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Southern Whiteface.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia

The large and diverse passerine bird family Pardalotidae includes the pardalotes, scrubwrens, thornbills, gerygones and allies. The family originated in Australasia and now includes about 70 species in 15 or 16 genera. Nearly all are confined to Australia (48 species) or New Guinea (about 20 species, including 6 found in both Australia and New Guinea). Only the gerygones extend further afield, with representatives in South-east Asia, New Zealand, and islands of the South Pacific.

All members are small to medium in size—some are very small—the majority are drab, inconspicuous, and often difficult to identify. All are mainly insectivorous, have 10 primaries (the tenth is vestigial in the pardalotes) and 9 secondaries (most having a vestigal tenth secondary).

One species, the Lord Howe Gerygone Gerygone insularis, is extinct; and 25 taxa in 17 species are considered endangered, three of them critically so. The primary threats are land clearing, overgrazing, degredation and fragmentation of habitat, and changing fire regimes.

The taxonomy of the Pardalotidae is complex and its classification has changed a great deal over the years. Recent microbiological work has made it clear that it is part of the Australasian corvid lineage, and it is most closely related to the honeyeaters and the fairy-wrens, all three families being regarded as part of the superfamily Meliphagoidea. (The Pardalotidae form the second-largest family of birds in Australiasia, after the honeyeaters.)

At various times the Pardalotidae have been classified as Old World warblers, Old World babblers, and Old World flycatchers. The pardalotes themselves have been placed alone in their own family and grouped with the flowerpeckers. DNA studies suggest that the pardalotes may diverge sufficienty from the others in the group to justify regarding them as a separate family, in which case the remaining genera would be placed in the family Acanthizidae.

Further reading