Birds of the World

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PASSERINES
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      Broadbills
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 OSCINES
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 9-prim. Oscines

   Fringillines
   Carduelines
   Hawaiian Honycrp
   NW Sparrows
   NW Warblers
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Passeriformes, Oscines, Meliphagoida - Honeyeaters, Pardolotes
 
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Meliphagoida (-oidea)
Families: Australian Wrens, Honeaters, Australilan Chats, Pardolotes, Bristlebirds, Scrubwrens, Thornbills
 
See:   
Nectar-feeding passerines
   
  Order Passeriformes - Perching Birds                            
   Suborder Passeres - "Oscines," Song Birds
Wiki     ToL     EoL
Wiki     ToL
  Passerines. Most passerines are smaller than members of non-passerine orders. They have a perching foot with three toes directed forward and the one (the hallux) backward with locking tendons to facilitate perching when their tendons are flexed. All passerines scratch by bringing the foot over the wing. Incubation ranges from 11 -21 days. Young are altricial - they hatch blind with little or no down - and nidicolous - spending 10-15 days or so in the nest.  Subsequent development is rapid and young approach adult mass at fledging. Parents provide care beyond fledging.
Oscines, Suborder Passeres, are our "song birds" with complex syringeal muscles used to produce varied and complex vocalizations.
Meliphagoida - small to medium-sized songbirds of the Australopacific area.
 
  Parvorder (Infraorder) Meliphagoida (Superfamily Meliphagoidea)
   - Honeyeaters and Allies

Largely insectivores and nectivores; distribution centered in Australo-Melanesian and Pacific areas.
   Classification of the taxon follow Sibley and Ahlquist (1990). The Tree of Life places the Meliphagoidea as a sister group to the bowerbirds/Australian treecreepers and Menuroidea and regards these taxa as a sister group to the remaining song birds.
 
  Family Maluridae – Australo-Papuan (Australian) “Wrens”
Wiki     ToL     EoL
  26 (27-28) species, 5 genera. Australia and New Guinea. Their closest relatives are the honeyeaters, pardolotes, and Australian robins.
   These are relatively small, brightly colored, relatively terrestrial birds found in all major habitats. Males may "cock" their tail over their back. They are sexually dichromicatic. They are highly social, living in family groups. Grasswrens are found in rocky or arid areas of coastal or interior Australia (with spinifex grass). Males of several species pluck flower petals and use them in their displays. Their song is complex but melodic. They feed on insects and other small invertebrates (including earthworms). Grasswrens may also eat seeds.
   Fairywrens are monogamous but promiscuous – partners may mate with other individuals and even assist in raising their young  (cooperative breeders). They may have several broods with 2-4 eggs/young which fledge in 10-12 days. Grasswrens and emu-wrens are relatively shy and have one brood with 2-3 young.

   Sibley and Monroe (1990) subdivide the family as follows:
      Subfamily Malurinae 18 species, 4 genera .
          Tribe Malurini - Fairywrens, Treewrens, Russetwrens. 15 species, 3 genera (Clytomyias, Sipodotus, Malurus).
          Tribe Stipiturini - Emuwrens. 3 species, 1 genus (Stipiturus).
      Subfamily Amytornithinae- Grasswrens. 8 species, 1 genus (Amytornis).
 
  Family Meliphagidae - Honeyeaters
Wiki     ToL     EoL
  182 (174 + 5) species, 42 (44) genera.  Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Pacific islands east to Hawaii and north and west of Wallace’s Line (separating Bali and Lombok – one species crosses the line). The family includes the Australian chats (5 species). There is some indication that the Bonin Honeyeater (Apalopteron familiare) - Zosteropidae - belongs in this family
   This is a diverse group - individuals vary from relatively small to mid-size. All have a slender body and short-sturdy legs. Bill shape varies from small and straight to decurved to robust. Some species have ear-tufts, bare gapes, wattles, bearded plumes, and warty facial skin. These are nectivorous birds (adding fruit, manna, honeydew, and small invertebrates - young are fed insects). They move quickly from perch to perch in the outer foliage, stretching acrobatically to feed. They have a brush-tipped tongue for extracting nectar. It is long and can be protruded – the basal part curls up on each side forming two long grooves and the distal area is cleft into 4 parts which form two long grooves along their edge and form the “brush” that licks up nectar. There has probably been extensive co-evolution between the species of this group and the plants they feed on. Most species supplement their diet with insects and other invertebrates and many take some fruit. In one bush on the Atherton Plateau (Queensland) we saw as many as 7 species of honeyeaters feeding within 20 minutes or so. Sorry, no pictures.
   Like hummingbirds in the New World, honeyeaters play a fundamental role in plant pollination with coevolution shaping their bills in adaptation to particular plants or types of flowers. Some also disperse seeds.
   Breeding strategies range from monogamous to polygamous to cooperative breeding. They lay 1-4 eggs incubated for 12-17 days. Young are fed by both parents (and helpers in some species). They fledge in 11-20 days (30 days in hole-nesters)
   The spinebills, currently placed in the Meliphagidae (2 spp, Acanthorhynchus), might be considered a monotypic family (Family Acanthorhynchidae?) if the pardalotes remain a valid group.
 
