Passerida is, under the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, one of two parvorders contained within the suborder Passeri (standard taxonomic practice would place them at the rank of infraorder). While more recent research suggests that its sister parvorder, Corvida, is not a monophyletic grouping, the Passerida as a distinct clade are widely accepted.

Zonotrichia atricapilla 06634
The golden-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) belongs to the bunting family, not the true sparrows.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Infraorder: Passerida

and see text

Systematics and phylogeny

The Passerida quite certainly consist of the 3 major subclades outlined by Sibley & Ahlquist (1990). However, their content has been much revised. In addition, it has turned out that not all passeridan lineages neatly fit into this arrangement. The kinglets are so distinct that they might actually form a separate infraorder, as they are only slightly less basal than the Corvoidea or the Picathartidae. See Jønsson & Fjeldså (2006) for details on phylogeny.

Superfamily Sylvioidea

Mostly smallish insectivores, distribution centered on the Indo-Pacific region. Few occur in the Americas,[1][2] highest diversity of families probably in subtropical East Asia and tropical Africa. Relationships of the latter are still not well-resolved as of 2019.

Includes the "Old World babblers" and "Old World warbler", two highly paraphyletic "wastebin taxa" which for long united the bulk of the thrush-sized and sparrow-sized sylvioids, respectively. Sometimes, they were even united with the muscicapoids as one huge "family" including most "songsters". Usually skulking in shrubby vegetation, many are extremely drab (most of birdwatchers' "little brown jobs" belong here) and rely on complex and often melodious vocalizations as social signals; others are less accomplished singers but produce a diversity of squeaking and twittering calls. The sexes usually look alike, though in some the males are noticeably brighter, typically with vivid yellow, green and blackish hues. Red plumage is usually due to phaeomelanins rather than carotins, and blue coloration is rarely found in this superfamily. Even in the more colorful species the plumage is usually quite cryptic in the natural habitat, but numerous have contrasting facial patterns.

Superfamily Muscicapoidea

Generally middle-sized insectivores, with frugivory also very important; near-global distribution centered on Old World tropics. One family is endemic to the Americas, two are almost cosmopolitan, but half the families are absent or nearly so from the Americas (and Australia). Many have strong legs and are capable of running on the ground quickly. Some brightly colored (often with dark bluish hues and/or iridescence) and in such cases usually strongly sexually dimorphic; more often, however, sexes rather alike, with drab brownish plumage spotted and streaked (particularly on the underside) for camouflage. Many have highly accomplished, complex, melodious and loud songs; a considerable number is capable of sophisticated vocal mimicry.

  • Cinclidae: dippers
  • Muscicapidae: Old World flycatchers and chats. Monophyly needs confirmation.
  • Turdidae: thrushes and allies. Monophyly needs confirmation.
  • Buphagidae: oxpeckers. Formerly usually included in Sturnidae.
  • Sturnidae: starlings and possibly Philippine creepers. Placement of latter in Muscicapoidea seems robust, but inclusion in Sturnidae requires confirmation; possibly distinct family Rhabdornithidae.
  • Mimidae: mockingbirds and thrashers

Superfamily Passeroidea

Mostly smallish herbivores, near-global distribution centered on Palearctic and Americas. Often pronounced sexual dimorphism with males among the most colorful birds alive. Songs tend to be fairly simple warbling and chirping, with many species relying as much or more on visual mating displays. Includes the nine-primaried oscines (probably a subclade). The basal radiation is mostly found in the Old World, with only Motacillidae naturally occurring in the Americas and Estrildidae in Australia.

The nine-primaried oscines unite most birds commonly called "sparrows" in North American and "finches" in European Englisch, as well as a number of other mostly American groups. They are divided into the fringillid radiation which is largely restricted to the Old World, and the numerous emberizoid families of the Americas, of which in turn only Emberizidae and the Arctic circumpolar Calcariidae have reached the Old World unaided by humans. Besides these, the singular olive warbler from North to Central America apparently represents a very ancient "living fossil" passeroid; its relationships were long disputed as its outward appearance and ecology resemble Setophaga warblers, but its anatomy is in some aspects convergent or symplesiomorphic with sylvioids.

Passerida incertae sedis

Rather basal Passerida, most of which seem to constitute several small but distinct superfamilies. Most occur in Asia, Africa and North America.

