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Temporal range: Middle Oligocene–recent, 29–0 Ma[1]
Sagittarius serpentarius
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Sagittariidae
Finsch & Hartlaub, 1870[2][3]

At least 4 genera (see text)

Sagittariidae is a family of raptor with one living species—the secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius) native to Africa—and a few fossil taxa.[4][5][6]

This single extant species has affected the fossil record of the group by ‘pulling’ the temporal range of the family to the present, an artifact called the Pull of the recent.[6][relevant?]

German naturalists Otto Finsch and Gustav Hartlaub established the taxon name as a subfamily—Sagittariinae—in 1870. Although their term postdated Gypogeranidae of Vigors (1825) and Serpentariidae of Selys Longchamps (1842), the genus name Sagittarius (described in 1783) had priority over Gypogeranus Illiger, 1811 and Serpentarius Cuvier, 1798.


There are at least four genera:[4][5]

The genus Pelargopappus is known from Miocene deposits in France. The genus Amanuensis is known from Miocene deposits in Africa.[5][7]


  1. ^ Mourer-Chauviré, Cécile; Cheneval, Jacques (1983). "Les Sagittariidae fossiles (Aves, Accipitriformes) de l'Oligocène des phosphorites du Quercy et du Miocène inférieur de Saint-Gérand-le-Puy". Geobios. 16 (4): 443–459. Bibcode:1983Geobi..16..443M. doi:10.1016/S0016-6995(83)80104-1.
  2. ^ Finsch, Otto; Hartlaub, Gustav (1870). Die Vogel Ost-Africas: Baron Carl Claus von Deer Decken's Reisen in Ost-Africa (in German). Leipzig: C. F. Winter. p. 93.
  3. ^ Bock, Walter J. (1994). "History and Nomenclature of Avian Family-Group Names". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 222: 1–236 [112, 133]. hdl:2246/830.
  4. ^ a b "Family Sagittariidae (Secretary bird)". Paleobiology Database. Fossilworks. Retrieved 30 September 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d Cécile Mourer-Chauviré (2003). "Birds (Aves) from the Middle Miocene of Arrisdrift (Namibia). Preliminary study with description of two new genera: Amanuensis (Accipitriformes, Sagittariidae) and Namibiavis (Gruiformes, Idiornithidae)". In Martin Pickford; Brigitte Senut (eds.). Geology and palaeobiology of the Central and Southern Namib. Vol. 2: Paleontology of the Orange River Valley (PDF). Geological Survey of Namibia, Memoir 19. pp. 103–113.
  6. ^ a b Sahney, Sarda; Benton, Michael (2017). "The impact of the Pull of the Recent on the fossil record of tetrapods" (PDF). Evolutionary Ecology Research. 18: 7–23.
  7. ^ Mayr, Gerald (2016). Avian Evolution: The Fossil Record of Birds and its Paleobiological Significance. John Wiley & Sons. p. 201. ISBN 9781119020769.