There are a great variety of birds that live throughout the world. There are large birds such as ostriches, rheas, and flamingoes. There are also tiny birds such as warblers, hummingbirds and finches. Some birds are brightly colored like parrots and peacocks while others are dull and camouflaged. Some birds are able to fly high in the sky while others are land bound with wings that have developed in such a way that they can no longer lift the birds off of the ground. To help classify all these types of birds taxonomists placed all birds in the class Aves. They then separated the class Aves into many different orders. A few examples of these orders are Sphenisciformes (penguins), Anseriformes (ducks), Falconiformes (hawks) and Apodiformes (hummingbirds).
Passerines are a type of bird that belong in the order Passeriformes. Quite simply, passerines are known as perching birds and less accurately as songbirds.
Passerines tend to be smaller than birds from other orders, the largest passerine being the Raven. A characteristic of perching birds is that they typically have four toes, three that face forward and one that faces back, all joining the foot at the same level. This foot arrangement makes it possible for these birds to perch on tree limbs and on other similar man-made objects. Another characteristic is that most have well-developed muscles to control their syrinx, allowing them to create a multitude of complex songs and other vocalizations.
About sixty percent of all bird species are passerines. Since it is such a large order, Passeriformes has been split into two suborders: the Oscines and the Suboscines. Oscines, having better control of their syrinx, can produce a wider range of songs than the Suboscines. Technically, the Oscines are "songbirds." In addition, the suborder Oscines is quite a bit larger than that of Suboscines. There are only eighteen families of Passerines that are represented in North America and only one of those eighteen, the tyrant flycatchers, belong to the suborder suboscines.
Examples of birds that belong to Oscines are warblers, wrens, buntings, finches, tanagers, sparrows, larks, shrikes, bowerbirds and robins. Examples of birds in the suborder Suboscines are flycatchers, kingbirds and phoebes.
Here is a breakdown of Passerine taxonomy:
Next time your walking around town or sipping on a cool glass of lemonade in your yard stop and listen, if you hear a melodious tune rising from the tree tops it is most likely coming from a passerine.