Birds of the World

COAST BIRDS
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WORLD BIRDS
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ANECDOTES

  Swallows
 
 
 

TRAITS
 Ratites
 Tinamous
 Cracids/Galli
 Waterfowl
   Screamers
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Totipalmate Swm

   Tropicbirds
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Waders
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 NW Vultures
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   Buttonquail
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 Shorebirds
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   Auks

 Pigeons
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 Coraciae

   Hornbills
   Hoopoes
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   Rollers
   Kingfishers
   Bee-eaters
   Jacamars/Puffbd

 
Pici
   Honeyguides
   Woodpeckers
   Barbets/Toucans

PASSERINES
   NZ WRENS
   OW SUBOSC

      Broadbills
      Pittas

 NW SUBOSC
   NW Flycatchers

   Becards
   Cotingas
   Manakins
   Antbirds
   Ovenbirds
   Woodcreepers
   Antthrushes
   Tapaculos 

 OSCINES
 Lyre-/Scrub-birds
 Bowerbirds
 Aust. Wrens
 Honeyeaters
 Scrubwrens
 Aust. Robins
 Kinglets
 Shrikes
 Vireos
 Whistlers
 Corvids
 Birds-of-Paradse
 OW Orioles
 Cuckoo-shrikes
 Fantails
 Drongos
 Monarchs
 Bush-shrikes
 Wattle-eyes
 Vangas
 Waxwings
 Dippers
 Thrushes
 OW Flycatchers
 Starlings
 Mimids
 Nuthatches
 N Creepers
 Wrens
 Gnatcatchers
 Tits/Parids
 Larks
 Swallows
 Leaf-Warblers
 Bulbuls
 Cisticolas
 White-eyes
 Babblers
 OW Warblers
 Flowerpeckers
 Sunbirds
 OW Sparrows
 Accentors
 Pipits
 Estridids
 Weavers
 Whydahs
 9-prim. Oscines

   Fringillines
   Carduelines
   Hawaiian Honycrp
   NW Sparrows
   NW Warblers
   Tanagers
   Cardinals
   NW Blackbirds

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Passeriformes, Oscines, Passerida, Sylviioidea - Larks, Swallows
 
Skip to:   
Passerida, Sylviioidea
Families: Larks, Swallows, Kinglets
 
Images:   
Chilean Swallow, Gray-breasted Martin
 
Images:   
Eurasian Skylark, Chilean Swallow, Gray-breasted Martin
   
  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.
Passerida. Radiation in Eurasia, Africa and North America (with later colonization of South America). Passerida have two humeral fossae (Corvida have one).
Sylviioidea - drab, monomorphic sleek passerines, centered in Indo-Pacific areas
   
  Larks
Traditionally, larks have been regarded as primitive oscines and were placed at the beginning of the oscines followed by swallows and leaf-warblers. Sibley and Ahlquist (1990) place them as the basal group of the Superfamily Passeroidea. This has been followed by a variety of other classifications. Recent genetic studies, however, suggest that they are closer to swallows, bulbuls, and Old World Warblers. Wikipedia begins the Sylvioidea with larks, followed by swallows and leaf-warblers.  
 
  Family AlaudidaeLarks
Wiki     EoL
EXAMPLE
  91(96-92) species, 17 (19) genera. Old World – most in Africa and Eurasia, one species in northe and eastern Australia and New Guinea. The Horned (Shore) Lark, Eremophila alpestris (Wiki), is found in the New World.
   These are terrestrial birds of open country, grasslands, or deserts with elaborate songs and display flights. Most larks are dull (cryptic). Colors are usually streaked above and lighter below. Larks are small birds with long, pointed wings. Their bill is usually conical. They have 12 tail feathers. The claw of the hallux is usually long and nearly straight. The head often has tufts or crests. There is some dimorphism in size between the sexes. Larks forage on the ground. Those with short bills feed on seeds, these with longer bills prefer small invertebrates. Most feed their young insects but a few seed-eaters feed their young seeds. They have high-pitched, tinkling songs - often complex and varied, some monotonous, some may include mimicry. They sing while displaying. Larks are monogamous and territorial.
   Females build their nests on the ground and lay 1-8 eggs. The female incubates for 9-16 days. Young fledge in 8-14 days but parents continue to care for them for up to a month.
   Larks differ from all other oscines in having an ossified syringeal pessulus and in having “latiplantar” tarsi (rounded behind) - with scutes on the posterior surface as well and the anterior. These are derived conditions that developed after larks diverged from other passeroids.   
   They feed on insects and seeds. They nest on the ground. They lay 3 - 5 eggs,

