Passerida is, under the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, one of two parvorders contained within the suborder Passeri (standard taxonomic practice would place them at the rank of infraorder). While more recent research suggests that its sister parvorder, Corvida, is not a monophyletic grouping, the Passerida as a distinct clade are widely accepted.
|The golden-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) belongs to the bunting family, not the true sparrows.|
|Scientific classification |
and see text
Systematics and phylogeny
The Passerida quite certainly consist of the 3 major subclades outlined by Sibley & Ahlquist (1990). However, their content has been much revised. In addition, it has turned out that not all passeridan lineages neatly fit into this arrangement. The kinglets are so distinct that they might actually form a separate infraorder, as they are only slightly less basal than the Corvoidea or the Picathartidae. See Jønsson & Fjeldså (2006) for details on phylogeny.
Mostly smallish insectivores, distribution centered on the Indo-Pacific region. Few occur in the Americas, highest diversity of families probably in subtropical East Asia and tropical Africa. Relationships of the latter are still not well-resolved as of 2019.
Includes the "Old World babblers" and "Old World warbler", two highly paraphyletic "wastebin taxa" which for long united the bulk of the thrush-sized and sparrow-sized sylvioids, respectively. Sometimes, they were even united with the muscicapoids as one huge "family" including most "songsters". Usually skulking in shrubby vegetation, many are extremely drab (most of birdwatchers' "little brown jobs" belong here) and rely on complex and often melodious vocalizations as social signals; others are less accomplished singers but produce a diversity of squeaking and twittering calls. The sexes usually look alike, though in some the males are noticeably brighter, typically with vivid yellow, green and blackish hues. Red plumage is usually due to phaeomelanins rather than carotins, and blue coloration is rarely found in this superfamily. Even in the more colorful species the plumage is usually quite cryptic in the natural habitat, but numerous have contrasting facial patterns.
- Leiothrichidae: laughingthrushes and allies
- Pellorneidae: fulvettas, ground babblers
- Timaliidae: babblers, scimitar babblers
- Zosteropidae: white-eyes
- Sylviidae: sylviid babblers
- Cettiidae: cettia bush warblers and allies
- Scotocercidae: streaked scrub warbler
- Erythrocercidae: yellow flycatchers
- Aegithalidae: bushtits
- Hyliidae: doubtfully distinct from Cettiidae; not recognised by Gill and Donsker who consider the genera Hylia and Pholidornis as Incertae sedis.
- Phylloscopidae: leaf warblers and allies.
- Pycnonotidae: bulbuls
- Hirundinidae: swallows, martins
- Bernieridae: Madagascan warblers
- Donacobiidae: black-capped donacobius
- Locustellidae: grassbirds and allies
- Acrocephalidae: reed warblers and allies
- Pnoepygidae: cupwings
- Cisticolidae: cisticolas and allies
- Macrosphenidae: crombecs, African warblers
- Alaudidae: larks
- Panuridae: bearded reedling
- Nicatoridae: nicators
Generally middle-sized insectivores, with frugivory also very important; near-global distribution centered on Old World tropics. One family is endemic to the Americas, two are almost cosmopolitan, but half the families are absent or nearly so from the Americas (and Australia). Many have strong legs and are capable of running on the ground quickly. Some brightly colored (often with dark bluish hues and/or iridescence) and in such cases usually strongly sexually dimorphic; more often, however, sexes rather alike, with drab brownish plumage spotted and streaked (particularly on the underside) for camouflage. Many have highly accomplished, complex, melodious and loud songs; a considerable number is capable of sophisticated vocal mimicry.
- Cinclidae: dippers
- Muscicapidae: Old World flycatchers and chats. Monophyly needs confirmation.
- Turdidae: thrushes and allies. Monophyly needs confirmation.
- Buphagidae: oxpeckers. Formerly usually included in Sturnidae.
- Sturnidae: starlings and possibly Philippine creepers. Placement of latter in Muscicapoidea seems robust, but inclusion in Sturnidae requires confirmation; possibly distinct family Rhabdornithidae.