  (Family Epthianuridae - Australian Chats)
(Epthianura) (Wiki)  (EoL)
(Ashbyia) (Wiki)  (EoL)
  Clements (2007) separates the Australian Chats (5 species, 2 genera - above) from the Meliphagidae. Most authors place the Australian Chats as a subfamily in the Meliphagidae (above).
   These are small, highly terrestrial honeyeaters. They are seldom seen in upper levels. They have a short and slender bill. They share a brush-tipped tongue with other honeyeaters. They are sexually dichromatic. They are usually found in pairs or small groups.
 
 
Nectar-feeding Passerines
Adaptations for feeding on nectar have evolved in several groups of passerines. These include the Nectariniidae (sunbirds, flowerpeckers, sugarbirds), Paramythiidae (tit berrypeckers), Melanocharitidae (berrypeckers), Zosteropidae (white-eyes), Timalidae (babblers), Chloropsis (leafbirds), Thraupidae (tanagers), Drepanidae (Hawaiian honeycreepers), Estrildidae (Zonaeginthus), Artamus (wood-swallows), Paruldae (wood warblers), Icteridae (troupials), and some Ploceidae (weaverbirds). In some groups only a few species tend toward a nectar-adapted tongue but convergence has produced such tongues in many groups of oscines.
   
  Family Pardalotidae – “Pardolotes” (Australo-Papuan Warblers and allies)
Sibley and Ahlquist (1990) group the following 3 families as Subfamilies of the Pardalotidae: Pardalotinae, Dasyornithinae, and Acanthizinae.
 
  Family Pardalotidae – Pardalotes
Wiki     ToL     EoL
  4 species,1 genus (Pardalotus). Australia and Tasmania. Pardolotes are usually viewed as relatives of the flowerpeckers but are actually members of an old endemic Australo-Papuan group that includes thornbills, scrubwrens, scrubtits, mouse-babblers, fernwrens, Speckled Warbler (Pyrrholaemus sagittatus), Redthroat (P. brunneus), fieldwrens, weebills, Australian warblers (Gerygone),  whitefaces, Rock Warbler (Origma solitaria), and Pilotbird (Pycnoptilus floccosus). This group might belong in the Family Meliphagidae.   
   These are small in size and most are drab, but boldly marked. Juveniles have duller plumages. All are mainly insectivorous and glean outer foliage. Pardalotes feed on lerps, a casting from psyllid bugs. They have 10 primaries (the tenth is vestigial) and 9 secondaries (with a vestigial tenth secondary). They have short tails and stubby beaks. They live in pairs or family groups.
   Striated and Forty-spotted Pardalotes, Pardalotus striatus and P. quadragintus, are colonial nesters. Cooperative breeding may also occur. Cup-like nests may be placed in horizontal tunnels excavated in banks of earth (up to a meter in depth), in tree hollows, or burrows in the ground. They lay 2-5 eggs which both parents incubate for 19-23 days. Young fledge in 21-25 days and are cared for by both parents.  
 
  Family Dasyornithidae – Bristlebirds
Wiki     ToL
  3 species, 1 genus (Dasynonis). Endemic to coastal areas in southern Australia. Included in the Acanthizidae by Clements, 2007). Kept in the Pardalotidae by the Encyclopedia of Life.
   Bristlebirds are named for bristles at the base of their bill and resemble scrubirds. They are long-legged thrush-like robust passerines. All are dull colored (the Rufous Bristebird, Dasyornis broadbenti,has some brown on the head). They are shy and  elusive and are found in coastal or montane scrub with fragmented populations. They feed on insects.
   They are monogamous and may mate for life. Nests are globular and placed in low vegetation. They lay 2 eggs.
 
  Family Acanthizidae - Scrubwrens, Thornbills
Wiki     ToL
  61 (65-60) species, 14 genera. Kept in the Pardalotidae by the Encyclopedia of Life. Mohoua (Whitehead, Yellowhead, and Pipipi) are placed in the Acanthizidae by Dickinson (2003) and Harris (2009) and in the Pachycephalidae (Whistlers) by Clements (2007) and in the Tribe Mohouini in the Pachycephaliidae by Sibley and Ahlquist (1990). This is a diverse Australo-Papuan family ranging from New Zealand to the Philippines  and through Melanesia.
   These are delicate birds with a short-thin bill. Most are olive brown (some with contrasting rumps). They can be difficult to identify in the field. Many have 12 tail feathers and ground-feeding species have pale eyes. These are active foliage-gleaners and are mostly insectivorous. They are found in a range of habitats from rain forest to open arid habitats.
   Many are cooperative breeders. They build domed nests - usually built by the female who incubates ~3 eggs for ~19 days. She may be fed by the male or helpers during incubation. Young fledge in 17 days. Some are hosts for smaller parasitic cuckoos

   Sibley and Monroe (1990) subdivide the family as follows: 
         Tribe Sericornithini (Subfamily Sericornithinae) – Scrubwrens 26 species, 10 genera (Pycnoptilus, Origma, Oreoscopus, Crateroscelis,
                Sericornis, Acanthornis, Pyrrholaemus, Chthonicola, Calamanthus, Hylacola
).
         Tribe Acanthizini (Subfamily Acanthizinae) – Thornbills, Whitefaces. 35 species, 4 genera (Acanthiza, Smicrornis, Gerygone,
               Aphelocephala
).