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Classification of Birds

Order Family
Common Name/
No. of
of Order
General Characteristics of Order
Struthioniformes Struthionidae Ostrich 1 Africa The ostrich is the world's largest living bird. Swift-running, flightless and gregarious, ground-nesting, feeds on vegetable matter.
Rheiformes Rheidae Rheas 2 S America Swift-running, flightless ground-nesting birds which feed on vegetation and insects. Ostrich-like with short wings and no tail feathers
Casuariiformes Casuariidae Cassowaries 3 Australia Large, flightless, running birds with three toes and rough hair-like feathers.
Dromaiidae Emu 1
Apterygiformes Apterygidae Kiwis 3 New Zealand Small-eyed, flightless, tailless birds with vestigial wings. They nest in burrows, are mainly small, nocturnal, insectivorous and forest-dwelling.
Tinamiformes Tinamidae Tinamous 45 S and C America Terrestrial, ground-nesting birds that can fly but do so rarely. They have patterned plummage, feed on vegetation, and live in grassland, brush and forest.
Sphenisciformes Spheniscidae Penguins 16 Antarctica, Australia, Africa, S America Black and white, flightless aquatic birds. They nest in burrows or on the ground and are good swimmers, living off fish, squid and crustacea. Walk upright or glide on their stomachs. Specially adapted feet feature a highly efficient heat-exchange mechanism to ensure survival in cold climates.
Gaviformes Gaviidae Divers or loons 4 N America, Eurasia Black and brown diving birds which breed on inland lakes and next on the ground. They eat fish, insects, etc. and winter on sea coasts. Clumsy on land, their legs are adapted for swimming and diving.
Podicipediformes Podicipedidae Grebes 20 Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, N and S America Large grey and brown short-winged diving birds with partly webbed feet. They eat fish and nest on the water. They inhabit freshwater lakes in the summer and sea coasts in the winter. Some are migratory.
Procellariiformes Diomedeidae Albatrosses 14 Africa, Asia, Australia, N and S America, Antarctica Generally long-winged, partly webbed-toed sea birds which feed on fish and nest on isolated islands and cliffs. Secrete oil in self-defence.
Procellariidae Petrels, fulmars, shearwaters 55
Hydrobatidae Storm petrels 20
Pelacanoididae Diving petrels 4
Pelecaniformes Pelecanidae Pelicans 7 All continents Diverse order of diving birds, found in marine and freshwater coastal habitats worldwide. They nest on cliffs or in trees, have a diet of mostly fish and are generally web-toed.
Sulidae Gannets, boobies 9
Phaethontidae Tropicbirds 3
Phalacrocoracidae Cormorants 29
Fregatidae Frigatebirds 5
Anhingidae Darters 4
Ciconiiformes Ardeidae Herons, bitterns 60 Worldwide except N America and Eurasia Upright, wading birds with specialized bills. Their toes are sometimes webbed and the middle claw is often serrated, or pectinate, for preening.
Scopidae Hammerhead 1
Balaenicipitidae Whale-headed stork 1
Ciconiidae Storks 17
Threskiornithidae Spoonbills, ibises 31
Phoenicopteridae Flamingos 5
Anseriformes Anatidae Ducks, geese, swans 147 Worldwide except Antarctica Marsh-dwelling waders which eat vegetation and nest on the ground.
Anhimidae Screamers 3
Falconiformes Cathartidae Vultures (New World) 7 Worldwide except Antarctica Birds of prey, or raptors. Expert flyers, they have hooked beaks and and talons, and are generally large
Sagitariidae Secretary-bird 1
Pandionidae Osprey 1
Falconidae Falcons, caracaras 60
Accipitridae Kites, Old World vultures, harriers, hawks, eagles 217
Galliformes Megapodidae Megapodes 9 Worldwide except N Eurasia The Galliformes, or game birds, have short rounded wings ill-adapted for sustained flight. They have large feet and claws, and are usually omnivorous in diet. The male plumage is usually brilliant. Many are endangered owing to habitat destruction and over-hunting.
Cracidae Guans, curassows, chachalacas 42
Tetraonidae Grouse 16
Phasianidae Pheasants, quail, partridge 180
Numididae Guineafowl 7
Meleagrididae Turkeys 2
Gruiformes Mesitornithidae Mesites 3 All continents Diverse order of ground-feeding birds generally with brown or grey plumage and long, rounded wings.