  • Possible superfamily "Dicaeoidea" – sunbirds and flowerpeckers. Small frugivores/nectarivores of the Old World tropics, typically sexually dimorphic, with bright and/or iridescent colors in males. Songs are simple chirping whistles.
  • Possible superfamily Bombycilloidea – waxwings and allies. Mid-sized, mostly Holarctic frugivores; plumage silky and dark to greyish-brownish, with little if any sexual dimorphism. Ringing calls and usually quite vocal, but no dedicated song.
  • Possible superfamily Paroidea – titmice and allies. Small, round-headed, with tiny pointed bills. Forage acrobatically among twigs, mostly eating small insects and seeds. Generally Palaearctic, ranging into the Old World tropics and North America. Little if any sexual dimorphism; may be brownish-grey or fairly bright and multicolored. In any case head plumage usually either fairly uniform and greyish, or with black markings, and/or crested. Songs usually repetitive chirped phrases.
    • Paridae: tits, chickadees and titmice
    • Remizidae: penduline tits. Sometimes included in Paridae.
    • Stenostiridae: stenostirids ("flycatcher-tits"). A newly assembled family; sometimes included in Paridae.
  • Possible superfamily Certhioidea (or Sittoidea) – wrens and allies. Insectivores, usually tiny. Expert climbers, most are capable of running up vertical trees or cliffs, some can even climb head-downwards. Predominantly palearctic, but two families entirely or almost so American, and one restricted to the Old World tropics. Little sexual dimorphism; plumage either greyish and fairly uniform at least on the upperside, or brown above, lighter below, and heavily streaked. Clear whistled vocalizations, usually melodic and louder than one would expect from birds of their size. Songs often complex, e.g. with social duetting, and apparently very important in species recognition.
  • Possible monotypic superfamily N.N.: sugarbirds (Promeropidae).
    Relatives of the Australasian honeyeaters; 2 species restricted to the Cape Floral Region and mainly feeding on Proteaceae nectar and associated insects. Medium-sized, with extremely long tails; drab coloration resembling a muscicapoid, sexes almost alike. Vocalizations similar to honeyeaters; males have specialized wing feathers that produce noise during courtship flights.
  • Possible monotypic superfamily N.N.: hyliotas (Hyliotidae; formerly in Sylviidae).
    4 species of smallish insectivorous "warblers" from tropical African woodlands. Two- or three-toned, medium grey to blackish above, more or less intense yellowish below, some species with white wing markings. Sexual dimorphism slight; whistling calls.
  • Possible monotypic superfamily Reguloidea – kinglets (Regulidae).
    Tentatively placed here; may belong in Certhioidea. Some 5 species of tiny rotund Holarctic woodland insectivores. The smallest songbirds, and as a family the smallest living birds altogether by average length.[7] Greenish-brownish above, dull whitish below, and with a bright yellow to red central patch on the top of the head. Rapid twittering high-pitched chirps, easier heard than seen. Unlike hummingbirds which lay only 2 eggs per clutch and can live up to a dozen years or more, kinglets are (together with some small quails) the most k-selected birds alive, with clutch sizes of around 10 eggs, a maximum lifespan of merely around 5 years even in captivity, and an annual mortality of 80%.

Probably not Passerida

These lineages have been assigned to the Passerida in recent times, often based on DNA-DNA hybridization data. However, they are probably more basal among the songbirds and would belong either to the Corvoidea or the allied basal lineages. Most of them are either African or Wallacean groups.

  • Aegithinidae: ioras. Formerly in Irenidae, and may be closely related; possibly Corvoidea closely related to cuckooshrikes.
  • Chloropseidae: leafbirds. Formerly in Irenidae, and may be closely related.
  • Irenidae; fairy-bluebirds. Formerly in "Timaliidae" or Pycnonotidae.
  • Melanocharitidae: berrypeckers and longbills. Formerly in Dicaeidae; possibly Corvoidea closely related to cuckooshrikes.
  • Paramythiidae: tit berrypecker and crested berrypeckers. Formerly in Dicaeidae or Melanocharitidae; possibly Corvoidea closely related to whipbirds.
  • Picathartidae: rockfowl. Formerly in "Timaliidae", but possibly close to rockjumpers (Chaetops) and sometimes considered the basal living branch of the Passerida.
  • Platysteiridae: wattle-eyes or puffback flycatchers. Formerly in Muscicapidae; probably Corvoidea closely related to bush-shrikes.

