Birds are a widely distributed family of animals, other than fish and mammals, the only vertebrates found on every continent and consisting of somewhere upwards of 10700 species.  While technically reptiles, as the sole surviving descendents of the dinosaurs, I class them here as their own group due to the fact they are the focus of this website.  They are defined by feathers, forelimbs adapted to wings (although not always functional) and toothless beaks; all adaptations for flight, although some species have returned to being ground dwelling.

Ducks, Geese, Swans and Relatives
The Anseriformes are a large order of around 180 species most famous for comprising ducks, swans and geese, although also containing the more obscure screamers and magpie goose.  A widespread and successful order, they are found on every continent except Antarctica, usually associated with water.

ANATIDAE - The Ducks, Geese and Swans

  -  Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
  -  Bewick's Swan (Cygnus columbianus)
  - Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)
  -  Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)
  -  Greylag Goose (Anser anser)
  -   White Fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
  -  Pink Footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)
  -   Taiga Bean Goose (Anser fabalis)
  -   Tundra Bean Goose (Anser serrirostris)
  -  Canada Goose (Branta candansis)
  -  Brent Goose (Branta bernicla)
  -  Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)
  -  Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegytiacus)
  -  Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
  -  Mandarin (Aix galericulata)
  American Wigeon (Anas americana)
  - Baikal Teal (Anas formosa)
  -  Eastern Spot-billed Duck (Anas zonorhyncha)
  -  Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
  -  Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
  - Indian Spot-billed Duck (Anas poecilorhyncha)
  -  Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
  -  Garganey (Anas querquedula)
  -  Gadwall (Anas strepera)
  - Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis)
  -  Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
  -  Northern Shoveller (Anas clypeata)
  -   Red Crested Pochard (Netta rufina)

  -   Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
  -   Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)
  -   Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
  -   Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
  -  Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)
  -  Long Tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)
  -  Black Scoter (Melanitta americana)
  -  Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra)
  - Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)
  -  Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca)
  -  Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
  -  Smew (Mergellus albellus)
  -  Red Breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
  -  Goosander (Merus merganser)
  -  Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
  - White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala)
 -  Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus)

The Gamebirds
The Galliformes are a group defined primarily by being highly terrestrial ground feeders, and the 290 species of them found around the world fill a variety of niches, but generally retain a fairly similar body plan.  A number of species found in this family have notable connections to human history, including chickens, turkeys, peacocks and pheasants.


  -  Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus)
  -  Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta)
  -  Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix)
  -  Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus)

PHASIANIDAE - The Pheasants, Partridge and Quail

  -  Red-Legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)
  -  Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix)
  -  Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix)
  - Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus)
  -  Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
  -  Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus)
  -  Lady Amherst's Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae)


The Divers
A tiny order consisting of just five species, who all also share a family and genus.  The Divers are entirely dedicated pescivores found only in the upper Northern hemisphere.  As the name suggests, they are diving specialists, which has enabled them to have a wide range over Northerly extremes Europe, Asia and North America.

GAVIDAE - Divers

   -  Great Northern Diver (Gavia immer)
   -  Red Throated Diver (Gavia stellata)
   -  Black Throated Diver (Gavia arctica)


The Grebes
Another single order family, the Grebes consist of 22 species of birds which have heavily specialised in hunting for fish underwater.  More closely associated with freshwater than the divers, they are ungainly on land. A few species are very widely distributed, but the greatest diversity is found in South America.  


 -  Black-Necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)
 -  Little Grebe (Tachybaptus reficollis)


The Shearwaters, Albatrosses and Petrels
Out of all families of birds, this order of birds represents the single most exclusively pelagic group of species.  While there are exceptions such as the Fulmars, most species spend their entire adult lives at sea, returning to land only to breed.  There are approximatly 125 living species in this family, many of which only breed on specific isolated islands.

PROCELLARIIDAE - The Shearwaters and Petrels
 - Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)
  - Great Shearwater (Puffinus gravis)
  - Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus)
  - Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus maurtanicus)
  - Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus)
  - Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan)
  - Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris borealis)
 Scopoli's Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea)

HYDROBATIDAE - The Storm Petrels

 - European Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus)
  - Wilson's Storm Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus)
  - Leach's Storm Petrel (Oceonodroma leucorhoa)

The oldest confirmed order of all living birds, the suliformes are all fish feeding birds who predominantly live around water.  They are globally distributed and most tend to be inshore feeders, either diving for fish, or in the Frigatebird's case, stealing it from other species.  The Cormorant family is more versatile than the others, and many species can be found in freshwater, while the darters are a fully freshwater group.  There are approximatly 60 species in total, mostly in the cormorants.

