FINCHES and Finches

Following the latest insights, the Fringillidae emerged after the Finch-billed Passerines (Prunellidae, Ploceidae, Viduidae, Estrildidae, Motacillidae and Passeridae), all in the superfamily Ploceoidea, after which the superfamily Emberizoidea developed with Emberizidae, Thraupidae, Cardinalidae, Passerellidae, Parulidae, and finally Icteridae.

Fringillidae (True Finches):
Fringillinae (Fringilline Finches): Palearctic Chaffinch, Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
Carduelinae (Cardueline Finches): worldwide, introduced to Australasia
Finch, Rosefinch, Goldfinch, Grosbeak, Canary, Redpoll, Serin, Crossbill, Hawfinch, Twite, Linnet, Serin, Citril, Hawaiian Honeycreepers
Euphoniinae (Euphonias): Neotropical Euphonia, Chlorophonia (formerly in Thraupidae)

The latter subfamily was only recognized in the 21th century. In the US, Drepanidinae (Hawaiian Honeycreepers) was also a subfamily.

Apart from the approx. 100 species within Thraupidae that are called a finch in English check lists (but not in local Spanish and Portuguese), neotropical (mostly Brush and Tanager) finches are found in Passerellidae: NEW WORLD SPARROWS AND ALLIES, separated from Emberizidae: OLD WORLD BUNTINGS, which nowadays don’t contain finches any longer.

The Estrildidae: WAXBILLS or Estrildid Finches are found in Australasia and Africa. The whole estrildid radiation might have originated around India.

While the Galápagos Finches belong to a family to which also Neotropical Honeycreepers belong, the Hawaiian Honeycreepers actually are Finches. Both are fine examples of adaptive radiation and thought to have evolved from one mainland species, from Central or South America for the Darwin’s Finches, and from Asia for the Hawaiian Finches.

The Nesospiza Finches of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago in the South Atlantic and Rowettia goughensis from Gough Island, 380 km distant, are both derived from tanager-finches (Thraupidae) that colonized the islands in separate colonization events by crossing more than 3000 km of ocean from South America, possibly by hopping of island remains of micro-continents on the Rio Grande Rise some 3–5 million years ago. Both formerly were called buntings.

Przevalski's Pinktail (earlier Rosefinch or Bunting) is now as a single species in Urocynchramidae, separated from Fringillidae, when it was proposed in 2000 that it should in fact be regarded neither as a finch nor a bunting.

Within Thraupidae there are 15 Darwin’s Finches recognized out of 29 species in Coerebinae subfamily: dome-nesting Tanagers among which:
Grassquits, Caribbean Bullfinches, Bananaquit and Orangequit
Thraupidae also contains some South American Grosbeaks.

Within Fringillidae there are 17 Hawaiian Finches out of 163 species in
Carduelinae subfamily: cardueline Finches among which:
Eurasian Bullfinches, Rosefinches,
Atlantic and Afrotropical Canaries,
[Eur]asian, Afrotropical, North and Central American Grosbeaks,
Eurasian, Oriental, Northern and Central American Crossbills,
Eurasian, Afrotropical, Oriental, North and South American Siskins,
Eurasian and Oriental Bullfinches,
Eurasian, Oriental, North and South American Goldfinches,
Asian and North American Rosy Finches,
other finches, Hawfinch, Redpoll, Brambling, Twite, Linnet, Serin, Citril.

Next to the only genus Fringilla left, up to the 1960s the subfamily Fringillinae, contained
Ammospiza, Melospiza, Zonotrichia, Arremon, Chlorurus now in PASSERELLIDAE
Sporophila, Tiaris, Paroaria, Sicalis, Gubernatrix, Oryzoboris now in THRAUPIDAE
Calcarius, Plectrophenax, now in CALCARIIDAE (= PLECTROPHENACIDAE)

The society finch (North America) or Japanese little gull (Europe) or Bengalese finch (elsewhere, incl. Japan) Lonchura striata domestica (Estrildidae), is one of the few species of domesticated finch, and this variety is not found in the wild. In China, where the wild form originates, the bird is called “Ten sisters” because they like to live in groups.


Sources: The Howard and Moore complete checklist of the birds of the world, Wikipedia

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