See also


  1. ^ Fregin, Silke; Haase, Martin; Olsson, Urban; Alström, Per (2012). "New insights into family relationships within the avian superfamily Sylvioidea (Passeriformes) based on seven molecular markers". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 12 (157): 1–12. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-157.
  2. ^ Alström, Per; Olsson, Urban; Lei, Fumin (2013). "A review of the recent advances in the systematics of the avian superfamily Sylvioidea" (PDF). Chinese Birds. 4 (2): 99–131. doi:10.5122/cbirds.2013.0016.
  3. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2018). "Family index". World Bird List Version 8.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  4. ^ Barker, F. K.; Burns, K. J.; Klicka, J.; Lanyon, S. M.; Lovette, I. J. (2013). "Going to extremes: Contrasting rates of diversification in a recent radiation of New World passerine birds". Systematic Biology. 62: 298–320. doi:10.1093/sysbio/sys094.
  5. ^ Barker, F. K.; Burns,, K. J.; Klicka, J.; Lanyon, S. M.; Lovette, I. J. (2015). "New insights into New World biogeography: An integrated view from the phylogeny of blackbirds, cardinals, sparrows, tanagers, warblers, and allies". The Auk. 132 (2): 333–348. doi:10.1642/AUK-14-110.1.
  6. ^ del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E., eds. (2019). "Passeriformes". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  7. ^ Many species of hummingbirds are - at least excepting the bill - shorter and much lighter than kinglets. But while the latter are one small genus and differ little in size among each other, hummingbirds are a diverse order of nonpasseriform birds, including dozens of species which far exceed kinglets in length, and in many cases even in weight.
Australasian robin

The bird family Petroicidae includes roughly 45 species in about 15 genera. All are endemic to Australasia: New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand and numerous Pacific Islands as far east as Samoa. For want of an accurate common name, the family is often called the Australasian robins. Within the family the species are known not only as robins but as scrub-robins and flycatchers. They are, however, only distantly related to the Old World family Muscicapidae (to which other species with such names belong) and the monarch flycatchers (Monarchidae).

Australo-Papuan babbler

The Pomatostomidae (Australo-Papuan or Australasian babblers, also known as pseudo-babblers) are small to medium-sized birds endemic to Australia-New Guinea. For many years, the Australo-Papuan babblers were classified, rather uncertainly, with the Old World babblers (Timaliidae), on the grounds of similar appearance and habits. More recent research, however, indicates that they are too basal to belong the Passerida – let alone the Sylvioidea where the Old World babblers are placed – and they are now classed as a separate family close to the Orthonychidae (logrunners). Five species in one genus are currently recognised, although the red-breasted subspecies rubeculus of the grey-crowned babbler may prove to be a separate species.

Bearded reedling

The bearded reedling (Panurus biarmicus) is a small, sexually dimorphic reed-bed passerine bird. It is frequently known as the bearded tit, due to some similarities to the long-tailed tit, or the bearded parrotbill. It is the only species in the family Panuridae.


Certhioidea is a superfamily belonging to the infraorder Passerida containing wrens and their allies. It was proposed in 2004 by Cracraft and colleagues to house a clade of four families that were removed from the superfamily Sylvioidea.


The "Corvida" were one of two "parvorders" contained within the suborder Passeri, as proposed in the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, the other being Passerida. Standard taxonomic practice would place them at the rank of infraorder.

More recent research suggests that this is not a distinct clade—a group of closest relatives and nothing else—but an evolutionary grade instead. As such, it is abandoned in modern treatments, being replaced by a number of superfamilies that are considered rather basal among the Passeri.

It was presumed that cooperative breeding—present in many or most members of the Maluridae, Meliphagidae, Artamidae and Corvidae, among others—is a common apomorphy of this group. But as evidenced by the updated phylogeny, this trait is rather the result of parallel evolution, perhaps because the early Passeri had to compete against many ecologically similar birds (see near passerine).

Grass warbler

The grass warblers are small passerine birds belonging to the genus Locustella. Formerly placed in the paraphyletic "Old World warbler" assemblage, they are now considered the northernmost representatives of a largely Gondwanan family, the Locustellidae. The genus name Locustella is from Latin and is a diminutive of locusta, "grasshopper". Like the English name, this refers to the insect-like song of some species.These are rather drab brownish "warblers" usually associated with fairly open grassland, shrubs or marshes. Some are streaked, others plain, all are difficult to view. They are insectivorous.

The most characteristic feature of this group is that the song of several species is a mechanical insect-like reeling which gives rise to the group's scientific name.

Species breeding in temperate regions are strongly migratory.