The Herons, Cormorants, Pelicans and Relatives
A large and varied order of birds that are predominatly fish feeders with a more wading and ambush based tendency than other groups.  The bulk of the group is comprised of the 64 species of heron, combined with 8 species of pelican, 33 species of ibis and spoonbill and two anomylous species that represent their own families; the hamerknop and the shoebill.

Surely one of the most iconic orders of bird currently extant, the flamingos comprise two genus and six species of tall, distinctively pink birds that are filter feeders of small crustaceans and the like found in water.  Their taxonomy has long been mysterious, but are currently believed to be most closely related to grebes.



The Storks
A family of wading birds, the storks are amoungst the largest of all flying birds with even the smallest species being reasonably substantial birds.  They are less tied to water than other waders, and may also feed on small land animals, and in some species act as scavengers and carrion feeders.  There are 20 species in total.
The Accipitriformes, often known as raptors (although this includes other grounds too) are a diverse group of 217 species that are almost all obligate carnivores.  Unlike the previous carnivorous groups, prey is varied wildly across the group and includes aerial hunters of small insects and birds, right through to species than can take decent sized mammals and specialist carrion feeders.  
 - Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
  - Oriental Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)
  - European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)

The Rails, Crakes and Cranes
An order that has in the past been used as something of a "wastebin taxon" ie. where many vaguely similar families are placed together for lack of understanding about their relationship to each other, the gruiformes, which literally means "crane-like" now consists of two major families; the rails and cranes for a total of 145 species, including a few odd species such as finfoots, the limpkin and sungrebe.  They tend to be water associated birds, but not all are waterbirds in the traditional sense, tending to prefer walking over swimming.
The charadriiformes are a varied group of birds that generally live near the edges of water.  While colloquially categorised broadly in terms of the categories I laid out above, along with a few other prominent ones such as skuas, skimmers and buttonquails, their actual interelationship is more complex, and some birds considered "waders" are actually more closely related to gulls than to the classic groupings. There are around 350 species in total.

RECURVIROSTRIDAE - The Avocets and Stilts

  - Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) 
  - Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)


  - Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
  - Little Ringed Plover (Charadriuss dubius)
  - Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
  - Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus)
  - European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
  - Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
  - Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)

 - Great Skua (Stercorarius skua)
 - Long-tailed Skua (Stercorarius longicaudus) 
 - Pomarine Skua (Stercorarius pomarinus)

 - Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) 
 - Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii)


The Doves and Pigeons
The columbiformes are in some ways one of the most familiar of all families - represented by doves and pigeons which have played such a part in religious imagery, the tactics of early 20th century warfare and the streets of our cities.  However, ubiquitous as the Rock Dove is in our world, the family is much more varied than that, consisting of around 310 extant species.  It is infact a highly threatened family - around 19% are considered some level of endangered, perhaps in correlation with the high number of island endemics.  Indeed, two of the most famous extinctions of all time; the Dodo and the Passenger Pigeon, both belonged to this family.
 - Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans)

The Sandgrouse
A small order consisting of only sixteen species found exclusively in largely dry, open country, found mostly across Africa and Asia with two species extending into Europe. They are primarily seed eaters, often live in flocks and are known for their unique adaptation of being able to absorb water into their chest feathers allowing them to transport it to chicks miles away - a very useful tool in the dry habitats they frequent.

PTEROCLIDAE - The Sandgrouse
 - Black Bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis)

The Parrots
The parrots are a surprisingly large order of 393 species, mostly located in the Southern Hemisphere and Tropics that have made some fairly specific adaptations.  They are mostly arboreal, have curved powerful beaks, dextrous claws and are generally among the most intelligent of all birds.  They are widely familiar to humans in the form of domesticated species due to their frequently bright colours.

