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an order of birds including more than 5,000 species, about 310 of which are found in the USSR. Passeriformes are mainly small and medium-sized birds with bodies from 9.5 cm long (goldcrest) to 65 cm long (raven). They are distributed all over the world. There are three sub-orders: broadbills (Eurylaimi), shrieking Passeriformes (Tyranni), and songbirds (Oscines). Eurylaimi are distributed in Africa and Southeast Asia. Forest birds with short, broad bills, they are primarily insectivorous. One family, the horn-bills (Eurylaimidae), comprises 14 species. Shrieking Passeriformes are distributed mainly in South America, Africa, southern Asia, the Pacific islands, Australia, and New Zealand. There are 12 families comprising more than 1,000 species.
There are about 4,000 species of songbirds distributed all over the world. A characteristic feature of songbirds is the complex arrangement of the vocal apparatus in the lower larynx. The suborder Oscines is divided into two groups, the first of which includes two families of relatively primitive birds that are widely distributed in Australia: scrubbirds (Atrichornithidae, two species) and lyrebirds (Menuridae, two species). The second group of Oscines includes the true songbirds, with 45 families. The vocal apparatus is most highly developed in birds of the second group. Birds of the second group that belong to the fauna of the USSR include larks (Alaudidae), swallows (Hirundinidae), wagtails (Motacillidae), shrikes (Laniidae), dippers (Cinclidae), wrens (Troglodytidae), thrushes (Turdidae), flycatchers (Muscicapidae), warblers (Sylviidae), titmice (Paridae), waxwings (Bombycillidae), nuthatches (Sittidae), creepers (Certhiidae), hedge sparrows (Prunellidae), finches (Fringillidae), weaverbirds (Ploceidae), buntings (Emberizidae), starlings (Sturnidae), orioles (Oriolidae), and crows (Corvidae).
The Passeriformes include settled, nomadic, and migratory species. Most of these birds are associated with trees and shrubs, but certain species—for example, the larks—shifted to a terrestrial way of life. The nestling type of development is characteristic of all Passeriformes. The young birds hatch out helpless and in most cases blind, usually naked or covered with sparse down. They remain in the nest a long time and do not acquire a constant body temperature immediately. The nesting sites are extremely permanent. Passeriformes exhibit all the behavioral characteristics associated with protection of the nesting territory. The eggs are usually mottled, and the number of eggs in a clutch varies from one in several Australian species to 15 or 16 in titmice. There are usually four to six eggs in a clutch. Embryonic development is rapid. Many species have two or more clutches a year, especially in the tropics and sub tropics. Sexual maturity begins at about one year of age. Sexual dimorphism is manifested in the size of the bird and frequently in its color, and in songbirds, in the voice. (Only the males sing.) With respect to feeding habits, Passeriformes may be arbitrarily divided into primarily insectivorous and herbivorous birds.
In agriculture, Passeriformes, more than other birds, assist man in controlling harmful insects and protecting crops and forests. Passeriformes are very useful (with rare exceptions —for example, sparrows).
REFERENCESDement’ev, G. P. “Ptitsy.” (Rukovodstvo po zoologii, vol. 6: Pozvonochnye.) Moscow-Leningrad, 1940.
Ptitsy Sovetskogo Soiuza, vols. 5, 6. Edited by G. P. Dement’ev and N. A. Gladkov. Moscow, 1954.
G. P. DEMENT’EV