Birds of the World






Totipalmate Swm



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 Aust. Robins
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 OW Flycatchers
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 9-prim. Oscines

   Hawaiian Honycrp
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   NW Warblers
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Gruiformes - Rail-like Birds
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Opisthocomiformes, Turniciformes, Gruiformes
Families: Opisthocomidae, Button-quail, Sunbitterns, Bustands, Cranes, Limpkins, Sungrebes,
    Trumpeters, Seriamas, Kagus, Rails, Mesites
Clapper Rail, Black-crowned Crane, Buff-banded Rail, Eurasian Coot
  Order Gruiformes - Rail-like Birds
(Button-Quail, Cranes, Rails, Bustards, and Allies)
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196 species, 53 genera (Sibley and Ahlquist, 1990). Worldwide, including many oceanic islands but excluding polar regions.
   Gruiform birds are paludicoline (shore-line inhabitants), aquatic, or terrestrial with the anterior toes free or incompletely webbed. They have no crop and are schizognathous (with modifications). There are some variations in the carotid arteries (Type A-1) and flexor tendons (Type 1). The nares are pervious (with exceptions). They have 14 - 20 cervical vertebrae. They have 10 or 11 primaries (rarely 8 or 9 in some rails); There are 12 tail feathers (more in some groups). An aftershaft is present in most. Most lack powder downs. The oil gland is absent, naked or tufted.  Young quickly leave the nest (precocial) except in one group.
  (Order Turniciformes)
   Family Turnicidae - Buttonquail, Hemipodes
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  17 (16) species, 2 genera. Paleotropical, Africa, southern and eastern Asia north to Korea, New Guinea and Australia. Species of Turnix occur in southern Europe, Africa, Madagascar, Asia to the Philippines, Okinawa, Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia, and various southwestern Pacific islands. Ortyxelos (Quail-Plover) is found in sub-Saharan Africa - the warm grasslands of the Old World.
Current studies of DNA-DNA hybridization, sequence data, and structure show them to belong with the Order Charadriiformes. They are an older group in the assemblage.
   Buttonquail are small, quail-like (resembling the Old World Coturnix), and drab. They are terrestrial and run rather than fly. They are cryptically colored. Dichromatism is usually slight. Several species have reversed the role of the sexes - females are larger and more aggressive. They have a small head and short neck. Their body is stout and their tail is short. Wings are short and rounded.
   They are shy and difficult to see. They hide rather than fly and they blend into their surroundings very well. They are usually silent apart from courtship. They live in open grassland, scrub, open forest undergrowth, and cultivated areas. They feed on seeds and small insects.
  The palate is aegithognatous. The humerus is not pneumatic. There is no hallux and no crop. The gizzard and caeca are large. There is a long aftershaft. They are eutaxic. They have 15 cervical vertebrae. Wings possess 10 primaries and there are 12 short tail feathers. The oil gland is tufted. Only the left carotid artery serves the head. The podotheca has a single anterior row of transverse scutes. The syrinx is tracheo-bronchial and the tracheal rings are cartilaginous. The nares are schizorhinal and pervious.
   Some species are polyandrous - the female is brighter and larger and the male and establishes territory and courts the male. Both parents build the nest (varying from a pad of leaves on the ground to a domed structure with a tunnel entrance. The male incubates the 2-7 glossy and variously colored eggs for 12-14 days and tends the nidifugous young. Young become independent after about 2 weeks. The young have two molts by the age of 10 weeks and may breed with 3-5 months old.
   Only the female has a specialized vocal organ used to make sounds during the breeding season.
   The placement of this family in the Gruiformes has been influenced by their supposed relationship with the Plains-wanderer (Pedionomus). However, the Plains-wanderer appears to be a charadriiform while the Turnicidae form a lineage with no close living relatives. The Tree of Life places them in the Order  Charadriiformes.
   Sibley and Ahlquist (1990) place this group between waterfowl and the woodpeckers. Other gruiforms are placed before the Charadriiformes and include the following Families:
  Family Eurypygidae - Sunbitterns
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  1 species, 1 genus (Eurypyga helias). Neotropical - Middle and South America. Tropical swamps and mountain streams.
    The Sunbittern is a medium-sized, thin-necked, fan-tailed; semi-arboreal, bittern-like bird. It hunts fish and other small vertebrates like herons do. The head is small with large eyes and a long neck. The body is slender and the plumage is subdued with fine patterns of black, gray, and brown. Sexes are similar However, the spread wing shows startling red and black eyespots (patterns used in courtship and threat or to startle predators). Their legs are short and unwebbed with long toes. The hallux is incumbent.
   Sunbitterns are reclusive and usually solitary. They hunt like a heron, wading along an edge, then stabbing or grabbing prey. Their voice is a soft, prolonged whistle. They live near streams and rivers in tropical or subtropical forests. They eat fish and other aquatic invertebrates.
   Their pelvic muscles are BXY+. They have an oil gland plus a pair of powder down patches. There is a small aftershaft. The palate is schizorhinal. The caeca are short. The oil gland is bilobed and tufted. Secondaries are diastataxic
