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Some passerines, specifically in the family Ploceidae, are well known for their elaborate sexual ornaments, including extremely long tails. The chicks of passerines are altricial: blind, featherless, and helpless when hatched from their eggs. Most passerines lay coloured eggs, in contrast with nonpasserines, most of whose eggs are white except in some ground-nesting groups such as Charadriiformes and nightjars, where camouflage is necessary, and in some parasitic cuckoos, which match the passerine host's egg.

Vinous-throated parrotbill has two egg colours, white and blue.

The order is divided into three suborders, Tyranni (suboscines), Passeri (oscines), and the basal Acanthisitti.

Oscines have the best control of their syrinx muscles among birds, producing a wide range of songs and other vocalizations (though some of them, such as the crows, do not sound musical to human beings); some such as the lyrebird are accomplished imitators.

The smallest passerine is the short-tailed pygmy tyrant, at 6.5 cm (2.6 in) and 4.2 g (0.15 oz).

The foot of a passerine has three toes directed forward and one toe directed backward, called anisodactyl arrangement.

This eventually led to three major Passerida lineages comprising about 4,000 species, which in addition to the Corivida and numerous minor lineages make up songbird diversity today.

The initial split was between the New Zealand wrens (Acanthisittidae) and all other passerines, and the second split involved the Tyranni (suboscines) and the Passeri (oscines or songbirds).The later experienced a great radiation of forms out of the Australian continent.A major branch of the Passeri, parvorder Passerida, expanded deep into Eurasia and Africa, where a further explosive radiation of new lineages occurred.In many cases, passerine families were grouped together on the basis of morphological similarities that, it is now believed, are the result of convergent evolution, not a close genetic relationship.For example, the wrens of the Americas and Eurasia; those of Australia; and those of New Zealand look superficially similar and behave in similar ways, and yet belong to three far-flung branches of the passerine family tree; they are as unrelated as it is possible to be while remaining Passeriformes.

The initial split was between the New Zealand wrens (Acanthisittidae) and all other passerines, and the second split involved the Tyranni (suboscines) and the Passeri (oscines or songbirds).The later experienced a great radiation of forms out of the Australian continent.A major branch of the Passeri, parvorder Passerida, expanded deep into Eurasia and Africa, where a further explosive radiation of new lineages occurred.In many cases, passerine families were grouped together on the basis of morphological similarities that, it is now believed, are the result of convergent evolution, not a close genetic relationship.For example, the wrens of the Americas and Eurasia; those of Australia; and those of New Zealand look superficially similar and behave in similar ways, and yet belong to three far-flung branches of the passerine family tree; they are as unrelated as it is possible to be while remaining Passeriformes.However, the early fossil record is poor because the first Passeriformes were apparently on the small side of the present size range, and their delicate bones did not preserve well.