Turnicidae Buttonquails, hemipodes 16
Perdionomidae Plains wanderer 1
Gruidae Cranes 15
Aramidae Limpkin 1
Psophiidae Trumpeters 3
Rallidae Rails 129
Heliornithidae Finfoots 3
Rhynochetidae Kagu 1
Eurypygidae Sunbittern 1
Cariamidae Seriemas 2
Otidae Bustards 22
Charadriiformes Jacanidae Jacanas 7 All continents Diverse order of mostly small to medium-sized shorebirds and seabirds. They generally have long narrow wings which can act as aquatic paddles.
Rostratulidae Painted snipe 2
Charadriidae Plovers, lapwings 62
Scolopacidae Sandpipers 81
Recurvirostridae Avocets, stilts 7
Phalaropodidae Phalaropes 3
Dromadidae Crab plover 1
Burhinidae Stonecurlews 9
Glareolidae Pratincoles, thick-knees 9
Thinocoridae Seed snipe 4
Chionididae Sheathbills 2
Stercorariidae 6
Laridae Gulls 45
Sternidae Terns, noddies 42
Rynchopidae Skimmers 3
Alcidae Auks 22
Columbiformes Pteroclididae Sandgrouse 16 Worldwide except Antarctica Small to medium-sized arboreal and terrestrial birds with thick, heavy plumage.
Columbidae Pigeons, doves 300
Psittaciformes Psitttacidae Parrots, lories, cockatoos, lovebirds, macaws, budgerigars 330 All continents except Antarctica The parrots have zygodactyl toes: two pointing forward, and two pointing backward, enabling them to climb and hold objects. They have strong, hooked bills - used for cracking nuts, holding things and climbing - as a 'third foot'. Often colorful, they nest in trees and on ledges and have a largely vegetarian diet.
Cuculiformes Musophagidae Turacos 22 Worldwide Diverse order of arboreal and terrestrial birds. The cuckoos are brood parasites, relying on other species to raise their young.
Cuculidae Cuckoos, anis, roadrunner, coucals 128
Opisthocomidae Hoatzin 1
Strigiformes Strigidae (typical) owls 124 Worldwide except Antarctica The owls are nocturnal raptors found in grassland and woodland habitats, usually nesting in cavities. Their large, forward-facing eyes peer out of a facial disk and give them binocular vision. Owls can turn their heads in either direction more than 180°, and also have acute hearing.
Tytonidae Barn owls 10
Caprimulgiformes Caprimulgidae Nightjars or goatsuckers 70 SE Asia, Australia, S America, tropical regions These are generally insectivorous. Some hibernate and many are migratory. They have wide, gaping mouths with hooked beaks, large eyes and short legs with weak feet. Many species are two-colored, featuring grey and red phases.
Podargidae Frogmouths 12
Aegothelidae Owlet-nightjars 8
Nyctibiidae Potoos 5
Steatornithidae Oilbird 1
Apodiformes Apodidae Swifts 80 Worldwide Aerial birds that depend on their flying skills for food. Swifts are insectivorous and migratory. While on the wing they feed, mate, collect nest materials, drink and even, in some species, pass the night at high altitudes. Hummingbirds feed on nectar, suplemented with insects.
Hemiprocnidae Crested swifts 3
Trochilidae Hummingbirds 320
Coliiformes Coliidae Mousebirds or colis 6 Sub-Saharan Africa These acrobatic, highly social birds live in scrub and bushes, feeding on fruit and vegetation - often becoming agricultural pests.
Trogoniformes Trogonidae Trogons 35 Americas, Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa Colourful, sedentary, arboreal birds that feed on fruit and insects. They nest in tree cavities and termite mounds.
Coraciiformes Alcedinidae Kingfishers 87 Worldwide The three anterior toes on these birds are united, an adaptation for perching and tree-climbing. Many are brightly coloured, some are social. All nest in cavities, digging holes in, for example, earth banks or rotten trees.
Todidae Todies 5
Momotidae Motmots 8
Meropidae Bee-eaters 24
Leptosomatidae Cuckoo-roller 1
Coraciidae Rollers 16
Upupidae Hoopoe 1
Phoeniculidae Woodhoopoes 6
Bucerotidae Hornbills 45
Piciformes Galbulidae Jacamars 15 Worlwide These burds are zygodactylous. Colourful and arboreal, they feed on vegetation and insects, and nest in holes.