Long regarded as part of the Accipitriformes, more recent analysis has placed the 60 species as a closer relation of the parrots.  They are generally smaller than hawks and eagles, with even the largest being only comparable to a medium sized hawk.  They are entirely dedicated hunters, and with the exception of the five caracara species, do not feed on carrion.  Unlike hawks, kill with their beaks rather than their feet.  Included in this group is the Peregrine Falcon, the fastest animal on the planet.
From the perspective of Europeans, this is a family defined in large part by a single species - the Common Cuckoo - a bird whose iconic call is considered a signal of Spring and whose brood parasitism is bit of commonly known quirk of natural history.  However, the family is far more varied than that - around 150 species, primarily found in the tropics and including some species like the Roadrunner who most wouldn't be expected as part of this family.
   - Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis)corm

A small family of large birds;the bustards are 25 species of medium to large birds that have become adapted as omnivorous grassland specialists.  They are long legged and tall, but can still fly, and contain the two heaviest flying birds living to day, the Great and Kori bustards.  Found only in the Old World, they are among the most threatened of families due to human disturbance of grassland habitats.

Another family of widely recognised birds, the owls consist of approximately 200 species, noted for being typically upright, having comparatively flats faces and being noctural predators.  They have a fairly wide range of sizes from huge species such as the Eagle Owls and Blakiston's Fish Owl.  Found on every continent except antarctica, they are generally rarely seen.

STRIGIDAE - The Typical Owls
 - Little Owl (Athene noctua)
 - Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)
 - Tawny Owl (Strix aluco)
Another unusual group of species - the caprimulgiformes are generally nocturnal and heavily camoflaged to match in with trees or leaf litter.  They are often insect feeders and many are ground nesting species.  As with several other families here, the European conception of them is heavily based around a single species - the European Nightjar, despite far more variety of them being found globally - around 120 species in all. 

After the passerines, the apodiformes represent the single largest order of birds - an order that has specialised in flight to a greater degree than any other.  The swifts have evolved to the point where many species only really land to nest, even sleeping in the air, while the hummingbirds have some of the most sophisticated flight abilities of any species, able to fly in any direction. 
  -  House Swift (Apus nipalensis)
 - Glossy Swiftlet (Collocalia esculenta)

The coraciiformes are a somewhat tricky group to put a definative label on what unites them - they are all small to medium birds which focus on predating insects or invertibrates, and are generally colourful, but beyond that the nuances are fairly varied.  The Bee-eaters and Rollers are Old World Families, while the Kingfishers are found almost globally, although all species reach their greatest diversity in the tropics.  This order sometimes includes the species I've listed in Bucerotiformes, depending on who you ask, but I've separated them out for now in accordance with some taxonomy systems.

  - Black Capped Kingfisher (Halycon pileata)

A relatively small family of species comprised of hornbills, hoopoes and the less familiar wood hoopoes and scimitarbills - all species with proportionally long curved bills.  The family is found exclusively in the Old World; hornbills are exlusively found in Africa and Asia, while the Eurasian Hoopoe is the only rperesentative of this family in Europe.  There are approximately 70 species in total, with the vast majority of these being Hornbills

A reasonably substantial family with around 375 species present, most of which are the 200 species of woodpecker, and even those which are not tend to be arboreal specialists.  The woodpeckers are a near globally distributed group, missing only from Australia, Antarctica and Madgascar of the major landmasses.  These species are defined by their powerful chisel beaks used for feeding and nesting in trees.  The toucans are in many ways a parrallel evolution to the Hornbills in the Old World, with similar body plans, although they tend to be more arboreal.
While technically just an order much as any other mentioned, the passeriformes are the true bulk of the birds, with more species present than all other orders combined.  They tend to be small, with even the very largest - the ravens being in the grand scheme of things fairly moderate sized birds.  Much more so than other grounds, they are versatile ever - this group contains seed and insect eaters that fill many niches, but also lineages that have specialised into different niches such as the carnivorous shrikes or the aerial hunting hirundines.

 - Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)
  - Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus)

ACROCEPHALIDAE - The Marsh and Tree Warblers
 - Eurasian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
 - Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

 - Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris)
  - Oriental Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus orientalis)
 - Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta)

LEIOTHRICIDAE - The Laughingthrushes and Allies
Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush (Garruax mitratus)
Long-tailed Sibia (Heterophasia picaoides)

 - Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

 - Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

 - Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

TURDIDAE - The Thrushes

 - Twite (Carduelis flavirostris)
 - Mealy Redpoll (Carduelis flammea)
 - Scarlet Rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus)
 - Scottish Crossbill (Loxia scotia)