies, or to
maintain separate family rank for each group. I prefer the latter
course, and HBW does as well. Gill et al. (2009) and Clements (2011)
retain all the bombycillid families also. I think that is a much better
77 The A.O.U. (2010) now accepts the Calcariidae as a family, following Jønsson & Fjeldså
The parameters of the Thraupidae [Tanagers] is now much better known;
Barker et al. (2013), Burns et al. (2014). The Galapagos finches and
Bananaquit belong here. Barker et al. proposed a number of new families
in this assemblage. I have provisionally accepted the Rhodinocichlidae,
Mitrospingidae and Phaenicophilidae. Zeledonia [wren-thrush], Teretistris [two Cuban warblers], and Icteria [Yellow-breasted Chat] remain unresolved, and for now remain with the Parulidae.
The Emberizidae must be split into two families or the nine-primaried
passerines become paraphyletic; Barker et al. (2013). The proposed that
the New World Sparrows be split as the Passerellidae.
80 The exact parameters of the Cardinalidae [Cardinals, Grosbeaks &
allies] are not yet known, but it seems that the 'traditional' set of
species assigned to this family is non-monophyletic. Genetic data
published by Klicka et al. (2007) showed that a monophyletic
Cardinalidae would require removal of Saltator and Parkerthraustes and inclusion of Amaurospiza, Granatellus, Piranga, Habia, and Chlorothraupis. This means moving various 'warblers' and 'tanagers' to this group, including the North American 'tanagers' in Piranga [e.g., Summer, Hepatic, Scarlet & Western Tanagers] and moving the
Saltators and others to Thraupidae.
81 The traditional Tanager genera Euphonia and Chlorophonia have been moved from the Thraupidae to the Fringillidae and the SACC
and AOU now list them as a subfamily of Finches. This was based on the
genetic data work of Klicka et al. (2000, 2005), Yuri & Mindell
(2002), and others. It is consistent with aspects of the biology of the
euphonias and chlorophonias with respect to voice, diet, and nesting
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Passeridae ~31 mya. Fjeldså et al. (2010) suggested only
subfamily status. Consistent with the way other similar taxa are
treated, I tentatively place it at Family level.
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