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Overview

Brief Summary

Warblers are small songbirds which live up to their nickname: most species sing beautifully. Although you often hear them from a distance, they are difficult to see. Warblers hide among the branches, bushes or reed and their plumage is not usually very noticeable. They have a small beak for eating chiefly insects. The family of warblers is sub-divided into the following families: grass warblers, rufous warblers, such as the blackcap, and leaf warblers, such as the goldcrest and the willow warbler.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:1,167Public Records:431
Specimens with Sequences:929Public Species:86
Specimens with Barcodes:911Public BINs:90
Species:140         
Species With Barcodes:126         
          
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Sylviidae

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Wikipedia

Parrotbill

Parrotbill may also be used as a colloquial shorthand name for the Parrot Crossbill

The parrotbills are a group of peculiar birds native to East and Southeast Asia, though feral populations are known from elsewhere. They are generally small, long-tailed birds which inhabit reedbeds and similar habitat. They feed mainly on seeds, e.g. of grasses, to which their bill, as the name implies, is well-adapted. Living in tropical to southern temperate climates, they are usually non-migratory.

The Bearded Reedling or "Bearded Tit", an Eurasian species long placed here, is more insectivorous by comparison, especially in summer. It also strikingly differs in morphology, and was time and again placed in a monotypic family Panuridae. DNA sequence data supports this.

As names like "Bearded Tit" imply, their general habitus and acrobatic habits resemble birds like the Long-tailed tits. Together with these and others they were at some time placed in the titmouse family Paridae. Later studies found no justification to presume a close relationship between all these birds, and consequently the parrotbills and Bearded Reedling were removed from the tits and chickadees and placed into a distinct family, Paradoxornithidae. As names like Paradoxornis paradoxus - "puzzling, paradox bird" - suggest, their true relationships were very unclear, although by the latter 20th century they were generally seen as close to Timaliidae ("Old World babblers") and Sylviidae ("Old World warblers").

Since 1990 (Sibley & Ahlquist 1990),[1] molecular data has been added to aid the efforts of discovering the parrotbills' true relationships. As Paradoxornis species are generally elusive and in many cases little-known birds, usually specimens of the Bearded Reedling which are far more easy to procure were used for the analyses. Often, the entire group was entirely left out of analyses, being small and seemingly insignificant in the large pattern of bird evolution (e.g. Barker et al. 2002, 2004). The Bearded Reedling tended to appear close to larks in phylogenies based on e.g. DNA-DNA hybridization (Sibley & Ahlquist 1990), or on mtDNA cytochrome b and nDNA c-myc exon 3, RAG-1 and myoglobin intron 2 sequence data (Ericson & Johansson 2003). Placement in a superfamily Sylvioidea which contained birds such as Sylviidae, Timaliidae and long-tailed tits - but not Paridae - was confirmed.

Cibois (2003a) analyzed mtDNA cytochrome b and 12S/16S rRNA sequences of some Sylvioidea, among them several species of Paradoxornis but not the Bearded Reedling. These formed a robust clade closer to the Sylvia typical warblers and some presumed "Old World babblers" such as Chrysomma sinense than to other birds. The puzzle was finally resolved by Alström et al. (2006), who studied mtDNA cytochrome b and nDNA myoglobin intron 2 sequences of a wider range of Sylvioidea: The Bearded Reedling was not a parrotbill at all, but forms a distinct lineage on its own, the relationships of which are not entirely resolved at present. The parrotbills' presence in the clade containing Sylvia, on the other hand, necessitates that the Paradoxornithidae are placed in synonymy of the Sylviidae. Cibois (2003b) even suggested that these themselves were to be merged with the remaining Timaliidae and the latter name to be adopted. This has hitherto not been followed and researchers remain equivocal as many taxa in Sylviidae and Timaliidae remain to be tested for their relationships. In any case, it is most likely that the typical warbler-parrotbill group is monophyletic and therefore agrees with the modern requirements for a taxon. Hence, whether to keep or to synonymize it is entirely a matter of philosophy, as the scientific facts would agree with either approach.

