Birds of the World






Totipalmate Swm



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 Aust. Wrens
 Aust. Robins
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 OW Flycatchers
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 9-prim. Oscines

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   NW Warblers
   NW Blackbirds


Passeriformes, Oscines, Passerida, Passeroidea - Frinigillids
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Passerida, Passeroidea, Nine-primaried Oscines
Families: Olive Warbler, Fringillds, Hawaiian Honeycreepers
American Goldfinch
  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).
Passeroidea - herbivores (many seed-eaters) centered in the Palearctic and New World. Many are bright and sexually dimorphic.
Nine-primaried Oscines. Nine functional primaries in the wing.
  Nine-primaried Oscines - Fringillids
Wiki     ToL
     Clements (2007), Dickinson (2003) and the AOU keep the taxa of 9-primaried Oscines as separate families. Recent study has clarified some of the relationships but suggests that others remain unresolved. Harshman's (2006) discussion of these taxa is found in the Tree of Life. Here, I will treat of these taxa as separate families. The placement of the Bananaquit needs to be clarified. 993 species, 240 genera. Worldwide distribution. 
   In this subclade of passerines, the tenth or outermost primary has been reduced and 9 functional primaries remain.
It appears that the Fringillidae (finches) are the sister group to all other nine-primaried oscines. Calcarius (longspurs, snow buntings) and Plectrophenax (snow buntings) are separated from the Emberizidae and are suggested as sister groups to the remainder of the taxa which are grouped into three clusters: (1) Parulidae (New World warblers) and Icteridae (troupials, blackbirds),  (2) Emberizidae (buntings, New World sparrows),  and (3) Thraupidae (tanagers) and Cardinalidae (cardinals, grosbeaks).  
   Sibley and Monroe (1990) place all of these families of passeroids in the Family Fringillidae with 3 subfamilies and 8 tribes as follows:

Family Fringillidae (240genera, 993 species)
   Subfamily Peucedraminae - Olive Warbler (1species)
   Subfamily Fringillinae
      Tribe Fringilline - Chaffinches, Brambling (1 genus, 3 species)
      Tribe Carduelini - Cardueline finches (20 genera, 136 species)
      Tribe Drepanidini - Hawaiian Honeycreepers (18 genera, 30 species)
   Subfamily Emberizidae (200 genera, 823 species)
      Tribe Emberizini - Emberizine finches, New World buntings and sparrows (32 genera, 156 species)
      Tribe Paruline - Wood (New World) Warblers (25 genera, 115 species)
      Tribe Thraupini - Tanagers (104 genera, 413 species)
      Tribe Cardinalini - Cardinals and buntings (13 genera, 42 species)
      Tribe Icterini - Troupials, New World blackbirds (26 genera, 97 species)
  Family Peucedramidae – Olive (-winged) Warbler
Wiki     EoL
  1 (1) species, 1 genus (Peucedramus taeniatus). Endemic North America family (montane conifers, Arizona south to Nicaragua).
   A small bird with a longer bill than Dendroica (warblers) which is decurved. There are 9 primaries (the tenth is vestigial). Males have an orange-yellow head with a black ear patch, dark upperparts and lilghter underparts with white wing bars. Females are duller with a yellowish head. Olive Warblers forage for insects in conifers and flick their wings like kinglets.
   Its nest is similar to that of a kinglet or gnatcatcher and young foul the nest as do cardueline finches. They are monogamous and nests are placed high in a conifer. They lay 3-4 eggs.
   DNA suggests that it is the only living descendant of the earliest branch in the fringillid clade (Sibley and Ahlquist, 1990). It is considered more primitive than the parulids (wood-warblers).
  Family Fringillidae - Fringillines, Carduelines
Wiki     EoL
  139 species, 21 genera -  Sibley and Monroe (1990). 176 species - Clements (2007). Both of these sources separate the Drepanidae as a separate family (below).
   Dickinson (2003) and Harris (2009) list 168 species and 42 genera in the combined family including the Hawaiian Honeycreepers (Drepanidae).
   Worldwide in sub-Arctic areas except for Australia/New Zealand and in South America outside the Amazon basin.
  Subfamily Fringillinae – Chaffinch, Brambling
Wiki     EoL
  3 species, 1 genus (Fringilla). Eurasia.
   The Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs, is a small fringilline finch with double white wing bars, white outer tail feathers, and a greenish rump. The male has reddish underparts and a gray cap – the female is drabber and greener. Chaffinches are found throughout Europe to western Asia, northwestern Africa, and the Canary Islands. On Tenerife and Grand Canary it coexists with the endemic Blue Chaffinch. F. teydea (Wiki). The Brambling, F. monttifringilla, is widespread in the forests of northern Europe and Asia, migrating to southern Europe, north Africa, Pakistan, India, China, and Japan with strays to Alaska. They prefer coniferous or birch woodland. They form large flocks outside the breeding season, especially after a good beech crop. They eat seeds but feed their young insects. It is similar to the Chaffinch but has a pale rump, a dark back, orange breast, and white belly. Double wing bars are orange or white. Relationships of Fringilla  have been debated. Sibley (1970) concluded that they are more closely related to the cardueline finches than any other group.  
    Common Chaffinch  
Common Chaffinch. Fringilla coelebs.
Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece
Photo by Ed Konrad
                                                    Wiki     EoL
  Subfamily Carduelinae – Goldfinches, Crossbills, etc
  136 species, 20 genera. Widespread finches with Old and New World representatives.
   Relatively small seed-eating birds with conical bills. Among North American birds, the tribe also includes the Pine Grosbeak (Wiki), Carpodacus (Wiki), and the Evening Grosbeak (Wiki)  
   Members of this tribe are highly social, often forming (mixed) flocks outside the breeding season. Most have undulating flights and distinctive flight calls. Unique habits include salt-eating and nest-fouling (most birds remove their young's waste - canduelines do not and white urine (uric acid) accumulates on the rim and around the nest). 
   Carduelines range from northern taiga to temperate areas and south into South America.
   Carduelines are monogamous and nest solitarily. They build an open cup, usually well hidden in dense shrubs or trees (some nest on the ground). Females do most of the building and incubating. The male defends the territory and may feed the incubating hen. Both parents feed the young. Nests are usually well hidden in trees or shrubs. They lay 2-6 eggs and incubate them about two weeks. Young fledge at 11-17 days and families may remain together for a period after fledging (watch your feeder for these families - Goldfinches and House Finches, Carpodacus mexicanus, in particular).
  Some species are flexible in their time of breeding, raising young when food is abundant but not necessarily when the climate is favorable. For example, there are records of crossbills breeding during a mid-winter blizzard when the pine-nut crop has been exceptional.
   Carduelines are sometimes referred to as "winter finches." Rather than exhibiting regular seasonal movements, they tend to be "irruptive," moving farther south or to lower altitudes when food is scarce and remaining in place when it is abundant ("weather movements").  Some of the more northern species like the Purple Finch, C. purpureus, appear in some winters and are absent in others. Many remain north of of our area most winters, preferring colder climates.
   Many carduelines are attracted to seed feeders in winter. In fact, finches are largely vegetarians and seed-eaters. They continue to eat seeds, buds, and other vegetable matter when insects are abundant. Some (like the American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis) breed late in the summer when thistle or composite seeds mature, rather than early when soft-bodied larval insects prevail. They feed their young a regurgitated mixture of seeds. While emberizines forage on the ground, carduelines climb around trees and bushes and on weed stalks and pick the seeds before they fall. Most species forage in flocks.
American Goldfinch
European Goldfinch
American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis.
Clemson. SI Web
European Goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis. Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece. Photo by Ed Konrad.
                                                         Wiki     EoL
  Family Drepanidae – Hawaiian Honeycreepers
  30 (21) species, 18 genera. Hawaiian Islands. The AOU Checklist places this group as a third subfamily in the Family Fringillidae (Subfamily Drepaninae) (see above). Different numbers of species listed by different authors depend on how they treat the extinct representatives (20 or so).
   These endemic species have a wide array of bill types, including finch-like, to slender bills, parrot-like beaks, and long decurved bills. They also vary greatly in their plumage, ranging from bright red to brown with streaks or drab yellow-green. These various types are the result of adaptive radiation - presumably from an ancestral finch - to fill a variety of niches. Species can be separated into three groups:
   (1) Drepanidinae (-ini). Nectivorous. Songs contail nasal squeaks and whistles. Species often have red, black, yellow, white, and orang feathers. The I'iwi, Vestiaria coccinea, and Apapane, Himatione sanguinea, are representatives that are among the most often seen honeycreepers by visitors.
   (2) Hemignathinae (-ini). Green-plumaged with thin bills. Feed on nectar and insects. Species have green, yellow, orange, red, and gray feathers. Representatives include the Nukupu'u, Hemignathus lucidus, 'Amakihi, Hemignathus sp., and 'Akepa, Loxops sp.
   (3) Psittirostribnae (-ini) - Hawaiian finches. Seed eaters with songs like those of carduelins. The Palila, Loxoides bailleui, may be the last remaining species in this group.
   Their ancestor has been long debated but they are 9-primaried oscines. DNA evidence supports their close relationship with carduelines. A number of drepanids have become extinct in historical time (and others are known from fossils). Humans have altered the vegetation at lower elevations and honeycreepers survive in natural forests at higher altitudes or in isolated areas (the Alakai Swamp on Kauai, etc.). The older islands (Kauai) have more species than the newer ones (Hawaii). A few species like the Apapane, are found on all of the islands, but most are restricted to one.   
  Banner - American Goldfinch. Clemson, SC.