   They are monogamous - both parents work on their nest - a bulky platform of mud and leaves placed on a branch near water. They lay 1-3 (2) eggs. Both parents incubate and feed the chicks. Their young are downy and stay in the nest for 3-4 weeks (nicicolous). They are tended by both parents for up to another 2 months.
   Some evidence suggests affinity with the Kagu (below). The Tree of Life includes them in the Neornithes with the Kagu as a sister group and places between the apodiformes-caprimulgiformes and Mesites (the Kagu and mesites also have powder down). 
  Family Otidae - Bustards
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  25 species, 6 genera (Sibley and Monroe, 1990), 26 species in 9 genera (Clements, 2997) or 26 species in 11 genera (Dickinson, 2003, and Harris, 2009). Old World - Southern Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Guinea. Some of the Indian bustards are also called floricans.
   Medium to large terrestrial birds found in open plains and semi-deserts of the Old World. They range from small to large (including some of the most massive flying birds). They are usually shy and difficult to approach, but are often more obvious during breeding activities. They were celebrated by ancient Arabs for being particularly stupid.
   Sexes are alike (males are larger in the more massive species). Their have a stout neck and their head may bear a small crest. Their bills are robust and straight. Their body is robust. and wings are broad and rounded with 18-20 flight feathers. Secondaries are diastataxic and they have 16-20 tail feathers. They are cryptically colored - some with distinctive patterns and crests. They have large aftershafts on their contour feathers and a rosy underdown restricted to unfeathered areas (apteria). In flight, large bustards have extensive white in their wings. Larger species have inflatable neck sacs.
   Their pelvic muscle formula is BXY+. Their nostrils are holorhinal. Their caeca are large with villi in the upper third. They have no hallux, but have a rudimentary penis,  Tarsal scutes are 6-sided. They lack an oil gland.
   Bustards are generally deliberate walkers with their head held erect, collecting food as they walk. They also run chasing prey. Larger birds run to gain momentum when taking wing (but they generally prefer to run than fly). Most are social, living in pairs or small (family) groups (desert species are more solitary). In larger flocks, members may be of the same sex. They inhabit grasslands, desert scrub, dry steppes and managed farmlands. They are omnivorous, feeding on insects and leaves, buds, and shoots. They are also eat larger invertebrates and small vertebrates. They seem to drink only rarely (using and conserving metabolic water effectively?).
   Bustards are usually quiet when not breeding.
   Courtship displays are impressive. Some display in leks and are polygynous. In all but Eupodotis, the female selects the nest site, builds, incubates, and rears the young. They lay 1-2 eggs (up to 6). Incubation lasts 20-35 days and the female may care for young for up to a year.
  Family Gruidae - Cranes
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  15 species, 4 genera. Worldwide except polar areas and the Neotropics (Middle and South America).
   Large, long-legged, long-necked marsh-dwellers that stand tall like herons. However, they fly with their necks outstretched and their feet trailing. They are found in wetlands and open grasslands.
   All are large with males being slightly larger. The head is relatively small and the neck is long and slender. Their bills are long, straight, and pointed. They are schizorhinal. Four species have bare faces or heads and upper neck. Three have facial wattles (two of these have crowns and two others have long head feathers used in display). Body colors vary from gray to white and the head or face is usually their most colorful part. Wings are broad and rounded and they fly and soar gracefully. Their wings are diastataxic and all but one species have ornamental secondaries which hang over the tail. Their legs are long. Their feet have four short toes and the small hallux is elevated. They have a large, bilobed, and tufted oil gland. Their caecae are opposite each other.
   Most are social and they often feed and migrate in flocks. They forage in shallow wetlands. They walk slowly. They feed on a variety of plant materials - bulbs, tubers, shoots. The also eat larger invertebrates and small vertebrates. Six species are sedentary - the rest are migratory. They fly in family groups and small flocks in "V" formations during the day. They may cover 300-500 miles/day and the Eurasian Crane, Grus grus, moves from Siberia to India, crossing the Himalayas. Sandhill Cranes, Grus canadensis, breed in Siberia and move east to North America, wintering in northern Mexico (some reach the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and some winter in central Florida).
   Cranes are monogamous and form life-long pair bonds. Their display involves elaborate dancing with leaps and short flilghts with loud calls. Both sexes participate in nest building - usually on the ground. They lay 1-2 eggs which are incubated for 28-32 days. The young follow the adults to feeding areas and remain in the family group for the remainder of the year.
   Cranes can be classified in two Subfamilies:
        Subfamily Balearnicinae. Crowned-Cranes. Africa, south of the Sahara. They are the only           cranes that nest in trees. 2 species, 1 genus
        Subfamily Gruinae. Typical Cranes. Holarctic, Africa, Australia. 13 species, 1 genus
Black-crowned Crane
Black-crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina.
Discovery Island, Disney World.
Native to the south, central, and
eastern Palaearctic (Africa, Spain,
Europe to Siberia and northern China.
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    Banner - Sandhill Crane. Discovery Island, Disney World. Orlando, FL.