The interesting conclusion from an evolutionary point of view is that the morphologically both internally homogenous and compared to each other highly dissimilar typical warblers and parrotbills form the two extremes in the divergent evolution of the Sylviidae. This is underscored by looking at the closest living relatives of the parrotbills in the rearranged Sylviidae: The genus Chrysomma are non-specialized species altogether intermediate in habitus, habitat and habits between the typical warblers and the parrotbills. Presumably, the ancestral sylviids looked much like these birds. How dramatic the evolutionary changes wrought upon the parrotbills in their adaptation to feeding on grass caryopses and similar seeds were can be seen by comparing them with the typical fulvettas, which were formerly considered Timaliidae and united with the alcippes (Pasquet 2006). These look somewhat like drab fairy-wrens and have none of the parrotbills' adaptations to food and habitat. Yet it appears that the typical fulvettas' and parrotbills' common ancestor evolved into at least two parrotbill lineages independently (Cibois 2003a) & (Yeung et al. 2006). Only the Wrentit, the only American sylviid, resembles the parrotbills much in habitus, though not in color pattern, and of course, as an insectivore, neither in bill shape.

Species of parrotbills[edit]

Paradoxornis is apparently paraphyletic with Conostoma. Deep divergences were found between major clades; basally Conostoma with a clade of large species followed by two clades of smaller species which differ markedly in plumage pattern. This with egg coloration data (Walters 2006) lends considerable support for splitting it up into at least three genera and possibly up to eight. (see [1])

Clade of large species[edit]

Genus Conostoma

Genus Cholornis

Genus Paradoxornis

Eggs white with various amounts of brown sprinkling or speckling. More basal lineage, possibly close to Golden-breasted Fulvetta (Lioparus chrysotis) and/or White-browed Chinese Warbler (Rhopophilus pekinensis).

Genus Psittiparus

Eggs pale cream or bluish with more intense pattern

Clade of small brownish species[edit]

Small unmarked eggs, mid-blue or paler. Possibly close to any or all of Fulvetta (typical fulvettas), Chrysomma, or Wrentit

Genus Chleuasicus

Genus Sinosuthora

Clade of small yellowish species[edit]

Small unmarked eggs, mid-blue or paler. Possibly close to any or all of Fulvetta (typical fulvettas), Chrysomma, or Wrentit

Genus Suthora

Genus Neosuthora

Paradoxornithinae?[edit]

Conceivably, the parrotbills and their closest relatives might be considered a distinct subfamily Paradoxornithinae; they appear to form a fairly well-supported clade though the position in regard to basal Sylviidae is unclear (Cibois 2003a, Jønsson & Fjeldså 2006).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ricklefs, Robert E. "Small clades at the periphery of passerine morphological space." The American Naturalist 165.6 (2005): 651-659.
  • Barker, F. Keith; Barrowclough, George F. & Groth, Jeff G. (2002): A phylogenetic hypothesis for passerine birds: taxonomic and biogeographic implications of an analysis of nuclear DNA sequence data. Proc. R. Soc. B 269(1488): 295-308. doi:10.1098/rspb.2001.1883 PDF fulltext
  • Penhallurick, John. (see [2])
  • Walters, Michael (2006): Colour in birds’ eggs: the collections of the Natural History Museum, Tring. Historical Biology 18(2): 141–204. doi:10.1080/08912960600640887 (HTML abstract)
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Sylviidae

Sylviidae is a family of passerine birds that was part of an assemblage known as the Old World warblers. The family was formerly a wastebin taxon with over 400 species of bird in over 70 genera. The family was poorly defined with many characteristics shared with other families. Advances in classification, particularly helped with molecular data, have led to the splitting out of several new families from within this group. Today the smaller family Sylviidae includes the typical warblers in the genus Sylvia, the parrotbills of Asia (formerly a separate family Paradoxornithidae), a number of babblers formerly placed within the family Timaliidae (which is itself currently being split) and the Wrentit, an unusual North American bird that has been a longstanding taxonomic mystery.

Description[edit]

They are small to medium-sized, with generally thin, pointed bill with bristles at the base, a slender shape and an inconspicuos and mostly plain plumage. Then wings show ten primaries feather, and are rounded and short in non-migratory species.[1]

Species[edit]

Family Sylviidae sensu stricto[edit]

True warblers (or sylviid warblers) and parrotbills. A fairly diverse group of smallish taxa with longish tails. Mostly in Asia, to a lesser extent in Africa. A few range into Europe; one monotypic genus on west coast of North America.

