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There are 930 bird species found in North America.
Worldwide about 10,000 species and 22,000 subspecies of birds.
Birds are grouped into orders, families, and genera
according to similarities of bills, feet and wing forms.
Classification also refers to body parts not important in
field identification, but essential in scientific study.
Here is a simplified list of the main bird groups.
Large swimming and diving birds; short tails; legs set
far back; four toes; 3 front ones fully webbed. Bill sharply
pointed, higher than wide.
Smaller swimmers and divers. Tail lacking; legs far back;
four toes with thin skin flaps and with flattened nails. Bill
Slender, pointed and higher than wide.
Long legged wading birds. In flight, feet extend beyond tail
but neck is pulled in. Bill straight and sharp; skin between eye
and bill bare. Four toes; scarcely webbed or not webbed at all.
Middle toenail has comb like margin.
Ducks, Geese, Swans
Swimming birds with distinct tails. Legs centered; birds walk
well compared to grebes and loons; four toes; front 3 webbed.
bill broad and flat, often with "teeth" along edge. Upper bill
ending in short, flat hook or nail.
Cranes, Rails, Coots
Marsh birds flying with neck extended and feet dangling; wings
rounded. Four toes, unwebbed (except for coot, which has lobes).
Middle toenail without comb like margin. Patch between eye and
bill is feathered.
Plovers, Sandpipers, Snipes
Long legged shore birds, mostly small in size. Bill usually
conical, long and soft; nostrils opening through slits in bill. Generally
4 toes; hind toe raised and short. Sanderlings and most plovers have
only 3 toes.
Mostly light colored marine birds. Wings long, narrow and
pointed. Bill hooked (gulls) or pointed (terns) with nostrils opening into
slits that go through bill. Four toes; hind toe small and not webbed.
Hawks, Eagles, Vultures
Large birds; bill strongly hooked; powerful feet; claws long and
curved. Vultures differ in having a bare head with nostrils connected by
hole through bill.
Grouse, Quail, Turkey
Land birds which scratch for food. Bills short and stout; feet
heavy and strong; hind toe short and raised. Wings short and rounded,
with stiff feathers.
Small headed birds with slender bills, grooved at base; and with
nostrils opening through a bare fleshy area at base of bill. Legs
short; four toes; all on same level; hind toe as long as shortest
Bill strongly hooked; a swelling at its base is concealed by
feathers. Toes with large curved claws; entire leg feathered. Eyes large
and immovable in puffy, feathered face.
Long, slim birds with slightly curved bill. Tail long, feathers
not stiff or pointed; central tail feathers longest. Four toes; 2 in
front and 2 behind.
Small swallow like birds; bill small with no bristles at base.
Mouth wide; wings slender and very long, reaching beyond tail; tail
with 10 feathers.
Birds with large heads, small bills and wide mouths. Bill
usually with bristles at base. Feet small; middle toe long
with comb like claw. Feathers soft, dull colored.
Tiny birds with bill slender and needle like, longer than head.
Feet small and weak. Feathers on back usually shiny green.
Head large and crested. Bill long and strong, pointed. Feet
small and weak; four toes; 2 of the 3 forward toes joined
for half their length.
Climbing birds with strong, pointed bill, with bristles at
nostril. Tail feathers stiff and pointed. Four toes; 2 in front,
2 in back or (rarely) 3; 2 in front and 1 in back.
The largest bird group. Land birds, mostly small with 4
toes, all on the same level, never webbed. Hind toe as long as
middle front toe, - an adaptation for perching. Tail with
See More about Perching Birds Below
A Complete List of North
Gulls & Seagulls
Pigeons & Doves
Perching Birds are medium to small land birds with feet
well suited for perching, 3 toes in front and one long one behind.
Most are fine singers.
Most are highly migratory.
Perching birds range in size from kinglets at about 0.18 oz to ravens
at about 3 lb.
Oscines, commonly referred to as songbirds, comprise the
suborder Passeres, the largest suborder of the passerines.
Finches, wrens, swallows, nightingales, crows, warblers,
vireos, tanagers, and flycatchers are all passerines.
Passerine is the common name for these perching birds belonging
to the largest avian order, which includes more than 5700
diverse species and over half of all living birds.
Passerines make up the order Passeriformes.
North American Passerines include:
Old World Sparrows
Birds make up the class Aves
Anseriformes: Waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans)
Apodiformes: Swifts, hummingbirds
Caprimulgiformes: Goatsuckers, nightjars
Charadriiformes: Shorebirds, gulls, alcids, jacanas, skuas, terns,
skimmers, oystercatchers, avocets
Ciconiiformes: Herons, storks, ibis, spoonbills, bitterns
Columbiformes: Pigeons, doves, sandgrouse
Coraciiformes: Kingfishers, bee-eaters, rollers, hoopoes,
hornbills, motmots, todies
Cuculiformes: Cuckoos, anis, roadrunners, hoatzins
Falconiformes: Vultures, hawks, eagles, falcons, osprey, secretary
Galliformes: Grouse, pheasants, turkeys, quails, ptarmigans,
guinea fowl, guans
Gruiformes: Cranes, rails, bustards, limpkins, coots, gallinules,
sunbitterns, kagus, trumpeters
Passeriformes: Perching birds (over 70 families), including crows,
thrushes, sparrows, swallows, wrens, warblers, flycatchers, larks, nuthatches,
vireos, shrikes, blackbirds
Pelecaniformes: Pelicans, boobies, cormorants, gannets, darters,
Piciformes: Woodpeckers, honey guides, toucans, jacamars,
Procellariiformes: Albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels
Struthioniformes: Ostriches, rheas, kiwis, cassowaries, emus
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