Tyranni: Suboscines

Passeri: Oscines


Muscicapoidea and allies

The 46 Orders














Tyrannidae: Tyrant Flycatchers Vigors, 1825

79 genera, 316 species HBW-9

Even though they have been reduced from their traditional size, mainly by losing the Rhynchocyclidae, the Tyrannidae remain the largest of the suboscine families The Tyrannidae include about one quarter of all of the suboscines.

Although Ohlson et al. (2013) estimate that the Tyrannidae have been a separate lineage since roughly 25-30 million years ago (mid-Oligocene), the current diversification of the group dates to the last 20 million years. The tyrant flycatchers remain among the most difficult to classify and identify, full of cryptic species. Some flycatchers are so cryptic that there remains controversy about whether 1 or 2 species are involved, such as the the Cordilleran and Pacific-slope Flycatchers.

Click for genus-level tree
for Tyrannidae

The new slimmed-down Tyrannidae have a simpler structure than the old Tyrannidae. There are three major and two minor clades designated as subfamilies. The first subamily is Hirundineinae. This is a small subfamily containing only 6 species. Ohlson et al. (2008) considered this group closest to the Tyranninae and Fluvicolinae. In contrast, Tello et al. (2009) found them sister to the Elaeniinae. Rheindt et al.'s (2008a) data put them in a more basal position, sister to the combined Elaeniinae, Tyranninae, and Fluvicolinae. For now, I'm following Ohlson et al. (2013) which puts them in a basal trichotomy with the Elaeniinae and a clade containing the other three subfamilies. Note that the three former Myiophobus included in this subfamily are not closely related to the rest of Myiophobus. They have been given a new genus name, Nephelomyias, by Ohlsson et al. (2009).

The second subfamily contains the Elaenias (Elaeniinae). It has two major branches: Euscarthmini and Elaeniini. Ohlson et al. (2008) and Tello et al. (2009) find very similar results for the Euscarthmini. Rheindt et al. (2008a) is a bit different, but not very strongly so. Sixteen species of Phyllomyias tyrannulets are separated from the main Phyllomyias group (part of Elaeniini) and placed variously in the revived genera Tyranniscus and Xanthomyias. I've also included five tyrannulets from Mercocerculus in Xanthomyias. It's not clear whether these two groups are sisters or nested, and it seemed best to treat them as one genus for now. This reduces Mercocerculus itself to a single species which belongs in Elaeniini.

The arrangement of species within Zimmerius is based on Rheindt et al. (2008c, 2013). Based on Rheindt et al. (2013), Mistletoe Tyrannulet, Zimmerius parvus, Specious Tyrannulet, Zimmerius improbus (inc. tamae), and Venezuelan Tyrannulet, Zimmerius petersi, are split from Paltry Tyrannulet, Zimmerius vilissimus.

Coopmans's Tyrannulet, Zimmerius minimus, comprising minimus and cumanensis has somewhat speculatively been split from Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Zimmerius chrysops, based on comments in Rheindt et al., (2013). I continue include the Loja Tyrannulet, Zimmerius flavidifrons. Rheindt et al., (2014) describe a mosiac population that is linked to both the Golden-faced and Peruvian Tyrannulets. It includes flavidifrons and an undescribed Peruvian population and may end up being lumped in with the Peruvian Tyrannulet. Thus the old chrysops with 5 subspecies has been divided among Coopmans's, Choco, Golden-faced, and Loja Tyrannulets. Finally, Chico's Tyrannulet, Zimmerius chicomendesi, newly described by Whitney et al., (2013c), has been added to the list.

The situation in the Elaeniini is rather complicated, with different analyses giving quite different results. There are five groups, and once again, I rely on the multi-gene analysis of Ohlson et al. (2013) to resolve their order. The clades start with (1) the Tyrannulus and the Myiopagis elaenias and (2) the Elaenia elaenias. These form a trichotomy with a clade consisting of the remaining three groups: (3) Suiriri; (4) the Capsiempis-Phyllomyias group; and (5) the Pseudelaenia-Serpophaga group. See Ericson et al. (2006b), Ohlson et al. (2008), Rheindt et al. (2008a), and Tello et al. (2009) for alternative treatments.

The Chapada Flycatcher, formerly Suiriri islerorum, is correctly named Suiriri affinis. See Kirwan et al. (2014).