Bucconidae Puffbirds 30
Capitonidae Barbets 76
Indicatoridae Honeyguides 15
Ramphastidae Toucans 40
Picidae Woodpeckers, piculets, wrynecks 200
Passeriformes Eurylaimidae Broadbills 14 Wordlwide Around 5200 species, well over half of all birds, belong to the order Passeriformes, the perching birds or passerines. The order includes the most familiar garden birds - tits, chickadees, robins and sparrows - as well as other species found in virtually all land habitats. No passerine is a true water bird, though the dippers come close. Most are small or medium-sized birds (the largest species are the raven and the Australian lyrebird). The perching feet have four well-developed, separate toes. They are very vocal, singing birds. The male is often more brightly coloured than the female. Most are opportunistic feeders, being dependent on high-energy foods such as seeds and insects. Monogamy is the norm.
Menuridae Lyrebirds 2
Atrichornithidae Scrub-birds 2
Furnariidae Ovenbirds 220
Dendrocolaptidae Woodcreepers 48
Formicariidae Antbirds 230
Tyrannidae Tyrant flycatchers 375
Pittidae Pittas 29
Pipridae Manakins 53
Cotingidae Cotingas 65
Conopophagidae Gnateaters 9
Rhinocryptidae Tapaculos 29
Oxyruncidae Sharpbill 1
Phytotomidae Plantcutters 3
Xenicidae New Zealand wrens 4
Philepittidae Sunbird astites 4
Hirundinidae Swallows, martins 74
Alaudidae Larks 75
Motacillidae Wagtails, pipits 54
Pycnonotidae Bulbuls 120
Laniidae Shrikes 69
Campephagidae Cuckoo-shrikes 72
Irenidae Leafbirds 14
Prionopidae Helmet shrikes 9
Vangidae Vanga shrikes 13
Bombycillidae Waxwings, silky flycatchers 8
Dulidae Palmchat 1
Cinclidae Dippers 5
Troglodytidae Wrens 60
Mimidae Mockingbirds 30
Subfamilies of the family Muscicapidae
Prunellidae Accentors 13
Turdinae Thrushes 305
Timaliinae Babblers 252
Sylviinae Warblers (Old World) 350
Muscicapinae Flycatcher (Old World) 155
Malurinae Fairy-wrens 26
Paradoxornithinae Parrotbills 19
Monarchinae Monarch flycatchers 133
Orthonychinae Logrunners 20
Acanthizinae Australian warblers 65
Rhipidurinae Fantail flycatchers 39
Pachycephalinae Thickheads 46
End sub-families
Paridae Tits 46
Aegithalidae Long-tailed tits 7
Remizidae Penduline tits 10
Sittidae Nuthatches 21
Climacteridae Australasian treecreepers 8
Certhiidae Holarctic treecreepers 5
Rhabdornithidae Philippine treecreepers 2
Zosteropidae White-eyes 85
Dicaeidae Flowerpeckers 50
Pardalotidae Pardalotes or diamond eyes 5
Nectariniidae Sunbirds, spiderhunters 116
Meliphagidae Honeyeaters 169
Ephthianuridae Australian chats 5
Subfamilies of the family Emberizidae
Emberizinae Old World buntings, New World sparrows 281
Catamblyrhynchinae Plush-capped finch 1
Thraupinae Tanagers, honeycreepers 233
Cardinalinae Cardinal grosbeaks 37
Tersininae Swallow tanager 1
Parulidae Wood warblers 119
Vireonidae Vireos, pepper shrikes 43
Icteridae American blackbirds 94
Subfamilies of the family Fringillidae
Fringillinae Fringilline finches 3
Carduelinae Cardueline finches 122
Drepanidinae Hawaiian honeycreepers 23
Estrildidae Waxbills 124
Subfamilies of the family Ploceidae
Ploceinae True weavers 95
Viduinae Widow birds 10
Bubalornithinae Buffalo weavers 3
Passerinae Sparrow weavers, sparrows 37
End sub-families
Sturnidae Starlings 106
Oriolidae Orioles, figbirds 28
Dicruridae Drongos 20
Callaeidae New Zealand wattlebirds 3
Grallinidae Magpie larks 2
Corcoracidae Australian mudnesters 2
Artamidae Wood swallows 10
Cracticidae Bell magpies 9
Ptilonorhynchidae Bowerbirds 18
Paradisaeidae Birds of paradise 43
Corvidae Crows, magpies, jays 113

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Last updated: 2005-01-17