- Mimidae: mockingbirds and thrashers
Mostly smallish herbivores, near-global distribution centered on Palearctic and Americas. Often pronounced sexual dimorphism with males among the most colorful birds alive. Songs tend to be fairly simple warbling and chirping, with many species relying as much or more on visual mating displays. Includes the nine-primaried oscines (probably a subclade). The basal radiation is mostly found in the Old World, with only Motacillidae naturally occurring in the Americas and Estrildidae in Australia.
The nine-primaried oscines unite most birds commonly called "sparrows" in North American and "finches" in European English, as well as a number of other mostly American groups. They are divided into the fringillid radiation which is largely restricted to the Old World, and the numerous emberizoid families of the Americas, of which in turn only Emberizidae and the Arctic circumpolar Calcariidae have reached the Old World unaided by humans. Besides these, the singular olive warbler from North to Central America apparently represents a very ancient "living fossil" passeroid; its relationships were long disputed as its outward appearance and ecology resemble Setophaga warblers, but its anatomy is in some aspects convergent or symplesiomorphic with sylvioids.
- Passeridae: true sparrows
- Prunellidae: accentors
- Motacillidae: wagtails and pipits
- Urocynchramidae: Przewalski's finch. Recently split from Fringillidae; tentatively placed here.
- Estrildidae: estrildid finches (waxbills, munias, etc.)
- Ploceidae: weavers. Certain members of Ploceidae, such as the long-tailed widowbird are well known for their elaborate sexual ornaments.
- Viduidae: indigobirds and whydahs
- Nine-primaried oscines
- Peucedramidae: olive warbler
- Fringillidae: true finches. Includes the Hawaiian honeycreepers
- Emberizoidea: New World nine-primaried oscine radiation
- Icteridae: grackles, New World blackbirds, and New World orioles
- Parulidae: New World warblers
- Icteriidae: yellow-breasted chat
- Phaenicophilidae: Hispaniolan tanagers
- Zeledoniidae: wrenthrush
- Teretistridae: Cuban warblers
- Thraupidae: tanagers and allies
- Mitrospingidae: mitrospingid tanagers and allies
- Rhodinocichlidae: rosy thrush tanager
- Calyptophilidae: chat-tanagers
- Nesospingidae: Puerto Rican tanager
- Spindalidae: spindalises
- Cardinalidae: cardinals
- Emberizidae: buntings
- Passerellidae: American sparrows
- Calcariidae: snow buntings and longspurs
Passerida incertae sedis
Rather basal Passerida, most of which seem to constitute several small but distinct superfamilies. Most occur in Asia, Africa and North America.
- Possible superfamily "Dicaeoidea" – sunbirds and flowerpeckers. Small frugivores/nectarivores of the Old World tropics, typically sexually dimorphic, with bright and/or iridescent colors in males. Songs are simple chirping whistles.
- Possible superfamily Bombycilloidea – waxwings and allies. Mid-sized, mostly Holarctic frugivores; plumage silky and dark to greyish-brownish, with little if any sexual dimorphism. Ringing calls and usually quite vocal, but no dedicated song.
- Possible superfamily Paroidea – titmice and allies. Small, round-headed, with tiny pointed bills. Forage acrobatically among twigs, mostly eating small insects and seeds. Generally Palaearctic, ranging into the Old World tropics and North America. Little if any sexual dimorphism; may be brownish-grey or fairly bright and multicolored. In any case head plumage usually either fairly uniform and greyish, or with black markings, and/or crested. Songs usually repetitive chirped phrases.
- Possible superfamily Certhioidea (or Sittoidea) – wrens and allies. Insectivores, usually tiny. Expert climbers, most are capable of running up vertical trees or cliffs, some can even climb head-downwards. Predominantly palearctic, but two families entirely or almost so American, and one restricted to the Old World tropics. Little sexual dimorphism; plumage either greyish and fairly uniform at least on the upperside, or brown above, lighter below, and heavily streaked. Clear whistled vocalizations, usually melodic and louder than one would expect from birds of their size. Songs often complex, e.g. with social duetting, and apparently very important in species recognition.
- Possible monotypic superfamily N.N.: sugarbirds (Promeropidae).
Relatives of the Australasian honeyeaters; 2 species restricted to the Cape Floral Region and mainly feeding on Proteaceae nectar and associated insects. Medium-sized, with extremely long tails; drab coloration resembling a muscicapoid, sexes almost alike. Vocalizations similar to honeyeaters; males have specialized wing feathers that produce noise during courtship flights.
