a web page by Don Roberson

17th edition

list last revised May 2021
this list has 260 extant families

The purpose of Bird Families of the World is as an aid to world birders who want to maximize their enjoyment of avian diversity by observing examples of as many bird families as is reasonable within the time and money available for travel, and as a study tool for all interested readers. This project began in 1999. Since then, molecular evidence has revised much of what was thought to be known about bird evolution and relationships. It was a wild ride for nearly two decades as new research was published but, today, a much higher degree of consensus has been reached. While tracking proposed revisions to the list of bird families, I've advocated for more consistency in the use of evidence across bird families.

This May 2021 update, called the 17th edition, provides only minor revisions to the Aug 2019 update that I termed edition 16B. The changes highlighted below bring the list of bird families to 260 extant families.

This web project began on 9 Feb 1999 when I posted a short page on the Dulidae [Palmchat]. While the list of Bird Families has been regularly updated to accommodate new research through 16 prior editions, it was not until 17 years and a month [6238 days] that, with the posting of the Vireonidae [Vireos], that this project finally had a web page with text and photos for every family. At that time, many of the old pages badly need updating in both layout, text, and photos but at least my initial goal had been reached. I've updated many old pages in the last two years, but some still need work. Pages with a white background are now old pages (more than a dozen years old) that need revision; pages updated 5-10 years ago have a light green background; pages with a forest green background (like this one) have been created or updated within the last 5 years. I've used my own photos when I had them, but I'm grateful to the many photographers around the world who've permitted me to use their wonderful shots when I needed them.  – D. Roberson, 20 May 2021

In putting together this list, I've been influenced by the Winkler et al. Bird Families of the World book (2015), the Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW) project, updated decisions of the Clements world checklist, the IOC world checklist, the American Ornithological Society's Check-list of North American Birds for Middle and North America (often called the AOU list, including in these pages), the South American Classification Committee checklist, and John Boyd's Avian Taxonomy in Flux. Research books include Christidis & Boles (2008) Systematics & taxonomy of Australian Birds and the Howard & Moore Checklist (4th ed., 2 vols).
[Full disclosure — I was a volunteer junior member of the Clements team (2011-2018) but I continue to depart from Clements for purposes of this project.]

HIGHTLIGHTS OF CHANGES in this 17th edition

I make only one family change in this 17th edition: Fuchs et al. (2019) opined, based on molecular evidence, that "Eurocephalus does not belong to the Laniidae family. Instead it is more closely related to . . . Crested Jay (Platylophus galericulatus). The genus Eurocephalus should probably be placed in its own family." According, I add the White-crowned Shrikes [Eurocephaliidae] between the Platylophidae and the Laniidae. Another move involved Eutrichomyias rowleyi (Cerulean "Paradise-flycatcher"), endemic to Sangihe I., Indonesia, which becomes the newest member of the Silktail family [Lamproliidae].

Net result: + 1 family from 16th edition

HIGHTLIGHTS OF CHANGES in the prior 16th edition (versions A & B)

There has been a trend towards higher numbers of Families in recent years — welcomed by some, criticized by others — and that has played havoc with longterm travel plans of some birders (like me). With recent decisions by the AOS-NACC, IOC, Clements, and Winkler et al. (2015), I finally accepted as a fait accompli the acceptance all the New World nine-primaried passerine families first proposed in Barker et al. (2013). This is with some reluctance, as I had hoped ornithologists could reach some reasonable standard by which families could be measured, perhaps something like a divergence date of 18-20 million years ago (mya), ad least for passerine families. This didn't happen. Puerto Rican Tanager [Nesospingidae] was split from the Spindalises, becoming a very young family. Then Yellow-breasted Chat [Icteriidae] was moved near the Icterids and elevated to Family level, making it the youngest family of all bird families: only about 11 mya. It also created a formal Family name [Icteriidae] that will be confused with that of the Orioles and allies [Icteridae].

Another new family was derived from the Winkler et al. (2015) book on bird families: " Crested Jay" Platylophus galericulatus of southeast Asia is renamed and elevated to its own family Shrikejay [Platylophidae]. Recent genetic evidence suggested it is related to shrikes, not jays; Clements and others have adopted this split.

