The scientific classification for songbird is passerine, or those birds which are of the order Passeri, which comprises around 4,000 species of birds around the world – a phenomenal amount; in fact, nearly half the world’s birds are classified as passerine, indicating that the vocal organ, which is specifically highly developed within this classification, is a useful “tool” for sexual selection among mating birds during the breeding season.
Easily identified by their more complex syrinx, a topic we wrote about in our Dawn Chorus Special, this vocal organ allows for complex, varied and repeated patterns of trills and shrills, along with distinct resonance from the more elongated windpipe.
The chief evolutionary purpose of this complex vocal organ is for courtship and breeding, primarily used by males to display their readiness to mate, as well as stimulate female sexuality. Other important uses of song include a signalling of established territory, to notify location, or to ward off rival males during confrontation.
Passerine songbirds in your garden
In Britain, we are lucky to have some of the more glamorous songsters among the world’s many passerines. Most notably is the Song thrush, used in literature such as Thomas Hardy’s lyrical poem, which is rich in metaphor, The Darkling Thrush. The Song thrush’s repeated phrases distinguish it from the other well-known passerine, the Blackbird; although both express vocalisation in their own unique ways.
There are several species of “classic” songbirds that are frequent visitors to gardens across the UK. Take a look below at the list of passerines. Click on each link to find out more about each bird and listen to their song.