Songbird facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Temporal range: early Eocene to present
Eastern yellow robin (Eopsaltria australis)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri

Songbirds are the main group of birds in the order Passeriformes. They are the suborder Passeri, sometimes called 'oscines' (Latin for songbird). They are a genuine clade.

There are about 4000 species of songbird. Their syrinx (vocal organ) is able to produce varied and beautiful singing. They are a very successful group of birds, in fact they are the dominant birds on Earth today.

It seems songbirds evolved 50 million years ago in the part of Gondwana which later became Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and Antarctica. They then spread around the world.


Their song mainly territorial: it communicates the identity and whereabouts of an individual to other birds. It also signals sexual intentions. Female preference in some populations is be based on the extent of a male's song repertoire. The larger a male's repertoire, the more females a male individual attracts.

Bird calls are also used for alarms and contact. They are especially important in birds that feed or migrate in flocks. Although almost all birds give calls of some sort, well-developed songs are only given by a few lines outside the songbirds.



This is now known to be a paraphyletic group and so it is not used in modern systematics.

  • Menuridae
  • Bowerbirds and Australian treecreepers
  • Meliphagoidea: honeyeaters and allies
  • Australopapuan babblers
    • Pomatostomidae: Australasian babblers
  • Logrunners
    • Orthonychidae: logrunners


This is accepted as a clade.

  • Petroicidae: Australian robins
  • Alaudidae: larks
  • Chloropseidae: leafbirds
  • Aegithinidae: ioras
  • Picathartidae: rockfowl
  • Eupetidae: rail-babbler
  • Bombycillidae: waxwings and allies
  • Ptilogonatidae: silky flycatchers
  • Cinclidae: dippers
  • Motacillidae: wagtails and pipits
  • Prunellidae: accentor
  • Melanocharitidae: berrypeckers and longbills
  • Paramythiidae: tit berrypecker and crested berrypeckers
  • Passeridae: true sparrows
  • Estrildidae: estrildid finches (waxbills, munias, etc.)
  • Parulidae: New World warblers
  • Thraupidae: tanagers and allies
  • Peucedramidae: olive warbler
  • Fringillidae: true finches
  • Cardinalidae: cardinals
  • Drepanididae: Hawaiian honeycreepers
  • Emberizidae: buntings and American sparrows
  • Nectariniidae: sunbirds
  • Dicaeidae: flowerpeckers
  • Mimidae: mockingbirds and thrashers
  • Sittidae: nuthatches
  • Certhiidae: treecreepers
  • Troglodytidae: wrens
  • Polioptilidae: gnatcatchers
  • Paridae: tits, chickadees and titmice
  • Aegithalidae: long-tailed tits
  • Hirundinidae: swallows and martins
  • Regulidae: kinglets
  • Pycnonotidae: bulbuls
  • Phylloscopidae: leaf-warblers and allies. Recently split from Sylviidae.
  • Sylviidae: Old World warblers
  • Hypocoliidae: Hypocolius
  • Cisticolidae: cisticolas and allies
  • Icteridae: American blackbirds, New World orioles, grackles and cowbirds.
  • Zosteropidae: white-eyes
  • Timaliidae: babblers
  • Muscicapidae: Old World flycatchers and chats
  • Turdidae: thrushes and allies
  • Sturnidae: starlings

Songbird Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.