The Skimmer family [Rynchopidae] was resurrected because the current SACC retain the Skimmers as a family, and do not merge them with the Laridae (Gulls and Terns). Some data suggest that noddies and White Tern are not within the traditional Terns (and might be entitled to Family status), so it is wisest to retain the Rynchopidae as a Family awaiting more research. In this way my list of bird families includes all the families currently accepted by either AOS or SACC.

The AOS added a family in their July 2018 supplement, the Royal-flycatchers [Onychorhynchidae], following Ohlson et al. (2013). This group of six flycatchers in 3 genera are, along with Sharpbill, a sister taxa to all the rest of the tyrant-flycatchers. The AOS elevates this family now, although a number of world checklists are holding off until the results of a large project currently underway is published. There will probably be other families split off from the current Tyrannidae. I've also used the sequence of families adopted by AOS for the New World suboscines.

The final new family was proposed by Cai et al. (2019), splitting the babbler genus Alcippe from the Ground-Babbler family [Pellorneidae] on molecular evidence. All the members of the genus are currently called "fulvettas," but there are other fulvettas in two other families, so this will cause confusion. For the moment I'll call them the Alcippe Fulvettas [Alcippeidae] but I hope taxonomists coin a better English names. When the Pnoepygidae was proposed a decade ago for a genus of birds then-called "wren-babblers," several authors (included me) suggested we adopt the name Cupwings (a translations of the generic name) and most world lists (e.g., Clements) did so. I'd like something better than "Alcippe Fulvettas" for these mostly southeast Asian small babblers.

I adopted the Clements/eBird sequence for the Bird Families of the World, except I adopt the AOS sequence of families in the New World suboscines. Overall, this places the nine-primaried passerines last (ending with Tanagers) and resequences the Passeroidea and the Corvoidea to follow the 2019–2021 Clements. This also brings this listing close to that in the AOU and SACC checklists.

Net result: + 7 families from 15th edition

The newest Bird Families book [Winkler et al. 2015] has 243 families, and I now accept all of those. My list in this edition has 260 families, 17 more than the Bird Families book: Skimmers [split by SACC], Ground-Hornbills [also split by Clements, IOC], Old World Parrots & Lories [Psittaculidae; also split by Clements, IOC, AOU, SACC], Sharpbill [Oxyruncidae; split by SACC, Clements], Royal Flycatchers [split by AOU], Butcherbirds [Cracticidae split from Artamidae Woodswallows, adopted by Clements 2018], Shrike-babblers and Silktails [both splits recommended by Jønsson et al. (2016) on evidence of ancient divergences], Erpornis, Bristle-flycatchers [Erythrocercidae; also split by IOC], White-crowned Shrikes (Fuchs et al. 2019), the Alcippe Fulvettas (Cai et al. 2019), Hylias, Wallcreeper [Tichodromidae; also split by Clements, IOC], Parrotbills & allies [Paradoxornithidae; also split by Clements 2018], Cinnamon Ibon, and the Alcippe Fulvettas. In short, this list incorporates all of the extant families adopted by Clements, AOU, SACC, or IOC [except Bananaquit and/or Scrub Warbler].
My listing is of extant bird families. The Mohoidae, an endemic family from Hawaii that included 5 species in genus Moho and one in genus Chaetoptila that had traditionally been considered honeyeaters in the Meliphagidae. Genetic evidence proved they were not honeyeaters, but that they were related to silky-flycatchers, waxwings, and other bombycillids. The Mohoidae is now extinct, so it is not possible to search for any of its members. The last remaining species was Kauai Oo, last proven alive in 1987, and now considered extinct. Thus, when comparing number of families between various list, it is important to use the list of extant families. Clements states this number explicitly; IOC apparently does not.

HIGHLIGHTS OF CHANGES in the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th and 12th editions are now available through this separate link to the 12th edition (2012). The footnotes and citations in the 13th edition are now at a separate link to the 13th edition (2015).