The species are:

Russet bush warbler, Locustella mandelli

Dalat bush warbler, Locustella idonea

Sichuan bush warbler, Locustella chengi

Javan bush warbler, Locustella montis

Taiwan bush warbler, Locustella alishanensis

Bamboo warbler, Locustella alfredi

West Himalayan bush warbler, Locustella kashmirensis

Spotted bush warbler, Locustella thoracica

Baikal bush warbler, Locustella davidi

Chestnut-backed bush warbler, Locustella castanea

Long-tailed bush warbler, Locustella caudata

Long-billed bush warbler, Locustella major

Chinese bush warbler, Locustella tacsanowskia

Brown bush warbler, Locustella luteoventris

Benguet bush warbler, Locustella seebohmi

Friendly bush warbler, Locustella accentor

Savi's warbler, Locustella luscinoides

Lanceolated warbler, Locustella lanceolata

River warbler Locustella fluviatilis

Common grasshopper warbler, Locustella naevia

A fossil acrocoracoid from the Late Miocene (about 11 mya) of Rudabánya (NE Hungary) is quite similar to this bone in the present genus. Given its rather early age (most Passerida genera are not known until the Pliocene), it is not too certain that it is correctly placed here, but it is highly likely to belong to the Locustellidae, or the Sylvioidea at the least. As the grasshopper warblers are the only known locustellid warblers from Europe, it is still fairly likely that the bone piece belongs to a basal Locustella.

Grey hypocolius

The grey hypocolius or simply hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus) is a small passerine bird species. It is the sole member of the genus Hypocolius and it is placed in a family of its own, the Hypocoliidae. This slender and long tailed bird is found in the dry semi-desert region of northern Africa, Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and western India. They fly in flocks and forage mainly on fruits, migrating south in winter.


The hyliotas are a genus, Hyliota, of passerine bird from Africa. The taxonomic position of the genus has been a longstanding mystery. They have been formerly regarded as Old World warblers in the Sylviidae family, or related to the batises and wattle-eyes in the family Platysteiridae, bush-shrikes in the family Malaconotidae, or even Old-World flycatchers in the family Muscicapidae. An analysis of the mitochondrial DNA of the genus and possible relatives found they have no close relatives and are basal in the clade Passerida. They are now often regarded as a family in their own right, Hyliotidae.The hyliotas are found in the canopy of broad-leaf forests. They usually do not live in groups but will join mixed-species feeding flocks with other species. They are territorial and pairs are monogamous, nesting in camouflaged woven nests.


Kischinskinia is an extinct genus of passerine bird from late Miocene deposits of Russia. The type, and only species is Kischinskinia scandens.


The palmchat (Dulus dominicus) is a small, long-tailed passerine bird, the only species in the genus Dulus and the family Dulidae. It is thought to be related to the waxwings, family Bombycillidae, and is sometimes classified with that group. The name reflects its strong association with palms for feeding, roosting and nesting.

The palmchat is the national bird of the Dominican Republic.


A passerine is any bird of the order Passeriformes, which includes more than half of all bird species. Sometimes known as perching birds or – less accurately – as songbirds, passerines are distinguished from other orders of birds by the arrangement of their toes (three pointing forward and one back), which facilitates perching, amongst other features specific to their evolutionary history in Australaves.

With more than 110 families and some 6,409 identified species, Passeriformes is the largest order of birds and among the most diverse orders of terrestrial vertebrates. Passerines are divided

into three clades, Acanthisitti (New Zealand wrens), Tyranni (suboscines) and Passeri (oscine).The passerines contain several groups of brood parasites such as the viduas, cuckoo-finches, and the cowbirds. Most passerines are omnivorous, while the shrikes are carnivorous.

The terms "passerine" and "Passeriformes" are derived from the scientific name of the house sparrow, Passer domesticus, and ultimately from the Latin term passer, which refers to sparrows and similar small birds.

Pink robin

The pink robin (Petroica rodinogaster) is a small passerine bird native to southeastern Australia. Its natural habitats are cool temperate forests of far southeastern Australia. Like many brightly coloured robins of the family Petroicidae, it is sexually dimorphic. Measuring 13.5 cm (5.3 in) in length, the robin has a small thin black bill, and dark brown eyes and legs. The male has a distinctive white crown and pink breast, grey-black upperparts, wings and tail. The belly is white. The female has grey-brown plumage. The position of the pink robin and its Australian relatives on the passerine family tree is unclear; the Petroicidae are not closely related to either the European or American robins but appear to be an early offshoot of the Passerida group of songbirds.

Smoky robin

The smoky robin (Peneothello cryptoleuca) is a species of bird in the Petroicidae family endemic to West Papua, Indonesia. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.

