The family Dicruridae is a relatively recent grouping of a number of seemingly very different birds, mostly from the southern hemisphere, which are more closely related than they at first appear.
Many of the 139 species making up the family were previously assigned to other groups, largely on the basis of general morphology or behaviour. The Magpie-lark, for example, was assigned to the same family as the White-winged Chough: both build unusual nests from mud rather than vegetable matter. The Australasian fantails were thought to be allied with the fantails of the northern hemisphere (both groups share a similar diet and behaviour), and so on.
With the new insights generated by the DNA-DNA hybridisation studies of Sibley and his co-workers toward the end of the 20th century, however, it became clear that these apparently unrelated birds were all descended from a common ancestor: the same crow-like ancestor that gave rise to the drongos.
Subfamilies of Dicruridae
- Subfamily Monarchinae: boatbills, monarch flycatchers, Magpie-lark
- Subfamily Rhipidurinae:fantails
- Subfamily Dicrurinae:drongos
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