This site is not affiliated with the Handbook project but I highly recommend the books; click on the banner below

Non-passerine families
Struthionidae Ostrich  Pluvianellidae Magellanic Plover Ardeidae Herons
Rheidae Rheas Burhinidae Thick-knees Threskiornithidae Ibises & Spoonbills
Tinamidae Tinamous Pluvianidae Egyptian Plover Cathartidae New World Vultures
Casuariidae Cassowaries & Emu Recurvirostridae Stilts & Avocets Sagittariidae Secretarybird
Apterygidae Kiwis Ibidorhynchidae Ibisbill Pandionidae Osprey
Anhimidae Screamers Haematopodidae Oystercatchers Accipitridae Hawks & Eagles
Anserantidae Magpie-Goose Charadriidae Plovers Tytonidae Barn Owls
Anatidae Ducks, Geese & Swans Pedionomidae Plains-wanderer Strigidae Owls
Megapodiidae Megapodes  Thinocoridae Seedsnipes Coliidae Mousebirds
Cracidae Guans Rostratulidae Painted-snipes Leptosomidae Cuckoo-roller
Numididae Guineafowl Jacanidae Jaçanas Trogonidae Trogons
Odontophoridae New World Quail Scolopacidae Sandpipers Upupidae Hoopoes
Phasianidae Pheasants, Grouse & Turkeys Turnicidae Buttonquail Phoeniculidae Woodhoopoes & Scimitarbills
Phoenicopteridae Flamingos Dromadidae Crab Plover Bucorvidae Ground-Hornbills
Podicipedidae Grebes Glareolidae Coursers & Pratincoles Bucerotidae Hornbills
Columbidae Pigeons & Doves Stercorariidae Skuas & Jaegers Todidae Todies
Mesitornithidae Mesites Alcidae Auks Momotidae Motmots
Pteroclidae Sandgrouse Rynchopidae Skimmers Alcedinidae Kingfishers
Otididae Bustards Laridae Gulls & Terns Meropidae Bee-eaters
Musophagidae Turacos Rhynochetidae Kagu Coraciidae Rollers
Cuculidae Cuckoos Eurypygidae Sunbittern Brachypteraciidae Ground-rollers
Podargidae Frogmouths Phaethontidae Tropicbirds Bucconidae Puffbirds
Caprimulgidae Nightjars Gaviidae Loons Galbulidae Jacamars
Nyctibiidae Potoos Spheniscidae Penguins Lybiidae African Barbets
Steatornithidae Oilbird Diomedeidae Albatrosses Megalaimidae Asian Barbets
Aegothelidae Owlet-nightjars Oceanitidae Austral Storm-Petrels Capitonidae New World Barbets
Apodidae Swifts Hydrobatidae Northern Storm-Petrels Semnornithidae Toucan-barbets
Hemiprocnidae Treeswifts Procellariidae Petrels & Shearwaters Ramphastidae Toucans
Trochilidae Hummingbirds Ciconiidae Storks Indicatoridae Honeyguides
Opisthocomidae Hoatzin Fregatidae Frigatebirds Picidae Woodpeckers
Sarothruridae Flufftails Sulidae Boobies Cariamidae Seriemas
Rallidae Rails Anhingidae Darters Falconidae Falcons
Heliornithidae Finfoots Phalacrocoracidae Cormorants Strigopidae New Zealand Parrots
Aramidae Limpkin Pelecanidae Pelicans Cacatuidae Cockatoos
Psophiidae Trumpeters Balaenicipitidae Shoebill Psittaculidae Lories & Old World Parrots
Gruidae Cranes Scopidae Hamerkop

