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Bird Classification


The AOU Checklist (American Ornithological Union) is the official source for bird names (scientific and common). The seventh edition of the Check-list of North American Birds was published in 1998. Since then, five supplements to the check-list have been published. The supplements are available in pdf format at the American Ornithologists' Union website, along with a complete list of North American birds. Classification at the higher taxonomic ranks is in some flux. For example, you'll see on the Animal Diversity Web that some taxa we consider as belonging to the Cardinalidae are placed by them in the Emberizidae (and the Cardinalidae is not recognized).

You now should have some feel for how organisms in general are classified and what the position of a taxon in a classification means. The traditional classification is the one utilized here.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to learn classifications—it requires blood and sweat, or if not those, tears. There is a lot of sheer memorization. At the same time, we cannot ignore classification; in large part, this is the framework upon which we hang our biological knowledge. The classification given below is not complete, focusing on major groups and on lower ranks important in the Southwest. A few hours of concentrated effort now (with frequent review) will make subsequent material immeasurably easier to retain accurately.

In birds, all taxonomic orders end in "iformes" (unfortunately, not true in mammals). In all zoology, superfamilies end in "oidea," families end in "idae," subfamilies end in "inae," and tribes (a taxonomic rank between subfamily and genus) end in "ini."

Please note that a checklist of birds of the El Paso Region is available on the web. This will serve partly for the lower-level classification. You also may access a more inclusive bird list that encompasses New Mexico through a non-Centennial Museum site. (For practical purposes, virtually everything that occurs in the El Paso Region also occurs in New Mexico.) As can be seen from this list, we can hardly expected to learn all of the El Paso regional birds, let along those farther south that do not make it so far north. Thus we'll look at selected species representing the various groups.

The classification below covers only some of the major taxa of interest in the Chihuahuan Desert Region, and thus is very incomplete. Many of the taxa listed below have links to various places. The orders are linked to the Animal Diversity Web. Links are provided to help you form mental images of the various groups, not for testing purposes. However, it's to your advantage to follow up on them. For the most part, these are to pages that have images and usually also have links to other information, such as classification. The Passeriformes link takes you to a page having links to the various families, which you are encouraged to follow up on.


Class Aves: Birds

Subclass Neornithes

Superorder Neognathae

Order Gaviiformes: Loons

Order Podicipediformes: Grebes

Order Pelecaniformes: Pelicans, Cormorants, and relatives

Pelecanidae: Pelecans

Phalacrocoracidae: Cormorants

Order Ciconiiformes: Herons, Storks, Ibises, Spoonbills, and Vultures

Cathartidae: Condors and American Vultures

Ardeidae: Bitterns and Herons

Threskiornithidae: Ibises and Spoonbills

Order Anseriformes: Duck, Geese, and relatives

Anatidae: Ducks, Geese, Swans

Order Falconiformes: Hawks, Eagles, Falcons, etc.

Accipitridae: Eagles, Hawks. Osprey

Falconidae: Caracara and Falcons

Order Galliformes: Grouse, Pheasants, Quail, Turkeys, Hoatzin, etc.

Odontophoridae: Quail

Phasianidae: Grouse, Pheasants, Turkeys, and relatives

Order Gruiformes: Cranes, Rails, and relatives

Gruidae: Cranes

Rallidae: Rails, Gallinules, and Coots

Order Charadriiformes: Shorebirds, Gulls, and relatives

Charadriidae: Plovers

Scolopacidae: Sandpipers, Phalaropes, and allies

Recurvirostridae: Avocets and Stilts

Laridae: Gulls, Terns, and relatives

Order Columbiformes: Pigeons, and Doves

Columbidae: Pigeons and Doves

Order Psittaciformes: Parrots, Macaws, Parakeets, and Lories

Order Cuculiformes: Cuckoos

Cuculidae: Cuckoos, Roadrunners, and Anis

Order Strigiformes: Owls

Tytonidae: Barn-owls

Strigidae: Typical Owls

Order Caprimulgiformes: Goatsuckers, Nighthawks, and allies

Caprimulgidae: Nighthawks, Poorwill, and Whipoorwill

Order Apodiformes: Swifts and Hummingbirds

Apodidae: Swifts

Trochilidae: Hummingbirds

Order Coraciiformes: Kingfishers, Motmots, Hoopoes, Bee-eaters, and Todies

Order Piciformes: Woodpeckers and allies

Picidae: Woodpeckers

Order Passeriformes: Perching Birds

Tyrannidae: Tyrant Flycatchers

Laniidae: Shrikes

Alaudidae: Larks

Hirundinidae: Swallows

Corvidae: Jays, Magpies, Crows, and Ravens

Troglodytidae: Wrens

Muscicapidae: Muscicaprids

Regulidae: Kinglets

Sylviidae: Old World Warblers and Gnatcatchers

Turdidae Turdinae: Thrushes, Robins, Bluebirds, etc.

Mimidae: Mockingbirds, Thrashers, and allies

Emberizidae: Emberizids


Thraupidae: Tanagers

Cardinalidae: Cardinals, Grosbeaks, and allies

Icteridae: Blackbirds and allies

Fringillidae: Fringilline and Cardueline Finches and relatives

Passeridae: Old World Sparrows


Last Update: 27 Jun 2006
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