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Saltator coerulescens - Greyish Saltator.JPG
Greyish saltator
Saltator coerulescens
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Thraupidae
Genus: Saltator
Vieillot, 1816

Presently some 15, but see text.

Greyish saltator on a Jacaranda Tree.

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]


The genus was introduced by the French ornithologist Louis Pierre Vieillot in 1816 with the buff-throated saltator as the type species.[2][3] The name is from the Latin saltator, saltatoris "dancer".[4]

The saltators as traditionally defined are apparently neither monophyletic nor allied with the cardinals. As already noted over 100 years ago,[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] 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[7] 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today would not be accepted whole-cloth because it followed the phenetic methodology then in vogue but now considered outdated.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[8] 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[9] seems to support this, but for now they are best considered incertae sedis.

Greyish saltator eating a morning glory


The genus contains 15 species:[10]


  1. ^ Birds of the World: Recommended English Names, p. 211.
  2. ^ Vieillot, Louis Jean Pierre (1816). Analyse d'une Nouvelle Ornithologie Elementaire (in French). Paris: Deterville/self. p. 32. 
  3. ^ Paynter, Raymond A. Jr, ed. (1970). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 13. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 228. 
  4. ^ Jobling, J.A. (2018). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E., eds. "Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 2 April 2018. 
  5. ^ Ridgway (1901)
  6. ^ Echeverry-Galvis & Córdoba-Córdoba (2006)
  7. ^ a b Hellack & Schnell (1977)
  8. ^ Klicka et al. (2000), Ericson & Johansson (2003)
  9. ^ Klicka et al. (2004)
  10. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2018). "Tanagers and allies". World Bird List Version 8.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 2 April 2018. 


  • 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.

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