Psittacidae New World & Gray Parrots

Chionidae Sheathbills    
Passerine families
Acanthisittidae New Zealand Wrens  Aegithinidae Ioras Regulidae Kinglets
Calyptomenidae African & Green Broadbills Malaconotidae Bushshrikes Tichodromidae Wallcreeper
Eurylaimidae Asian & Grauer's Broadbills Lamprolidae Silktails Sittidae Nuthatches
Sapayoidae Sapayoa Rhipiduridae Fantails Certhiidae Treecreepers
Philepittidae Asities Dicruridae Drongos Polioptilidae Gnatcatchers
Pittidae Pittas Paradisaeidae Birds-of-Paradise Troglodytidae Wrens
Thamnophilidae Antbirds  Ifritidae Ifrita Elachuridae Spotted Elachura
Melanopareiidae Crescentchests Monarchidae Monarchs Cinclidae Dippers
Conopophagidae Gnateaters Corcoracidae Apostlebirds Buphagidae Oxpeckers
Grallariidae Antpittas Melampittidae Melampittas Sturnidae Starlings
Rhinocryptidae Tapaculos Platylophidae Crested Shrikejay Mimidae Thrashers
Formicariidae Antthrushes Eurocephaliidae White-crowned Shrikes Turdidae Thrushes
Furnariidae Ovenbirds & Woodcreepers Laniidae Shrikes Muscicapidae Muscicapids
Pipridae Manakins Corvidae Crows, Jays & allies Bombycillidae Waxwings
Cotingidae Cotingas Cnemophilidae Satinbirds Ptilogonatidae Silky-flycatchers
Tityridae Tityras & Becards Melanocharitidae Berrypeckers & Longbills Dulidae Palmchat
Oxyruncidae Sharpbill Callaeidae New Zealand Wattlebirds Hylocitreidae Hylocitrea
Onychorhynchidae Royal Flycatchers Notiomystidae Stitchbird Hypocoliidae Hypocolius
Tyrannidae Tyrant Flycatchers Petroicidae Australasian Robins Promeropidae Sugarbirds
Menuridae Lyrebirds Picathartidae Rockfowl Modulatricidae Spot-throat & allies
Atrichornithidae Scrub-birds Chaetopidae Rockjumper Dicaeidae Flowerpeckers
Ptilonorhynchidae Bowerbirds  Eupetidae Rail-babbler Nectariniidae Sunbirds & Spiderhunters
Climacteridae Australasian Treecreepers Hyliotidae Hyliotas Irenidae Fairy-bluebirds
Maluridae Fairywrens & Grasswrens Stenostiridae Fairy Flycatchers Chloropseidae Leafbirds
Meliphagidae Honeyeaters Paridae Parids Peucedramidae Olive Warbler
Dasyornithidae Bristlebirds Remizidae Penduline Tits Urocynchramidae Pinktail
Pardalotidae Pardalotes Alaudidae Larks Ploceidae Weavers
Acanthizidae Thornbills Panuridae Bearded Reedling Estrildidae Waxbills & Munias
Pomatostomidae Pseudo-babblers Nicatoridae Nicators Viduidae Whydahs & Indigobirds
Orthonychidae Logrunners Macrosphenidae African Warblers Prunellidae Accentors
Cinclosomatidae Quail-thrushes Cisticolidae Cisticolas Hypocryptadiidae Cinnamon Ibon
Campephagidae Cuckooshrikes Acrocephalidae Reed Warblers Passeridae Old World Sparrows
Mohouidae Mohouids Locustellidae Grassbirds Motacillidae Pipits & Wagtails
Neosittidae Sittellas Donacobiidae Donacobius Fringillidae Fringillid Finches
Psophodidae Whipbirds & Wedgebills Bernieridae Malagasy Warblers Calcariidae Longspurs
Eulacestomatidae Ploughbill Pnoepygidae Cupwings Rhodinocichlidae Rosy Thrush-tanager
Oreoicidae Crested Bellbird & allies Hirundinidae Swallows Emberizidae Old World Buntings
Falcunculidae Shrike-Tit Pycnonotidae Bulbuls Passerellidae New World Sparrows
Paramythiidae Painted Berrypeckers Phylloscopidae Leaf Warblers Calyptophilidae Chat-tanagers
Pteruthiidae Shrike-babblers Hyliidae Hylias Phaenicophilidae Hispaniolan Tanagers
Erpornithidae Erpornis Erythrocercidae Bristle-flycatchers Nesospingidae Puerto Rican Tanager
Vireonidae Vireos & allies Cettiidae Cettid Bush Warblers & allies Spindalidae Spindalises
Pachycephalidae Whistlers Aegithalidae Long-tailed Tits Zeledoniidae Wrenthrush
Oriolidae Old World Orioles Sylviidae Sylvids Teretristidae Cuban Warblers
Machaerirhynchidae Boatbills Paradoxornithidae Parrotbills Icteriidae Yellow-breasted Chat
Artamidae Woodswallows Zosteropidae White-eyes Icteridae Icterids
Cracticidae Butcherbirds Timaliidae Tree Babblers Parulidae New World Warblers
Rhagologidae Berryhunter Alcippeidae Alcippe Fulvettas Mitrospingidae Mitrospingid Tanagers
Platysteiridae Batises & Wattle-eyes Pellorneidae Ground Babblers Cardinalidae Cardinals & Grosbeaks
Vangidae Vangas, Woodshrikes & allies Leiothrichidae Laughingthrushes Thraupidae Tanagers
Pityriaseidae Bristlehead    
As a personal project, I have posted a 16 page set of my efforts
to see all the bird families (and proposed families) and to photograph
most of them; the gallery of photos
begins with an introduction

