As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Friday, 12 April 2019


All perching birds—the majority of the world’s bird population—originated in Australia, researchers report.

These birds—also known by their order name, passerines—comprise more than 6,000 species, including familiar birds like cardinals, warblers, jays, and sparrows. Passerines make up more than 60 percent of all feathered friends known to humankind.

While scientists know a lot about their birdsong, mating rituals, and anatomy, they haven’t fully understood the origin of passerines, which determines how different species developed and their relationship to one another. It turns out, according to the new research, that sweet Carolina wren at your feeder actually has a very long-lost ancestor, 47 million years ago or so, in the land Down Under.


Previous hypotheses about passerine evolution and diversification purported that perching birds originated from South America. Now a clearer picture of an Old World origin and patterns of movement that global climate change, mass extinction, or the colonization of new continents influenced has come into focus.

The researchers conducted genomic testing using technology that did not exist 10 years ago. They analyzed DNA data from the 137 families of perching birds. Some of the museum samples the researchers used were up to 100 years old.

“Previous studies only looked at one or a few genes,” says Edward Braun, a professor of biology at the University of Florida. “What makes this study unique is one, the broad sampling across the genome, and two, the comprehensive nature in that we captured all major groups of perching birds. The third factor is the integration of the fossil records and biogeography, along with the comprehensive genomic sampling.”

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