Greyish Saltator
Saltator coerulescens
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: see text
Genus: Saltator
Vieillot, 1816

Presently some 15, but see text.

Saltator is a genus of songbirds of the Americas. They are traditionally placed in the cardinal family (Cardinalidae) but now seem to be closer to tanagers (Thraupidae). Their English name is also saltator, except for two dark species known by the more general grosbeak.[1]

Saltator is Latin for "leaper" or "dancer". Louis Vieillot applied it to this genus because of the heavy way the birds hop on the ground.[2]


The saltators as traditionally defined are apparently neither monophyletic nor allied with the cardinals. As already noted over 100 years ago,[3] they are a morphologically diverse group, encompassing generally robust and fairly drab nine-primaried oscines. The different species may appear more similar to grosbeaks, tanagers or even shrikes than to cardinals, and the patterns of their eggs are also conspicuously diverse.[4] Altogether, the "genus" seems more like an assemblage of species brought together largely by seeming even less close to other groups than to each other, rather than by a very close relationship.[5] More extreme cases of adaptive radiation exist in birds, but this process hardly ever occurs outside island groups like Hawaiian honeycreepers, vangas, Malagasy warblers or the famous Galápagos finches.[clarification needed]

The latest comprehensive analysis of the genus was a 1977 study[5] which today would not be accepted whole-cloth because it followed the phenetic methodology then in vogue but now considered outdated. Even in that study the case for Saltator monophyly was weak. Where Saltator species have been included in cladistic studies[6] they appear to be related to various tanagers. If this is verified after a more thorough study, they would probably be transferred to this family. Preliminary work[7] seems to support this, but for now they are best considered incertae sedis.


Belonging to Pipraeideini

Now in Saltatricula

Black-throated Saltator, Saltatricula atricollis


  1. ^ Birds of the World: Recommended English Names, p. 211.
  2. ^ Jobling & Fowling (1992)
  3. ^ Ridgway (1901)
  4. ^ Echeverry-Galvis & Córdoba-Córdoba (2006)
  5. ^ a b Hellack & Schnell (1977)
  6. ^ Klicka et al. (2000), Ericson & Johansson (2003)
  7. ^ Klicka et al. (2004)
  8. ^ Klicka et al. (2007)


  • Echeverry-Galvis, María Ángela & Córdoba-Córdoba, Sergio (2006): Descripción del huevo del saltátor collarejo (Saltator cinctus) y comentarios preliminares sobre huevos del género Saltator. ["Description of the egg of the Masked Saltator (S. cinctus) and preliminary comments on the eggs of the genus Saltator"]. Boletín de la Sociedad Antioqueña de Ornitología 16(1): 76-84. [Spanish with English abstract] PDF fulltext
  • Ericson, Per G.P. & Johansson, U.S. (2003): Phylogeny of Passerida (Aves: Passeriformes) based on nuclear and mitochondrial sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 29: 126-138.
  • Hellack, J.J. & Schnell, G.D. (1977): Phenetic analysis of the subfamily Cardinalinae using external and skeletal characteristics. Wilson Bulletin 89: 130-148.
  • Jobling, James A. & Fowling, Richard (1991): A Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 0-19-854634-3
  • Klicka, John; Johnson, K.P. & Lanyon, S.M. (2000): New World nine-primaried oscine relationships: constructing a mitochondrial DNA framework. Auk 117: 321-326.
  • Klicka, John; Burns, Kevin J. & Spellman, Garth M. (2004): Defining a monophyletic Cardinalidae: a molecular perspective. 122nd Stated Meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union, Presentation 40. PDF abstract
  • Klicka, John; Burns, Kevin J.; Spellman, Garth M. (2007): Defining a monophyletic Cardinalini: A molecular perspective. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 45: 1014–1032
  • Ridgway, R. (1901): The birds of North and Middle America, etc.. Part 1. Bulletin of the U.S. National Museum 50(1): 1-715.

External links

Eurasian Spoonbill This article is part of Project Bird Genera, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each genus, including made-up genera.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
Please help by writing it in the style of All Birds Wiki!
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.