Passerines (Aves: Passeriformes) dominate modern terrestrial bird communities yet their fossil record is limited. Liang Bua is a large cave on the Indonesian island of Flores that preserves Late Pleistocene–Holocene deposits (∼190 ka to present day). Birds are the most diverse faunal group at Liang Bua and are present throughout the stratigraphic sequence.
We examined avian remains from the Late Pleistocene deposits of Sector XII, a 2 × 2 m area excavated to about 8.5 m depth. Although postcranial passerine remains are typically challenging to identify, we found several humeral characters particularly useful in discriminating between groups, and identified 89 skeletal elements of passerines.
At least eight species from eight families are represented, including the Large-billed Crow (Corvus cf. macrorhynchos), the Australasian Bushlark (Mirafra javanica), a friarbird (Philemon sp.), and the Pechora Pipit (Anthus cf. gustavi).
These remains constitute the first sample of fossil passerines described in Wallacea. Two of the taxa no longer occur on Flores today; a large sturnid (cf. Acridotheres) and a grassbird (Megalurus sp.). Palaeoecologically, the songbird assemblage suggests open grassland and tall forests, which is consistent with conditions inferred from the non-passerine fauna at the site. Corvus cf. macrorhynchos, found in the Homo floresiensis-bearing layers, was likely part of a scavenging guild that fed on carcasses of Stegodon florensis insularis alongside vultures (Trigonoceps sp.), giant storks (Leptoptilos robustus), komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis), and probably H. floresiensis as well.