A comprehensive species-level molecular phylogeny of the New World blackbirds (Icteridae)

Alexis F.L.A. Powell, F. Keith Barker, Scott M. Lanyon, Kevin J. Burns, John Klicka, Irby J. Lovette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


The New World blackbirds (Icteridae) are among the best known songbirds, serving as a model clade in comparative studies of morphological, ecological, and behavioral trait evolution. Despite wide interest in the group, as yet no analysis of blackbird relationships has achieved comprehensive species-level sampling or found robust support for most intergeneric relationships. Using mitochondrial gene sequences from all ~108 currently recognized species and six additional distinct lineages, together with strategic sampling of four nuclear loci and whole mitochondrial genomes, we were able to resolve most relationships with high confidence. Our phylogeny is consistent with the strongly-supported results of past studies, but it also contains many novel inferences of relationship, including unexpected placement of some newly-sampled taxa, resolution of relationships among major clades within Icteridae, and resolution of genus-level relationships within the largest of those clades, the grackles and allies. We suggest taxonomic revisions based on our results, including restoration of Cacicus melanicterus to the monotypic Cassiculus, merging the monotypic Ocyalus and Clypicterus into Cacicus, restoration of Dives atroviolaceus to the monotypic Ptiloxena, and naming Curaeus forbesi to a new genus, Anumara. Our hypothesis of blackbird phylogeny provides a foundation for ongoing and future evolutionary analyses of the group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-112
Number of pages19
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014


  • Blackbird
  • Classification
  • Icteridae
  • Phylogeny
  • Systematics
  • Taxonomy

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'A comprehensive species-level molecular phylogeny of the New World blackbirds (Icteridae)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this