References[edit]

  1. ^ del Hoyo, J. Elliott, A. & Christie, D. (editors). (2006) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 11: Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 84-96553-06-X
  2. ^ Gelang, Magnus; Alice Cibois, Eric Pasquet, Urban Olsson, Per Alström, Per G. P Ericson (2009). "Phylogeny of babblers (Aves, Passeriformes): major lineages, family limits and classification". Zoologica Scripta 38 (3): 225–236. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.2008.00374.x. 
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Old World warbler

The "Old World Warblers" is the name used to describe a large group of birds formerly grouped together in the bird family Sylviidae. The family held over 400 species in over 70 genera, and were the source of much taxonomic confusion. Two families were split out initially, the cisticolas into Cisticolidae and the kinglets into Regulidae. In the past ten years they have been the subject of much research and many species are now placed into other families, including the Acrocephalidae, Cettiidae, Phylloscopidae, and Megaluridae. In addition some species have been moved into existing families or have not yet had their placement fully resolved. A smaller family of warblers, together with some babblers formerly placed in the family Timaliidae and the parrotbills, are retained in a much smaller family Sylviidae.

Contents

Characteristics

Most Old World Warblers are of generally undistinguished appearance, though some Asian species are boldly marked. The sexes are often identical, but may be clearly distinct, notably in the genus Sylvia. They are of small to medium size, varying from 9 to 16 centimetres in length, with a small, finely pointed bill. Almost all species are primarily insectivorous, although some will also eat fruit, nectar, or tiny seeds.[1]

The majority of species are monogamous and build simple, cup-shaped nests in dense vegetation. They lay between two and six eggs per clutch, depending on species. Both parents typically help in raising the young, which are able to fly at around two weeks of age.[1]

Systematics

In the late 20th century, the Sylviidae were thought to unite nearly 300 small insectivorous bird species in nearly 50 genera. They had themselves been split out of the Muscicapidae. The latter family had for most of its existence served as perhaps the ultimate wastebin taxon on the history of ornithology.[citation needed] By the early 20th century, about every insectivorous Old World "songster" known to science had at one point been placed therein, and most continued to do so.

Only after the mid-20th century did the dismantling of the "pan-Muscicapidae" begin in earnest. However, the Sylvidae remained a huge family, with few clear patterns of relationships recognisable. Though by no means as diverse as the Timaliidae (Old World babblers) (another "wastebin taxon" containing more thrush-like forms), the frontiers between the former "pan-Muscicapidae" were much blurred. The largely southern warbler family Cisticolidae was traditionally included in the Sylviidae. The kinglets, a small genus in a monotypic family Regulidae, were also frequently placed in this family. The American Ornithologists' Union includes the gnatcatchers, as subfamily Polioptilinae, in the Sylviidae.[2]

Sibley & Ahlquist (1990) united the "Old World warblers" with the babblers and other taxa in a superfamily Sylvioidea as a result of DNA-DNA hybridisation studies. This demonstrated that the Muscicapidae as initially defined were a form taxon which collected entirely unrelated songbirds. Consequently, the monophyly of the individual "songster" lineages themselves was increasingly being questioned.

More recently, analysis of DNA sequence data has provided information on the Sylvioidea. Usually, the scope of the clade was vastly underestimated and only one or two specimens were sampled for each presumed "family". Minor or little-known groups such as the parrotbills were left out entirely (e.g. Ericson & Johansson 2003, Barker et al. 2004). These could only confirm that the Cisticolidae were indeed distinct, and suggested that bulbuls (Pycnonotidae) were apparently the closest relatives of a group containing Sylviidae, Timaliidae, cisticolids and white-eyes.

In 2003, a study of Timaliidae relationships (Cibois 2003a) using mtDNA cytochrome b and 12S/16S rRNA data indicated that the Sylviidae and Old World babblers were not reciprocally monophyletic to each other. Moreover, Sylvia, the type genus of the Sylvidae, turned out to be closer to taxa such as the Yellow-eyed Babbler (Chrysomma sinense) (traditionally held to be an atypical timaliid) and the Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata), an enigmatic species generally held to be the only American Old World babbler. The parrotbills, formerly considered a family Paradoxornithidae (roughly, "puzzling birds") of unclear affiliations also were part of what apparently was a well distinctive clade.

Cibois suggested that the Sylviidae should officially be suppressed by the ICZN as a taxon and the genus Sylvia merged into the Timaliidae (Cibois 2003b), but doubts remained. Clearly, the sheer extent of the groups concerned made it necessary to study a wide range of taxa. This was begun by Beresford et al. (2005) and Alström et al. (2006). They determined that the late-20th-century Sylviidae united at least 4, but probably as much as major 7 distinct lineages. The authors propose the creation of several new families (Phylloscopidae, Cettiidae, Acrocephalidae, Megaluridae) to better reflect the evolutionary history of the sylvioid group.

