The 47 Orders














PASSEREA Jarvis et al., 2014

The remainder of the avian tree is in Passerea. All in all, over 91% of all bird species are in Passerea. There is some residual uncertainty about the composition of three of the higher level groups: Otidae, Gruae, Ardeae. The fourth group, Telluraves, seems on firm ground.

OTIDAE Wagler 1830

Otidae contains two superorders: Otidimorphae and Strisores. Jarvis et al. (2014) found bootstrap support of 91% for Otidae. One should keep in mind that bootstrap numbers are often higher than the true probability. I have less confidence that Otidae is truly a clade than I do for its component parts.


I follow the arrangment of the orders in Jarvis et al. (2014). No one is surprised by a grouping that includes the turacos and cuckoos. What is surprising is that the bustards have sneaked in next to the turacos. Support for this is low (55%), and it would not be surprising if the turacos and cuckoos are eventually found to be sister groups.


Musophagidae: Turacos Lesson, 1828

10 genera, 23 species HBW-4

The arrangement of the Turacos is based on a combination of Veron and Winney (2000) and Njabo and Sorenson (2009). Both use essentially the same data set (except for bannermani), but analyze it differently, with mostly the same results.

As in previous phylogenies of the turacos, there are three subfamilies: Corythaeolinae, Criniferinae, and Musophaginae. Corythaeolinae is monotypic. Musophaginae variously ends up sister to each of the others, so I treat this as an unresolved trichotomy. Within Criniferinae, Veron and Winney (2000) and Njabo and Sorenson (2009) found that the White-bellied Go-away-bird is sister to the rest. This demands a change of genus for it, in this case to Criniferoides (Roberts, 1926).

They also found that the Purple-crested and Ruwenzori Turacos are sister species, and basal in the Musophaginae subfamily. Veron and Winney (2000) also recommend placing them in the same genus. In that case Gallirex has priority.

For the rest, the tree here leaves two main naming options. One is to put them in one genus (Tuaraco). This does a poor job of reflecting phylogeny. The other option is the one followed here, using a more narrowly circumscribed Tuaraco. The name Menelikornis (von Boetticher 1947) applies to the White-cheeked Turaco, while Proturacus (Bates 1923) has priority for the Bannerman's Turaco group. Finally, given the difference in appearance between the two Musophaga and the Yellow-billed Turaco, I perfer to put the latter in a separate genus. It becomes Pseudopoetus (von Boetticher 1947).

Corythaeolinae: Great Blue Turaco Verheyen, 1956

Criniferinae: Go-away-birds and Plantain-eaters Verheyen, 1956

Musophaginae: Turacos Lesson, 1828


The bustards have been reorganized using Cohen (2011, esp. Figs 2.4-2.5), who included all the bustards in a multigene analysis. The arrangment is rather different from the cytochrome-b results of Pitra et al. (2002), which I had previously used. Some uncertainty remains concerning the exact position of Lissotis, Tetrax, and the Otis-Chlamydotis clade.

Both Pitra et al. (2002) and Cohen (2011) support merging Neotis (Sharpe, 1893) into Ardeotis (Le Maout, 1853) and separating Heterotetrax (Sharpe, 1894, type vigorsii) from Eupodotis. Those three species have sometimes been considered a separate genus under this name.

Following Hockey et al. (2005, aka Roberts VII), Barrow's Korhaan, Eupodotis barrowii, is considered a subspecies of White-bellied Bustard, Eupodotis senegalensis.

Otididae: Bustards Rafinesque, 1815

11 genera, 26 species HBW-3


There is no real question that the cuckoos form a clade. The Cuculiformes are placed here following Jarvis et al. (2014).

Cuculidae: Cuckoos Leach, 1820

32 genera, 147 species HBW-4

Very complete information is available on cuckoo taxonomy. Sorenson and Payne (2005) carried out a very extensive study of Cuckoo DNA. The result is the sequence used in Payne's book (2005). After adjusting the species limits for a couple of couas, it is the same sequence that is used here. Click on the graphic below for the genus-level tree.

Although Burchell's Coucal, Centropus superciliosus burchellii is sometimes treated as a separate species, the genetic data examined by Sorenson and Payne (2005) does not support this. The same is true of the Kai Coucal, Centropus phasianinus spilopterus.

The race aeruginosus has been transferred from Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Cacomantis sepulcralis, to Moluccan Cuckoo. As aeruginosus (Salvadori, 1878) has priority over heinrichi (Stresemann, 1931), the Moluccan Cuckoo becomes Cacomantis aeruginosus.

Crotophaginae: Anis Swainson, 1837

Neomorphinae: Ground-Cuckoos, Roadrunners Shelley, 1891

Couinae: Couas Bonaparte, 1854

Centropodinae: Coucals Horsfield, 1823

Cuculinae: Cuckoos Leach 1820

Rhinorthini: Raffles's Malkoha Informal

Phaenicophaeini: Malkohas, Clamator, American Cuckoos Horsfield, 1822

Cuculini: Old World Parasitic Cuckoos Wagler 1830

Previous Page Next Page