Evolution and systematics

The rhabdornises are an obscure family, still only partially known. They have been difficult to classify, and no significant DNA-DNA hybrid, mitichondrial DNA, or other molecular comparison studies have been made.

Some ornithologists once placed the rhabdornises as a subfamily within the treecreepers (family Certhiidae), but the idea has been discarded since the birds show no real resemblance to the true treecreepers and behave quite differently. When foraging, treecreepers run along the tops of tree branches and crawl about over tree bark on the trunks and main limbs, but rhabdornises hop and jump between branches, and show no significant "creeping" behavior. Rhab-dornises also have brush-tipped tongues, a feature unknown among the Certhiidae. As of 2002, ornithologists generally concur in placing rhabdornises in a discrete family, Rhab-dornithidae. Their closest relations are probably the babblers (family Timaliidae).

As of 2002, the life sciences recognize three species of rhabdornises within a single genus: The greater rhabdornis (Rhabdornis grandis) which is not recognized by Peters, the stripe-breasted rhabdornis (Rhabdornis inornatus), and the stripe-headed rhabdornis (Rhabdornis mysticalis).

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