Described by German ornithologist Ernst Hartert in 1874, the smoky robin is a member of the Australian robin family Petroicidae, or Eopsaltridae. Sibley and Ahlquist's DNA-DNA hybridisation studies placed this group in a Corvida parvorder comprising many tropical and Australian passerines including pardalotes, fairy-wrens and honeyeaters as well as crows. However, subsequent molecular research (and current consensus) places the robins as a very early offshoot of the Passerida, or "advanced" songbirds, within the songbird lineage.


A songbird is a bird belonging to the clade Passeri of the perching birds (Passeriformes). Another name that is sometimes seen as a scientific or vernacular name is Oscines, from Latin oscen, "a songbird". This group contains 5000 or so species found all over the world, in which the vocal organ typically is developed in such a way as to produce a diverse and elaborate bird song.

Songbirds form one of the two major lineages of extant perching birds, the other being the Tyranni, which are most diverse in the Neotropics and absent from many parts of the world. The Tyranni have a simpler syrinx musculature, and while their vocalizations are often just as complex and striking as those of songbirds, they are altogether more mechanical sounding. There is a third perching bird lineage, the Acanthisitti from New Zealand, of which only two species remain alive today.

Some evidence suggests that songbirds evolved 50 million years ago in the part of Gondwana that later became India, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and Antarctica, before spreading around the world.

Spotted elachura

The spotted elachura or spotted wren-babbler (Elachura formosa) is a species of passerine bird found in the forests of the eastern Himalayas and Southeast Asia. In the past it was included in the babbler genus Spelaeornis as S. formosus, but molecular phylogenetic studies in 2014 provided evidence that it was distinct from the babblers and part of a basal lineage (one that diverged early) with no other close living relatives within the passerine bird clade Passerida. This led to the creation of a new family, Elachuridae, to accommodate just one species (a monotypic taxon).


Stenostiridae, or the fairy flycatchers, are a family of small passerine birds proposed as a result of recent discoveries in molecular systematics. They are also referred to as stenostirid warblers.


Sylvioidea is a superfamily of passerine birds, one of at least three major clades within the Passerida along with the Muscicapoidea and Passeroidea. It contains about 1300 species including the Old World warblers, Old World babblers, swallows, larks and bulbuls. Members of the clade are found worldwide, but fewer species are present in the Americas.

White-browed robin

The white-browed robin (Poecilodryas superciliosa) is a species of bird in the family Petroicidae. It is endemic to north-eastern Australia. Its natural habitats are forest, woodland and scrub, often near water. It formerly included the buff-sided robin as a subspecies.

The white-browed robin was described by the naturalist John Gould in 1847; the genus name is derived from the Ancient Greek words poekilos "little" and dryas "dryad". The species name is derived from the Latin word supercilium "eyebrow". It is a member of the Australasian robin family Petroicidae, or Eopsaltridae. Sibley and Ahlquist's DNA-DNA hybridisation studies placed this group in a Corvida parvorder comprising many tropical and Australian passerines including pardalotes, fairy-wrens, honeyeaters and crows. However, subsequent molecular research (and current consensus) places the robins as a very early offshoot of the Passerida, or "advanced" songbirds, within the songbird lineage.The white-browed robin has, as its name suggests, a prominent white marking resembling an eyebrow above its eyes. It has olive-brown upperparts, with a white patch on the wings. The underparts are pale, the breast pale grey and belly white. The bill is black and eyes are dark brown.It is endemic to Australia, where it is found from the Cape York Peninsula south to the Burdekin River in Queensland.Breeding occurs from August or September to February or March, with one or two broods per season. The nest is a neat cup made of bark and grass. Spider webs, feathers and fur are used for binding or filling, the outside is decorated by lichen or bits of bark .

The nest is generally placed in a tree fork or hanging vine up a few metres above the ground. A clutch of two eggs is laid. The eggs are cream to buff, and marked with brown splotches and spots, usually concentrated around the large end, and measure 20 by 15 mm.

White-rumped robin

The white-rumped robin (Peneothello bimaculata) is a species of bird in the family Petroicidae. It is found in New Guinea. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.

Described by Italian naturalist Tommaso Salvadori in 1874, the white-rumped robin is a member of the Australasian robin family Petroicidae, or Eopsaltridae. Sibley and Ahlquist's DNA-DNA hybridisation studies placed this group in a Corvida parvorder comprising many tropical and Australian passerines including pardalotes, fairy-wrens and honeyeaters as well as crows. However, subsequent molecular research (and current consensus) places the robins as a very early offshoot of the Passerida (or "advanced" songbirds) within the songbird lineage.Within the species, two subspecies are recognised: the nominate, which is found on the southern side of the main mountain range along New Guinea, and the subspecies vicarius of the Huon Peninsula and Adelbert Range.

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