Basal Passeroidea

Core Passeroidea


Tyranni: Suboscines

Passeri: Oscines


Muscicapoidea and allies

The 46 Orders














Core Passeroidea

Many of the basal Passeroidea are nectar-eaters. They seem to have arisen in Africa and spread across the old world tropics to Australasia. So far as I know, none are granivorous. Most rely on nectar, fruit, and insects. That changes with the core Passeroidea. They break out of the tropics into the Palearctic and begin to rely more on seeds, a hallmark of the finches and sparrows.

Peucedramidae: Olive Warbler Wolters, 1980

1 genus, 1 species HBW-15

Until recently, the Olive Warbler was considered one of the wood warblers, although there was some question as to whether it was really a warbler. The genes tell the tale, and the tale is that it is not a warbler (Groth, 1998, 2000; Klicka et al., 2000; Yuri and Mindell, 2002; Ericson and Johansson, 2003). Although it is a relatively basal member of Passeroidea, its exact position remains unclear. In the studies mentioned, it variously grouped with the sunbirds, accentors, and estrildid finches. Most likely, it has no close relatives. Accordingly, it is placed in its own family, Peucedramidae. I follow Päckert et al. (2016) in placing it on a solitary branch sister to the remaining Passereroidea. Some analyses make it sister to Prunellidae (e.g., Groth 1998, 2000; Ericson and Johansson, 2003).

How the Olive Warbler arrived in America is unclear. It may be the last of a family of birds that came to America, or it may have always been a monotypic lineage. I've put it next to the accentors partly because some of the genetic evidence supports it, and partly because it seems plausible that the Palearctic accentors would be sister to an American bird family.

Prunellidae: Accentors Richmond, 1908 (1840)

1 genus, 13 species HBW-10

The position of the accentors is also somewhat controversial. They could be in the Estrildid clade, the Passerid clade, or basal to both (Groth, 1998, 2000; Klicka et al., 2000; Sorenson and Payne, 2001; Yuri and Mindell, 2002; Ericson and Johansson, 2003; Treplin et al., 2008; Fjeldså et al., 2010). The tree here follows Groth (1998), Ericson and Johansson (2003), Fjeldså et al. (2010), and Päckert et al. (2016).

The genus Prunella has been studied by Drovetski et al. (2013). The order here is based on their Figure 3. Although the basal taxa seem reliably placed, there is somewhat less certainty about the shape of the tree starting with Dunnock, probably because the remaining species are all quite closely related. Their results do not support splitting the Black-throated Accentor, but there may be more than one species included in Alpine Accentor.

Estrildid Clade

The next four families form a clade that is sister to the remaining Passeroidea, the finches, sparrows and allies. Except for Prezvalski's Finch, these four families range across the southern portion of the Old World and into Australasia. None are native to the Americas and only Prezvalski's Finch reaches the Palearctic. In other words, at this point the Passeroidea break neatly into two clades. The Estrildid group is primarily southern and Old World, the other group apparently spreads out through the Palearctic to the New World and southern Old World, including Australasia. One branch even reaches the Hawaiian Islands.

Urocynchramidae: Przevalski's Finch Domaniewski, 1918

1 genus, 1 species Not HBW Family (HBW-15)]

The Passeroidea include a new family, Urocynchramidae. This family contains one species, Przevalski's Finch, Urocynchramus pylzowi, aka Pink-tailed Bunting or Rosefinch. It was previously thought to be an Emberizid bunting. Groth (2000) showed it was not an emberizid, and found it basal in the core Passeroidea. However, a more detailed study by Päckert et al. (2016) placed it sister to the Ploceidae (weavers and sparrows). However, alternative analyses had it either within Ploceidae (ND2) or just basal to Ploceidae and the remaining Passeroidea (nuclear). The Przevalski's Finch relies on seeds in winter, and lives in China, in the eastern Palearctic.

Ploceidae: Weavers Sundevall, 1836

15 genera, 117 species HBW-15

Ploceidae tree The genera Plocepasser and Philetairus have sometimes been considered Passeridae, but Groth (1998) placed them firmly in the Ploceidae. The recent analysis of De Silva et al. (2017) also included Pseudonigrita. A fourth genus sometimes included in Passeridae is Histurgops, which has not been included in any genetic analysis.

