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The New World Blackbird clade (Icteridae) consists of 97 species in 27 genera, distributed throughout the western hemisphere. This clade has been of great interest to evolutionary biologists and behavioral ecologists because of the broad range of morphologies and behaviors exhibited. If the archetypical songbird species is monogamous, sexually monochromatic, monomorphic in size, territorial, breeds at age one year, builds a cup-shaped nest, and has a species-specific song, then the New World Blackbird clade contains not only "typical" song bird species, but also species demonstrating a wide range of interesting morphological and behavioral departures from this norm. Within the Icteridae, various species:
- are polygynous,
- are promiscuous,
- are sexually dimorphic in coloration,
- are sexually dimorphic in size,
- are colonial nesters,
- breed at age two years or older,
- exhibit delayed plumage maturation,
- build pendant nests,
- nest in burrows,
- are nest parasites,
- are brood parasites, and
- are vocal mimics.
This clade is the subject of an NSF funded "Assembling the Tree of Life" grant (DEB-0316092) to Keith Barker (University of Minnesota), Kevin Burns (San Diego State University), John Klicka (University of Nevada-Las Vegas), Scott Lanyon (University of Minnesota), and Irby Lovette (Cornell University). Our goal is to sequence multiple genes for every species of "nine-primaried oscine" and to construct a robust phylogeny from these data. This page will be updated once this research has been completed.