Zucker et al. (2016) found that Nesotriccus is embedded in Phaeomyias and that both are very closely related to Phyllomyias. Accordingly, I have merged Nesotriccus (Cocos Flycatcher) and Phaeomyias into Phyllomyias. It would not be unreasonable to go a step further and merge the monotypic Capsiempis with Phyllomyias. However, both names have equal priority and need a first reviser action to decide between them. Since there's not a strong need to merge them, it can wait.

Also based on Zucker et al. (2016), the Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, formerly Phaeomyias murina, has been split into Amazonian Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, Phyllomyias murinus, including wagae, and Northern Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, Phyllomyias incomtus, including eremonomus.

Straneck's Tyrannulet / Gray-crowned Tyrannulet, Serpophaga griseicapilla, has had a somewhat checkered history. It was previously referred to as Serpophaga griseiceps, but the type of griseiceps was actually a juvenile of S. munda (Herzog and Mazur Barnett, 2004). Straneck (2007) gave it the name S. griseiceps. It has also been referred to as Gray-crowned Tyrannulet, and Monte Tyrannulet.

The ordering within Elaenia itself is based on Rheindt et al. (2008b, 2009a), which also indicates that the Tepui Elaenia should be split from the Sierran Elaenia; the Chilean Elaenia from the Sierran Elaenia; the Greater Antillean Elaenia split into Sclater's Elaenia, Elaenia fallax, of Jamaica and the Hispaniolan Elaenia, Elaenia cherriei. Although E. fallax used to be called Jamaican Elaenia, that name is now used for Myiopagis cotta, formerly known as the Cotta Flycatcher, after Cotta Wood, which was near Content, Jamaica. Not all subspecies were analyzed, but the following is a plausible arrangement of the relevant subspecies: Tepui Elaenia, Elaenia olivina, includes davidwillardi; Sierran Elaenia, Elaenia pallatangae, includes intensa, and exsul; Chilean Elaenia, Elaenia chilensis (monotypic) and White-crested Elaenia, Elaenia albiceps, includes griseigularis, diversa, urubambae, and modesta. Although it was not part of the analysis, modesta is distictive and may ultimately be split. Finally, they found that the subspecies sorida should be split from the Highland Elaenia E. obscura. This subspecies, which currently lacks an English name, would be sister to the Great Elaenia, E. dayi. At present, SACC does not recognize it and it is not yet included in the list. Coopmans's Elaenia, Elaenia brachyptera, has been split from Lesser Elaenia, Elaenia chiriquensis, based on Rheindt et al. (2015). Finally, the Myiopagis Elaenias are organized as in Rheindt et al. (2008b, 2009a)

This brings us to the clade including Fluvicolinae and Tyranninae. The first question concerns the position of the Short-tailed Field Tyrant, Muscigralla brevicauda. It has long been a controversial species. Some have even suggested it is an ant-thrush, while others have argued it should be merged into Muscisaxicola (for a discussion, see Lanyon, 1986). DNA analyses are not immune to this controversy. Ohlson et al. (2008) located it basally in Fluvicolinae, and Tello et al. (2009) used a different set of genes to place it basal to both Fluvicolinae and Tyranninae. The combined analysis by Ohlson et al. (2013) agreed with Tello et al. At the other extreme, Chesser (2000), using a third set of genes, found it sister to Muscisaxicola, and there was evidence they should be merged! After examining the table of genetic distances reported by Chesser, I doubt whether Muscigralla is that close to Muscisaxicola. I have placed it sister to Fluvicolinae plus Tyranninae.

The treatment of Tyranninae follows Ohlson et al. (2013), which analyses all of the genes considered in both Ohlson et al. (2008) and Tello et al. (2009). Within Tyranninae, the attilas are basal, followed by the Piratic Flycatcher (Legatus), and the Ramphotrigon flatbills (including Deltarhynchus). The remainder of Tyranninae is divided into a Myiarchus group and a kingbird group. There were some differences between Ohlson et al. (2008) and Tello et al. (2009). I'm following the resolution of these differences proposed in Ohlson et al. (2013), but we should keep in mind that some of the genes are telling incongruent stories and that additional information may change some of the details.

I've put the Lesser Kiskadee in Philohydor as it is not certain that Pitangus is its closest relative. They are sister species in Tello et al. (2009), but the support is not great and Chaves et al. (2008) has them separated. I've also separated the Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Milvulus based on Tello et al. (2009). Once it is out of Tyrannus it reclaims its old name and becomes Milvulus tyrannus, not Milvulus savana. The arrangement of Myiarchus is based on Joseph et al. (2004) and Sari and Parker (2012). They both note some issues within Myiarchus. They may represent incompelete lineage sorting, species boundaries that need to be redrawn, or even cryptic species. One such involves La Sagra's and Stolid Flycatchers, which seem to be mutually paraphyletic (Joseph et al. 2004). Other such problems exist for ferox, phaeocephalus, swainsoni, tyrannulus, and tuberculifer.

Also within the Myiarchus group, Sirystes, Sirystes sibilator has been split into: Sibilant Sirystes, Sirystes sibilator, White-rumped Sirystes, Sirystes albocinereus, Todd's Sirystes, Sirystes subcanescens, and Choco Sirystes, Sirystes albogriseus, based on Donegan (2013).

Based on Garrido et al. (2009), the Loggerhead Kingbird has been split into three species: Western Loggerhead Kingbird, Tyrannus caudifasciatus, Hispaniolan Kingbird, Tyrannus gabbii, and Puerto Rican Kingbird, Tyrannus taylori. The three are easily distinguished by their calls, or with a little care, by their plumage.

For the Fluvicolinae I also follow Ohlson et al. (2013). In contrast, Ohlson et al. (2008) and Tello et al. (2009) obtain different concerning the Fluvicolinae, with Tello et al. much closer to the more recent Ohlson et al. (2013). The positions of two taxa, Colonia and Myiophobus remain obscure. Different genes give markedly different results, and even the 5-gene analysis of Ohlson et al. (2013) was unable to reliably assess their relationships. For that reason I do not place them in any of the three Fluviconine tribes.

In the second part of the Fluvicolini tribe, Silvicultrix is separated from Ochthoeca (see García-Moreno and Arctander, 1998) and several of the former Myiophobus are temporarily designated “Myiophobus”. Moreover, Tumbezia has been merged into Ochthoeca, with Ohlson et al. (2013) pushing me over the line on this. There is still some guesswork in the arrangement of this group, but at the generic level is agrees with Lanyon (1986).

The Contopini are fairly straightforward, with Cicero and Johnson (2002), Ohlson et al. (2008, 2013) and Tello et al. (2009) telling the same basic story. The only real disagreement concerns whether Sayornis and Mitrephanes are sister taxa. Note also that the true Myiophobus are basal in Contipini. Finally, Empidonax taxonomy follows Cicero and Johnson (2002) and Johnson and Cicero (2002).

The treatment of the Xolmini wholly follows Ohlson et al. (2013), which is very similar to Tello et al. (2009). The order in Ohlson et al. (2008) is a bit different, with the biggest difference the position of Lessonia.

The order in Anairetes and Uromyias is based on DuBay and Witt (2012) and Roy et al. (1999). DuBay and Witt use additional genetic information to argue that the two Uromyias species (agilis and agraphia) form a clade sister to the rest of Anairetes, contrary to the conclusions of Roy et al. (1999). Whether to treat them as one genus or two is a matter of opinion. The SACC has endorsed using two genera.

The arrangement of the Knipolegus black-tyrants is based on Hosner and Moyle (2012). Since Eumyiobius would be embedded in Knipolegus, it has been merged into Knipolegus. Hosner and Moyle's results provide support for treating Caatinga Black-Tyrant, Knipolegus franciscanus, as a separate species from White-winged Black-Tyrant, Knipolegus aterrimus, and also Plumbeous Tyrant, Knipolegus cabanisi, separate from Jelski's Black-Tyrant, Knipolegus signatus.

Hirundineinae Tello et al., 2009

Elaeniinae: Elaenine Flycatchers Cabanis & Heine, 1859-60

Euscarthmini: Tyrannulets von Ihering, 1904

Elaeniini: Elaenias, Tit-Tyrants Cabanis & Heine, 1859-60

Muscigrallinae: Field Tyrant Ohlson et al., 2013

Tyranninae: Tyrant Flycatchers Vigors, 1825

Fluvicolinae: Fluvicoline Flycatchers Swainson, 1832-33

Incertae Sedis: Fluvicolinae

Fluvicolini: Fluvicoline Flycatchers Swainson, 1832-33

Contopini: Pewees, Phoebes, Empids Fitzpatrick, 2004

Xolmiini: Ground and Bush Tyrants Tello et al., 2009

Previous Page Next Page