- Possible monotypic superfamily N.N.: hyliotas (Hyliotidae; formerly in Sylviidae).
4 species of smallish insectivorous "warblers" from tropical African woodlands. Two- or three-toned, medium grey to blackish above, more or less intense yellowish below, some species with white wing markings. Sexual dimorphism slight; whistling calls.
- Possible monotypic superfamily Reguloidea – kinglets (Regulidae).
Tentatively placed here; may belong in Certhioidea. Some 5 species of tiny rotund Holarctic woodland insectivores. The smallest songbirds, and as a family the smallest living birds altogether by average length. Greenish-brownish above, dull whitish below, and with a bright yellow to red central patch on the top of the head. Rapid twittering high-pitched chirps, easier heard than seen. Unlike hummingbirds which lay only 2 eggs per clutch and can live up to a dozen years or more, kinglets are (together with some small quails) the most k-selected birds alive, with clutch sizes of around 10 eggs, a maximum lifespan of merely around 5 years even in captivity, and an annual mortality of 80%.
Probably not Passerida
These lineages have been assigned to the Passerida in recent times, often based on DNA-DNA hybridization data. However, they are probably more basal among the songbirds and would belong either to the Corvoidea or the allied basal lineages. Most of them are either African or Wallacean groups.
- Aegithinidae: ioras. Formerly in Irenidae, and may be closely related; possibly Corvoidea closely related to cuckooshrikes.
- Chloropseidae: leafbirds. Formerly in Irenidae, and may be closely related.
- Irenidae; fairy-bluebirds. Formerly in "Timaliidae" or Pycnonotidae.
- Melanocharitidae: berrypeckers and longbills. Formerly in Dicaeidae; possibly Corvoidea closely related to cuckooshrikes.
- Paramythiidae: tit berrypecker and crested berrypeckers. Formerly in Dicaeidae or Melanocharitidae; possibly Corvoidea closely related to whipbirds.
- Picathartidae: rockfowl. Formerly in "Timaliidae", but possibly close to rockjumpers (Chaetops) and sometimes considered the basal living branch of the Passerida.
- Platysteiridae: wattle-eyes or puffback flycatchers. Formerly in Muscicapidae; probably Corvoidea closely related to bush-shrikes.
- Fregin, Silke; Haase, Martin; Olsson, Urban; Alström, Per (2012). "New insights into family relationships within the avian superfamily Sylvioidea (Passeriformes) based on seven molecular markers". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 12 (157): 1–12. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-157.
- Alström, Per; Olsson, Urban; Lei, Fumin (2013). "A review of the recent advances in the systematics of the avian superfamily Sylvioidea". Chinese Birds. 4 (2): 99–131. doi:10.5122/cbirds.2013.0016.
- Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2018). "Family index". World Bird List Version 8.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
- Barker, F. K.; Burns, K. J.; Klicka, J.; Lanyon, S. M.; Lovette, I. J. (2013). "Going to extremes: Contrasting rates of diversification in a recent radiation of New World passerine birds". Systematic Biology. 62 (2): 298–320. doi:10.1093/sysbio/sys094.
- Barker, F. K.; Burns, K. J.; Klicka, J.; Lanyon, S. M.; Lovette, I. J. (2015). "New insights into New World biogeography: An integrated view from the phylogeny of blackbirds, cardinals, sparrows, tanagers, warblers, and allies". The Auk. 132 (2): 333–348. doi:10.1642/AUK-14-110.1.
- del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E., eds. (2019). "Passeriformes". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
- Many species of hummingbirds are - at least excepting the bill - shorter and much lighter than kinglets. But while the latter are one small genus and differ little in size among each other, hummingbirds are a diverse order of nonpasseriform birds, including dozens of species which far exceed kinglets in length, and in many cases even in weight.
- Jønsson, Knud A. & Fjeldså, Jon (2006): A phylogenetic supertree of oscine passerine birds (Aves: Passeri). Zool. Scripta 35(2): 149–186. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.2006.00221.x
- Harshman, John (2008). Passerida. Version 23 June 2008 (under construction). in The Tree of Life Web Project. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
- Sibley, Charles Gald & Ahlquist, Jon Edward (1990): Phylogeny and classification of birds. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn.