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Passeriformes is a Order within the kingdom Animalia. English vernacular for Passeriformes is Passerines. More than 32,926 species and subspecies of Passeriformes have been described.

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes

Origin and evolution

The evolutionary history of the passerine families and the relationships among them remained rather mysterious until the late 20th century. In many cases, passerine families were grouped together on the basis of morphological similarities which, it is now believed, are the result of convergent evolution, not a close genetic relationship. For example, the "wrens" of the Northern Hemisphere, those of Australia, and those of New Zealand look very similar and behave in similar ways, and yet belong to three far-flung branches of the passerine family tree; they are as unrelated as it is possible to be while remaining Passeriformes.[1] Much research remains to be done, but advances in molecular biology and improved paleobiogeographical data gradually are revealing a clearer picture of passerine origins and evolution that reconciles molecular affinities, the constraints of morphology and the specifics of the fossil record.[2] The first passerines are now thought to have evolved in Gondwana at some time in the Paleogene, maybe around the Late Paleocene some 60–55 million years ago.[3] The initial split was between the Tyranni, the songbirds, the Eurylaimides, and the New Zealand "wrens", which must have diverged during a short period of time (some million years at most). The Passeriformes apparently evolved out of a fairly close-knit clade of "near passerines" which contains such birds as the Piciformes and Coraciiformes.[4]

A little later, a great radiation of forms took place out of Australia-New Guinea: the Passeri or songbirds. A major branch of the Passeri, parvorder Passerida, emerged either as the sister group to the basal lineages and corvoids (parvorder Corvida), or more likely as a subgroup of it, and expanded deep into Eurasia and Africa, where a further explosive radiation of new lineages occurred. This eventually led to three major passeridan lineages comprising about 4,000 species, which in addition to the corvoidan clade and numerous minor lineages make up songbird diversity today. Extensive biogeographical mixing happens, with northern forms returning to the south, southern forms moving north, and so on.

Fossil record

Earliest passerines

File:Superb lyrbird in scrub.jpg
Male superb lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae): This very primitive songbird shows strong sexual dimorphism, with a peculiarly apomorphic display of plumage in males.

Perching bird osteology, especially of the limb bones, is rather diagnostic.[5] However, the early fossil record is poor because the first Passeriformes were apparently on the small side of the present size range, and their delicate bones did not preserve well. Queensland Museum specimens F20688 (carpometacarpus) and F24685 (tibiotarsus) from Murgon, Queensland, are fossil bone fragments clearly recognizable as passeriform; they represent two species of about 10 and 20 cm in overall length and prove that some 55 mya, barely into the Early Eocene, early perching birds were recognizably distinct.[6] A quite similar group, the Zygodactylidae (named for their zygodactylous approach to perching) independently arose at much the same time – and possibly from closely related ancestors – in the landmasses bordering the North Atlantic, which at that time was only some two-thirds of its present width. Until the discovery of the Australian fossils mentioned, Palaeospiza bella from the Priabonian Florissant fossil beds (Late Eocene, around 35 mya) was the oldest known passeriform. However, it is now considered a nonpasseriform near passerine. From the Bathans Formation at the Manuherikia River in Otago, New Zealand, MNZ S42815 (a distal right tarsometatarsus of a tui-sized bird) and several bones of at least one species of saddleback-sized bird have recently been described. These date from the Early to Middle Miocene (Awamoan to Lillburnian, 19-16 mya).[7] Modern knowledge about the living passerines' interrelationships (see the [[#Taxonomic list of Passeriformes families|list of families]] below) suggests that the last common ancestor of all living Passeriformes was a small forest bird, probably with a stubby tail[8] and an overall drab coloration, but possibly with marked sexual dimorphism. The latter trait seems to have been lost and re-evolved multiple times in songbird evolution alone, judging from its distribution among the extant lineages.

Sexual dichromatism is very rare among the basal lineages of Passerida, and probably their plesiomorphic condition. But among the youngest passerid clade, the Passeroidea, extremely colorful males and drab females are common, if not the rule. On the other hand, among the basalmost Passeri a considerable number of strongly dimorphic lineages exist, too, such as the very ancient Menuridae, as well as many Meliphagoidea and Corvoidea. Sexual dimorphism is also not uncommon in the Acanthisittidae and prominent in some suboscines such as the Pipridae and Cotingidae.

Early European passerines

Wieslochia fossil

In Europe, perching birds are not too uncommon in the fossil record from the Oligocene onwards, but most are too fragmentary for a more definite placement:

  • Wieslochia (Early Oligocene of Frauenweiler, Germany)
  • Jamna (Early Oligocene of Jamna Dolna, Poland)
  • Resoviaornis (Early Oligocene of Wola Rafałowska, Poland)
  • Passeriformes gen. et sp. idet. (Early Oligocene of Luberon, France) – suboscine or basal[9]
  • Passeriformes gen. et spp. indet. (Late Oligocene of France) – several suboscine and oscine taxa[10]
  • Passeriformes gen. et spp. indet. (Middle Miocene of France and Germany) – basal?[11]
  • Passeriformes gen. et spp. indet. (Sajóvölgyi Middle Miocene of Mátraszõlõs, Hungary) – at least 2 taxa, possibly 3; at least one probably Oscines[12]
  • Passeriformes gen. et sp. indet. (Middle Miocene of Felsõtárkány, Hungary) – oscine?[13]
  • Passeriformes gen. et sp. indet. (Late Miocene of Polgárdi, Hungary) – Sylvioidea (Sylviidae? Cettiidae?)[14]
Wieslochia was possibly not a member of any extant suborder. That not only the Passeri expanded much beyond their region of origin is proven by an undetermined broadbill (Eurylaimidae) from the Early Miocene (roughly 20 mya) of Wintershof, Germany, and the indeterminant Late Oligocene suboscine from France listed above. Even very basal Passeriformes might have been common in Europe until the Middle Miocene, some 12 mya.[15] Extant Passeri superfamilies were quite distinct by that time and are known since about 12–13 mya when modern genera were present in the corvoidean and basal songbirds. The modern diversity of Passerida genera is known mostly from the Late Miocene onwards and into the Pliocene (about 10–2 mya). Pleistocene and early Holocene lagerstätten (<1.8 mya) yield numerous extant species, and many yield almost nothing but extant species or their chronospecies and paleosubspecies.

American fossils

In the Americas, the fossil record is more scant before the Pleistocene, from which several still-existing suboscine families are documented. Apart from the indeterminable MACN-SC-1411 (Pinturas Early/Middle Miocene of Santa Cruz Province, Argentina),[16] an extinct lineage of perching birds has been described from the Late Miocene of California, USA: the Palaeoscinidae with the single genus Paleoscinis. "Palaeostruthus" eurius (Pliocene of Florida) probably belongs to an extant family, most likely passeroidean.

Vernacular Names

  • Arabic: عصفوريات
  • Azerbaijani: Sərçəkimilər
  • Bashkir: Турғай һымаҡтар
  • Belarusian: Вераб'інападобныя
  • Breton: Golvaneg
  • Bulgarian: Врабчоподобни
  • Catalan, Valencian: Passeriforme · Passeriformes
  • Chinese: · 雀形目
  • Chuvash: Çерçи евĕрлисем
  • Croatian: Vrapčarke
  • Czech: Pěvci
  • Danish: Spurvefugle
  • Dutch: Zangvogels
  • English: Passerine · Passerine Birds · Passerine, Perching birds · Passerines
  • Esperanto: Paseroformaj birdoj
  • Estonian: Värvulised
  • Finnish: Varpuslinnut
  • Galician: Paseriformes
  • Georgian: ბეღურასნაირნი
  • German: Sperlingsvögel
  • Greek (modern): Στρουθιόμορφα
  • Hebrew (modern): ציפורי שיר
  • Hungarian: Verébalakúak
  • Icelandic: Spörfuglar
  • Ido: Lanio
  • Indonesian: Burung pengicau
  • Japanese: スズメ目
  • Kazakh: Торғайтәрізділер
  • Korean: 참새목
  • Kurdish: Fîkar
  • Latvian: Zvirbuļveidīgie
  • Limburgian: Zaankveugel
  • Limburgish, Limburgan, Limburger: Zaankveugel
  • Lithuanian: Žvirbliniai paukščiai
  • Luxembourgish, Letzeburgesch: Spatzevullen
  • Macedonian: Врапчевидни
  • Malay: Passerine
  • Northern Sami: Šilljocihcelottit
  • Norwegian: Spurvefugler
  • Norwegian Nynorsk: Sporvefuglar
  • Persian (Farsi): گنجشک‌سانان
  • Polish: Wróblowe
  • Russian: Воробьинообразные
  • Slovak: Vrabcotvaré
  • Slovene: Pevci
  • Swedish: Tättingar
  • Turkish: Ötücü kuşlar
  • Ukrainian: Горобцеподібні
  • Vietnamese: Bộ Sẻ
  • Western Frisian: Moskeftigen


Higher Taxa