|Eurasian bullfinch, Pyrrhula pyrrhula|
The genus has a palearctic distribution. All species occur in Asia with two species exclusively in the Himalayas and one species, P. pyrrhula, also occurring in Europe. The Azores bullfinch (P. murina) is a critically endangered species (about 120 pairs remaining), occurring only in the east of the island of São Miguel in the Azores archipelago.
Analysis of the mtDNA cytochrome b sequence indicates that the holarctic pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator) is the closest living relative of this genus. Arguably, it could be included in Pyrrhula, but more probably is a distinct offshoot of a common ancestor, with the pine grosbeak as the sister group to the ancestor of the bullfinches. The evolution of the bullfinch species started soon after the pine grosbeak's ancestors diverged from them (at the end of the Middle Miocene, about a dozen mya), and it is quite possible that the latter species evolved in North America; what is fairly certain is that the bullfinch radiation started in the general area of the Himalayas. The mountain finches also seem to be part of this clade.
Bullfinches have glossy black wings and tail feathers. They show a white rump. The legs and feet are fleshy brown. Their short, swollen bill is adapted to eat buds, and is black except for the brown bullfinch, which has a grey or greenish-grey bill. The males can be distinguished by their orange or red breast. Some species have a black cap.
The name of Pyrrhula for the genus was introduced by the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760. It was derived by tautonymy from the binomial name of the Eurasian bullfinch Loxia pyrrhula introduced by Linnaeus in 1758.
There are seven recognised species in the genus:
- Orange bullfinch, Pyrrhula aurantiaca
- Grey-headed bullfinch, Pyrrhula erythaca
- Red-headed bullfinch, Pyrrhula erythrocephala
- White-cheeked bullfinch, Pyrrhula leucogenis
- Azores bullfinch, Pyrrhula murina
- Brown bullfinch, Pyrrhula nipalensis
- Eurasian bullfinch, Pyrrhula pyrrhula
- Arnaiz-Villena, A; et al. (2001). "Phylogeography of crossbills, bullfinches, grosbeaks, and rosefinches". Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 58 (8): 1159–1166. doi:10.1007/pl00000930. PMID 11529508.
- Marten, Jill A. & Johnson, Ned K. (1986). "Genetic relationships of North American cardueline finches" (PDF). Condor 88 (4): 409–420. doi:10.2307/1368266.
- Brissons, M.J. (1760). Ornithologie, Volume 1. Paris: Chez C.J.-B. Bauche. p. 36.
- Paynter, Raymond A. Jnr., ed. (1968). Check-list of birds of the world, Volume 14. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 293.
- Linnaeus, C. (1758). Systema Naturæ per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, Volume 1 (in Latin) (10th ed.). Holmiae:Laurentii Salvii. pp. 171–172.
- Gill, Frank; Donsker, David (eds.). "Finches, euphonias". World Bird List Version 5.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 5 June 2015.