Personal Project — Bird Families of the World
a web page by Don Roberson
   and to photograph as many as reasonably possible

This is a personal project. I've been fascinated by bird diversity — as represented by bird families — since I was given a book on bird families (Austin 1961) as a child. My father loved travel so I got to circle the globe when young. I joined Van Remsen and other Bay Area birders in my first world birding trip (to Colombia) in 1975 but did not really focus on seeing a member of each bird family until the 1980s. I started web pages on Bird Families of the World in 1999 and kept track of newly proposed families or those lumped through new genetic research. Using Clements' list as my standard, I thought that I had completed my personal set of all the bird families on Christmas Day 2006, with Oilbird in Trinidad.

Of course that did not last. Within a couple of years Egyptian Plover, Hylocitrea, and Rail-babbler were added to global family lists, and there were more to come. I've continued to travel for new families [3 in Papua New Guinea (2017), Spot-throat in Tanzania (2018), Elachura in Bhutan (2019)]. As of this writing (Aug 2021), I'm still one family from the finish line — a line that keeps changing on all of us!

By the turn of the 21st century, I'd also become interested in photographing every bird family but was hampered by the difficulty of taking slides in dark jungles. I got a decent digital camera in 2005, now 15 years ago. That helped a lot but by then it was not possible or practical to redo decades of birding trips. In the following pages, there are photos from 1978 to the present and 36 countries are represented, but I never will be able to photograph all the bird families. Yet, it is fun to continue to the effort, and try to get as close to the goal as possible.

A friend in Australia — Tony Palliser — is making a concerted effort to photograph all the Bird Families in the world. A professional photographer,
he is creating some wonderfully memorable shots along the way. You and I can follow his efforts on his web site: The Palliser Project.

Tony Palliser has been using IOC list 6.1, with 240 families, as his standard. In the following 14 web pages I set out one photo of a bird from each family — using 260 families and the sequence from my 17th ed. Creagrus family list. Some photos are quite nice and some are very poor. [This is internet, so I can easily replace bad photos with better shots over time as luck permits.] You'll find an icon of a guy with binoculars for families I've seen but not (yet) photographed, and also a blank spot for the one family I have yet to see.

On page 15 of this project is a personal gallery of previous families — those that were once considered a family by a major global publication (e.g., Austin 1961, Meyer de Schauensee 1970, Harrison 1979, Sibley & Monroe (1990), the Handbook of the Birds of the World 16-volume project, and a few others) — but that are now merged into other families. Sibley & Monroe (1990) was a watershed volume in its effect on bird families — anticipating much of today's molecular evidence — but also splitting cuckoos into 5 families and kingfishers into three but failing to anticipate the break-up of the Old World warblers into more than a dozen families or babblers into more than a half-dozen.

On page 16 of this project is a personal gallery of proposed families — by current or recent IOC lists, by Fregin et al. (2012) or Barker et al. (2013), or by John Boyd's on-line Taxonomy in Flux list— but that neither Clements nor my own Creagrus project currently accepts. It is possible that the AOU or SACC, or Clements or me, may adopt some of these in the future. Others may be abandoned as time goes by.

photo above Resplendent Quetzal: 23 Dec 2007 Savegre, Costa Rica

photo just below Common Goldeneye: 27 Jan 2016 Monterey, CA, USA

photo at bottom Swallow-tailed Bee-eater: 5 July 2021, Ruaha NP, Tanzania

Literature cited:

  • Austin, O.L. 1961. Birds of the World: a Survey of the Twenty-seven Orders and One Hundred and Fifty-five Families. Golden Press, New York.
  • Barker, F.K., K.J. Burns, J. Klicka, S.M. Lanyon, and I.J. Lovette. 2013. Going to extremes: contrasting rates of diversification in a recent radiation of New World passerine birds. Syst. Biol. 62: 298–320.
  • Cibois, A. 2003. Mitochondrial DNA phylogeny of babblers (Timaliidae). Auk 120: 35–54.
  • Fregin, S., M. Haase, U. Olsson & P. Alström. 2012. New insights into family relationships within the avian superfamily Sylvioidea (Passeriformes) based on seven molecular markers. BMC Evol. Biol. 12: 157.
  • Harrison, C.J.O. 1979. Bird Families of the World in Birds: Their Life, Their Ways, Their World (C. Perrins, ed.). Reader's Digest Association, Inc., New York.
  • Meyer de Schauensee, R. 1970. A Guide to the Birds of South America. Livingston Pub., Wynnewood, PA
  • Ohlson, J.I., R.O. Prum, and P.G.P. Ericson. 2007. A molecular phylogeny of the cotingas (Aves: Cotingidae). Mol. Phylog. Evol. 42: 25–37.
  • Ohlson, J.I., M. Irestedt, P.G.P. Ericson, and J. Fjeldså. 2013. Phylogeny and classification of the New World suboscines (Aves, Passeriformes). Zootaxa 3613: 1–35.
  • Sibley, C.G., and B.L. Monroe, Jr. 1990. Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, CT.
  • Winkler, D.W., S.M. Billerman, and I.J. Lovette. 2015. Bird Families of the World: A Guide to the Spectacular Diversity of Birds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
INTRODUCTION — this page




  page created 22-24 Mar 2016, updated 3 Aug 2021  
all text & photos © Don Roberson, except as otherwise indicated; all rights reserved