The Sylviidae, in turn, receive several taxa from other families. Nonetheless, the now-monophyletic family has shrunk by nearly 80% for the time being, now containing 55 species in 10 genera at least. It is entirely likely however that with further research, other taxa from those still incertae sedis among its former contents, the Timaliidae, the Cisticolinae, or even the Muscicapidae will be moved into this group.

Species

Family Sylviidae sensu stricto

True warblers (or sylviid warblers) and parrotbills. A fairly diverse group of smallish taxa with longish tails. Mostly in Asia, to a lesser extent in Africa. A few range into Europe; one monotypic genus on west coast of North America.

Chrysomma sinense, the Yellow-eyed "Babbler", is a sylviid closely related to parrotbills

Moved to family Timaliidae

Moved to family Cisticolidae

Moved to family Acrocephalidae

Marsh- and tree warblers or acrocephalid warblers. Usually rather large "warblers", most are olivaceous brown above with much yellow to beige below. Usually in open woodland, reedbeds or tall grass. Mainly southern Asia to western Europe and surroundings ranging far into Pacific, some in Africa. The genus limits are seriously in need of revision; either most species are moved into Acrocephalus, or the latter is split up though there is presently insufficient knowledge as to how.

Moved to Malagasy warblers

See Cibois et al. (2001)

Moved to family Megaluridae

New Zealand's Kōtātā or Mātātā, the Fernbird, probably belongs to the Megaluridae

Grass warblers and allies or megalurid warblers. Mid-sized and usually long-tailed species; sometimes strongly patterned but generally very drab in overall coloration. Often forage on the ground. Old World and into Australian region, centred around Indian Ocean; possibly also one species in South America. A not too robustly supported clade that requires further study.

The Black-capped Donacobius Donacobius atricapillus, which was long considered an aberrant wren or mockingbird is apparently quite closely related, and might possibly be considered the only American species of this family.

Moved to family Cettiidae

Typical bush warblers and relatives or cettiid warblers. Another group of generally very drab species, tend to be smaller and shorter-tailed than Megaluridae. Usually frequent shrubland and undergrowth. Continental Asia, and surrounding regions, ranging into Africa and southern Europe.

Uguisu (鶯), the Japanese Bush-warbler (Cettia diphone). See also uguisubari.

Moved to Family Aegithalidae

Moved to family Phylloscopidae

Leaf-warblers or phylloscopid warblers. A group very variable in size, often vivid green coloration above and yellow below, or more subdued with greyish-green to greyish-brown plumage. Catch food on the wing fairly often. Eurasia, ranging into Wallacea and Africa.

"African Warblers"

Also "Sphenoeacus group". An assemblage of usually species-poor and apparently rather ancient "odd warblers" from Africa. Ecomorphologically quite variable. Monophyly requires confirmation.

"Sylviidae" incertae sedis

Taxa that have not been studied. Most are likely to belong to one of Sylvioidea families listed above. Those in the Australian-Pacific region are probably Megaluridae. These taxa are listed in the sequence used in recent years.

  • Genus Chaetornis - Bristled Grassbird. Megaluridae?

Not in Sylvioidea

Entirely unrelated songbirds hitherto placed in Sylviidae

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b Perrins, C. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph. ed. Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. pp. 192–194. ISBN 1-85391-186-0. 
  2. ^ AOU: Check-list of North American Birds
  3. ^ Sefc, K. M., Payne, R. B., & Sorenson, M. D. (2003). Phylogenetic relationships of African sunbird-like warblers: MoHypergerus atriceps, Green Hylia prasina and Tit-hylia Pholidornis rushiae. The Ostrich 74: 8-17.
  4. ^ Johansson, U.S., Fjeldså, J., Bowie, R.C.K. (2008). Phylogenetic relationships within Passerida (Aves: Passeriformes): A review and a new molecular phylogeny based on three nuclear intron markers. Mol. Phylogen. Evol. 48:858-876.
  5. ^ Fuchs, J., Fjeldså, J., Bowie, R. C. K., Voelker, G., & Pasquet, E. (2006). The African warbler genus Hyliota as a lost lineage in the oscine songbird tree: Molecular support for an African origin of the Passerida. Mol. Phylogen. Evol. 39:186-197.
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