The overall organization is based on the extensive seven-gene analysis of De Silva et al. (2017). Previous versions of the TiF Ploceidae were based on Päckert et al. (2016), Groth (1998), Prager et al. (2008), and Warren et al. (2012).

There had been a question about whether Amblyospiza belonged with the weavers, but starting with the ND2 analysis of Päckert et al. (2016), it has been clear that it is a weaver. The Compact Weaver is here given its own genus (Pachyphantes). Its method of nest construction is similar to Amblyospiza, and it has been suggested they may be closely related. However, the limited barcoding data from Sonet et al. (2011) suggests it is close to Quela.

One interesting finding by Päckert et al. (2016) and De Silva et al. (2017) is that Ploceus is not monophyletic. Exactly how to regroup them is not entirely clear. De Silva et al. had pretty decent sampling of Ploceus, but it was a large genus and many species were still not included.

Sonet et al. (2011) barcoded many of the species, but did not provide a tree. Raty did, but cautions that the barcoding data is quite limited and that the result has has no real statistical support. Indeed, when compared to De Silva et al. (2017), there are some odd placements. Nonetheless, I have treated close relationships as having some meaning. When combined with traditional taxonomy, this has allowed me to regroup Ploceus. The name Ploceus is retained by the Asian species. The two Madagascan weavers are separated as Nelicurvius, with the African Ploceus either being moved to Malimbus or separated as Textor (meaning weaver). Although Sonet et al.'s data indicate that the Golden Palm Weaver is close to Nelicurvius, I have considerable doubts about this and have included it in Textor.

The use of Textor Temminck 1825 (type cucullatus) rather than Hyphantornis see Oberholser (1921a,b). Oberholser (1921c) argues that Textor Lichtenstein 1823 is a nomen nundem and does not preoccupy Textor Temminck 1825. Textor is sometimes attributed to Temminck 1827, which I suppose is a corrected date for Temminck 1828. According to Oberholser (1921a), Temminck already used Textor in 1825.

I have merged Pseudonigrita into Philetairus as they are closely related as shown by the time calibration in De Silva et al. (2017, Fig 2). I have also merged Brachycope into Euplectes, again based on the barcoding data, and merged Anaplectes into Malimbus based on De Silva et al. (2017).

Finally, the tree in De Silva et al. (2017) encouraged me to acknowledge the split of Aldabra Fody, Foudia aldabrana, from Comoros Fody, Foudia eminentissima.

Viduidae: Indigobirds, Whydahs Cabanis, 1847

2 genera, 20 species HBW-15

The taxonmy follows Sorenson et al. (2004). They also found evidence that the Village Indigobird, V. chalybeata should be split. However, more subspecies need sampling before this is done.

The Barka Indigobird, Vidua larvaticola, is often referred to as the Baka Indigobird. The former is correct. Although Payne orginally used “Baka”, he meant the Hausa word with standard spelling “Barka” (see Payne and Barlow, 2004).

Estrildidae: Estrildid Finches Bonaparte, 1850

34 genera, 143 species HBW-15

Estrildidae tree The taxonomy follows Hooper and Price (2015), Sorenson et al. (2004), and Baptista et al. (1999). Arnaiz-Villena et al. (2009), which uses a smaller data set than Sorenson et al., is in general agreement that the genera below represent clades, but has a different overall arrangement. However, most of their groupings above genus level are poorly supported. One notable exception is their pairing of Euodice and Stagonopleura, where an entirely different arrangement is well-supported in Sorenson et al. Hooper and Price (2015) base their analysis on data from both Sorenson et al. (2004) and Arnaiz-Villena et al. (2009).

I've inserted subfamily names to show the two major clades. Except for Amandava, Estrildinae is Afrotropical. They are also frequently parasitized by Vidua. Lonchurinae is primarily Australasian, but ranges across the Oriental Region and Madagacar to Africa.

Note that White-capped Munia, Lonchura ferruginosa, has been split from Chestnut Munia, Lonchura atricapilla (Restall, 1997). Traditionally, these were considered separate species, until Delacour lumped them with the Tricolored Munia, Lonchura malacca.

Lonchurinae Steiner, 1960 (1847)

Estrildinae Bonaparte, 1850

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