The systematists of Buffon's time (apart from Boddaert and Hermann), were perhaps not so perceptive, and referred these birds to the Thrushes
or some of them to the Shrikes. Their distinctness was at last recognized,
and they were duly regarded as forming a Family, Formicariidae, and by Mr. Sclater (Cat.
B. Br. Mus. xv. pp. 176-328) in 1890, was divided into 3 subfamilies
- Thamnophilinae, often known as "Bush-Shrikes," containing at that
time 10 genera and at least 80 species;
Formicariinae, the true
Ant-Thrushes, including in them the Formicivorinae,
called "Ant-Wrens" (Zool. Journ. ii. p. 146), which Mr. Sclater had
formerly recognized (P. Z. S. 1858, pp. 232-254) , and thus enlarging
the Formicariinae so as to comprise 18 genera and more than 130,
species; while the third subfamily Grallariinae included 5 genera
and over 30, species.
Swainson did not know that his genus Formicivora
been anticipated by Temminck, who in 1807 (Cat. du Cab. p. 92) used
the name Formicivorus, in a sense equivalent to Boddaert's
group separated by Swainson was called Eriodora
by Gloger in 1827,
name therefore apparently ought really to have been adopted for it.
In reality but few of these birds have an outward resemblance to Shrikes,
Thrushes, or Wrens, and all belong to quite a different division of Passeres.
In 1847 Johannes Muller and Professor Cabanis justly placed them among
their Clamatores, and subsequently Garrod showed their Mesomyodian structure.
In modern times the Thamnophilidae have been separated off into a family of their own, whilst the Formicariidae family now contains a total of 7 Genera. Birds from both the Thamnophilidae and Formicariidae family are generally known as antbirds.
The Formicariidae are one
of the most characteristic families of the Neotropical Region, abounding
in the forest-districts of its middle portion, becoming less numerous in
Central America, and still scarcer in the southern parts, only just reaching
the plains of La Plata. They are mostly small birds of sober hue, some
not bigger than Wrens; but members of the Genera Batara and Grallaria
the stature of a Jay. The last named of them has much the appearance of
a Pitta-a distinct group to which the name "Ant-Thrush" has also been applied.
The Grallaria have very small tails and hop around in a thrush-like way.
The large family Thamnophilus, containing
over 200 species, is one of the most important of the so-called "Bush-Shrikes",
and many of its members are remarkable for the diversity in plumage between
the two genders, that of the cocks being black or black banded with white,
while that of the hens is rufous; but in some other groups the black or
black-and-white plumage is common to both sexes. Of this genus several
species inhabit British Guiana, at least three occur in Trinidad, and at one in Tobago has been given the amusing name of the Qua-qua or Cata-bird
(Ann. N H. xx. p. 331). Their presence in these two islands offers
one of the many strong proofs of their fauna belonging to that of continental
South America, since no member of the Family is found in the Antilles proper.