Skylark

Eurasian Skylark. Alauda arvensis.
Pivot Fields, Dubai UAE.
Photo by Ed Konrad
                                          Wiki     EoL

 
  Family Hirundinidae - River Martins and Swallows
Wiki     EoL
EXAMPLE
 

89 (83-84) species, 14 (20) genera. Worldwide except for the high Arctic. Clements (2007) and Harris (2009) include the River-Martins with the Swallows).
   The distinctive adaptations of swallows set them apart from other oscines and the structure of their tarsi and syringes are unique. The tarsus is short and ridged behind (“acutiplantar”). Their syrinx has more or less complete bronchial rings rather than the half rings with a membrane on their inner face, the condition found in other oscines. Sibley and Ahlquist (1990) place them in the Parvorder Passerida and the Superfamily Sylvioidea. The AOU Checklist places them between larks and tits. See Oscines.
   Sibley and Monroe (1990) divide this family into two Subfamilies:

      Subfamily Pseudochelidoninae – River-Martins (Wiki). 2 species, 1 genus (Pseudochelidon)  Africa. They have more robust legs and feet and a stouter bill than typical swallows and martins.
      Subfamily Hirundininae – Swallows (Wiki). 87 species, 13 genera (Sibley and Monroe, 1990). Worldwide. Those with square tails are often called martens, those with forked-tails swallows. This group probably originated in Africa which retains the greatest diversity. They are found in open areas, often near water and along forest margins.

   Swallows are aerial insect vacuum cleaners subsisting on flying insects caught on the wing. The Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor, is unique in being able to digest the waxy fruits of wax myrtles. Two other species also feed occasionally on fruit.
   The swallow's body is slender and their wings are long and pointed. They have a smooth, flowing flight with long pointed wings (the longest primaries are more than twice as long as the secondaries). They have 10 primaries with the tenth reduced). They have 12 tail feathers and their tails are truncated (square) (martins) or forked (swallows). Their bill is small, triangular, and deeply cleft with rictal bristles and they have a wide gape. The maxilla is notched sub-terminally. Unlike other passerines, all but the river-martins have bronchial rings complete (they are semi-rings in river-martins and other passeres). Their legs are designed for perching, not walking. Their feet are small and the tarsus is short (and sharply ridged behind). Their plumage is compact and is often metallic, usually glossy blue or green above, with light or streaked underparts. There is no sexual dimorphism. They have a single annual molt.
   They often build nests of mud under a sheltering overhang. Man-made structures have enabled many to expand their range. Some nest in burrows in banks. They often nest in large colonies. They may communicate as they feed with weak, twittering calls.
    Their nest is variable - it may be in holes in trees (or nest boxes) (Tree Swallow), in homes in earthen banks (Northern Rough-winged Swallow), or a structure of mud (Barn and Cliff Swallows). Pairs are usually monogamous with both parents providing care. Many species nest colonially. They lay 4-6 eggs which they incubate for 11-20 days. Young fledge in 17-30 days.

 
Chilean Swallow

(Left)
Chilean Swallow, Tachycineta meyeni.
The Cliffs, Patagonia, Chile
                                                  Wiki     EoL

(Right)
Gray-breasted Martin, Progne chalybea. Malecon, Guayaquil, Ecuador 
                                       Wiki       EoL 

Gray-breasted Martin
    Mangrove Swallow  
    Mangrove Swallow, Tachycineta albilinea
Gamboa Rainforest Resort, Panama
Wiki     EoL
Photo by Ed Konrad
 
     
  Kinglets
Sibley and Monroe (1990) place the Family Regulidae here. We have relocated it to the Corvoidea in the Superfamily Reguloidea - along with Fairy Bluebirds and Leafbirds.
 



   
  Banner - Tree Swallows. Bear Island, WMA.