Male Superb Lyrebird
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri

Many, see text

A songbird is a bird belonging to the suborder Passeri of the perching birds (order Passeriformes). Another name that is sometimes seen as scientific or vernacular name is Oscines, from Latin oscen, "a songbird". This group contains some 4000 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. These 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, "living fossils" from New Zealand, of which only two species remain alive today.

There is evidence to suggest that songbirds evolved 50 million years ago in the part of Gondwana that later became Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and Antarctica, before spreading around the world.[1]

This 'bird song' is essentially territorial in that it communicates the identity and whereabouts of an individual to other birds and also signals sexual intentions. It is not to be confused with bird calls, which are used for alarms and contact, and are especially important in birds that feed or migrate in flocks. While almost all living birds give calls of some sort, well-developed songs are only given by a few lineages outside the songbirds. (See Bird vocalization)

Other birds – especially non-passeriforms – sometimes have songs to attract mates or hold territory, but these are usually simple and repetitive, lacking the variety of many oscine songs. The monotonous repetition of the Common Cuckoo or Little Crake can be contrasted with the variety of a Nightingale or Marsh Warbler. On the other hand, although many songbirds have songs which are pleasant to the human ear, this is not invariably the case. Many members of the crow family (Corvidae) communicate with croaks or screeches which sound harsh to humans. Even these, however, have s song of sorts, a softer twitter which is given between courting partners. Finally, even though some parrots (which are not songbirds) can be taught to repeat human speech, vocal mimicry among birds is almost completely restricted to songbirds, some of which – e.g. the lyrebirds or the aptly-named mockingbirds – excel in imitating the sounds of other birds or even environmental noises.



Under the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy this suborder is divided into two "parvorders", Corvida and Passerida (standard taxonomic practice would rank these as infraorders). However, more recent research[citation needed] is casting doubt on the existence of Corvida as a single clade, but given the present lack of any generally accepted redivision of Corvida into two or more groupings at the parvorderial level, the families of suborder Passeri are listed below as being in either Corvida or Passerida.




Juvenile House sparrow
Blue-winged Leafbird (Chloropsis cochinchinensis)

See also


  1. ^ Songbirds Update and Transcript

External links

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