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  • Author: Jenő Nagy x
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In 2017 the European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) was voted to be the “bird of the year” in Hungary. This is a partially migrant species; most of the European populations are resident, however, its breeding range extends to East from the Sweden-Poland-Moldova axis towards the Yenisei with some of the populations wintering in Kazakhstan and South of Turkey. The European Goldfinch is classified within the Carduelinae subfamily including approximately a hundred species. Several taxonomic changes were introduced in this group during the last fifteen years, however, we still do not understand much of their origin and evolutionary history. My aim in this paper is to collect existing knowledge on the phylogeny and evolution of the Carduelinae finches and their allies, with a particular focus on the European Goldfinch and its closest relatives. Furthermore, here I point out uncertainties in different phylogenetic sources of finches, which careful consideration can be useful in similar evolutionary studies. Finally, I summarise some vision for future research.


Migration plays a fundamental part in the life of most temperate bird species. The regular, large-scale seasonal movements that characterize temperate migration systems appear to have originated in parallel with the postglacial northern expansion of tropical species. Migratoriness is also influenced by a number of ecological factors, such as the ability to survive harsh winters. Hence, understanding the origins and evolution of migration requires integration of the biogeographic history and ecology of birds in a phylogenetic context. We used molecular dating and ancestral state reconstruction to infer the origins and evolutionary changes in migratory behavior and ancestral area reconstruction to investigate historical patterns of range evolution in accipitrid birds of prey (Accipitriformes). Migration evolved multiple times in birds of prey, the earliest of which occurred in true hawks (Accipitrinae), during the middle Miocene period, according to our analyses. In most cases, a tropical ancestral distribution was inferred for the non-migratory ancestors of migratory lineages. Results from directional evolutionary tests indicate that migration evolved in the tropics and then increased the rate of colonization of temperate habitats, suggesting that temperate species might be descendants of tropical ones that dispersed into these seasonal habitats. Finally, we found that diet generalization predicts migratoriness in this group.