Birds of Oman home   Bird names   News    Family groups 1-26    Tips   Glossary   Plumage   Thumbnails    General information    Credits    PHOTOS FOR SALE
NON-PASSERINES     1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10     11     12     13     14 15     16     17     18     19     20     21     22     23     24    25    26    PASSERINES
Common names sorted alphabetically: B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   R   S   T   V   W  

Passerines vs. non-passerines

Explanation of the difference between the two orders

As shown in the second-tier header above, bird species are generally subdivided into "passerines" and "non-passerines". Family groups 1-14 comprise the non-passerines, 15 contains semi-passerines and 16-26 comprise the passerines. What is the difference between the two? (Note: There are equivalent pages about passerines and non-passerines spotted in Europe and passerines and non-passerines spotted in Australia.)

The answer is quite straight-forward, once one knows the Latin name of the common House Sparrow - "Passer domesticus". Passerines are birds that, like the House Sparrow, have three toes forward, one backward, e.g. when sitting on a perch, non-passerines don't. As a rule of thumb, songbirds are passerines, others are not.

But there are some more subtle rules to this. There is also a distinction by the birds' voice boxes (their "syrinyxes"). There are a number of birds that have a passerine foothold, but a more primitive syrinyx than the true songbirds. These are often called "suboscines" (where true passerines are "oscines") or also "semi-passerines". The only example of this category in Oman is the Hoopoe.



Example passerine: Yellow-vented Bulbul Example non-passerine: Common Sandpiper
Example passerine foothold: Rufous Bush Robin
- three toes forward, one backward
Example non-passerine foothold: Ring-necked
- two toes forward, two backward

These pages are largely based on our own observations. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.