Literature cited in this introduction:

Barker, F.K., A. Cibois, P. Schikler, J. Feinstein, and J. Cracraft. 2004. Phylogeny and diversification of the largest avian radiation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 101: 11040–11045.

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.

Burns, K.J., A.J. Schultz, P.O. Title, N.A. Mason, F.K. Barker, J. Klicka, S.M. Lanyon, and I.J. Lovette. 2014. Phylogenetics and diversification of tanagers (Passeriformes: Thraupidae), the largest radiation of Neotropical songbirds. Molec. Phylo. Evol. 75: 41-77.

Cai, T., A. Cibois, P. Alström, R.G. Moyle, J.D. Kennedy, S. Shaoh, R. Zhang, M. Irestedt, P.G.P. Ericson, M. Gelang, Y. Qu, F. Lei, J. Fjeldså. 2019. Near-complete phylogeny and taxonomic revision of the world’s babblers (Aves: Passeriformes). Molec. Phylo. Evol. 130: 346-356.

Dickinson, E.C., and L. Christidis. 2014. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World: Passerines Vol. 2. Aves Press, Eastbourne, U.K.

Fuchs, J., P. Alström, R. Yosef, and U. Olsson. 2019. Miocene diversification of an open-habitat predatorial passerine radiation, the shrikes (Aves: Passeriformes: Laniidae). Zoologica Scripta 48: 571–588.

Johansson, U.S., J. Fjeldså, and C.K. Bowie. 2008. Phylogenetic relationships within Passerida (Aves: Passeriformes): A review and a new molecular phylogeny based on three nuclear intron markers. Mol. Phylog. Evol. 48: 858–876.

Jønsson, K.A., P-H. Fabre, J.D. Kennedy, B.G. Holt, M.K. Borregaard, C. Rahbek, and J. Fjeldså. 2016. A supermatrix phylogeny of corvoid passerine birds (Aves: Corvides). Molec. Phylog. Evol. 94: 87-94.

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.

Prum, R.O., J.S. Bery, A. Dornburg, D.J. Field, J.P. Townsend, E.M. Lemmon, and A.R. Lemmon. 2015. A comprehensive phylogeny of birds (Aves) using targeted next-generation DNA sequencing. Nature 526: 569–573.

Schodde, R., and L. Christidis. 2014. Relicts from Tertiary Australasia: undescribed families and subfamilies of songbirds (Passeriformes) and their zoogeographic signal. Zootaxa 3786: 501-522.

Winkler, D.W., S.W. Billerman, and I.J. Lovette. 2015. Birds Families of the World: A Guide to the Spectacular Diversity of Birds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Older essays, a long list of prior literature cited, and footnotes [now discontinued]
are found at the bottom of the 13th ed of this Checklist
I thank the editors of the Handbook of the Birds of the World project; the late G. Stuart Keith, co-author Birds of Africa series; the late James Clements, author of the Clements' world checklists; Keith Barker, Frank Gill, Murray Lord, Tom Schulenberg, and Van Remsen for sharing with me ideas and concepts about the taxonomy and arrangement of a listing of bird families of the world. I appreciate their input, but all the decisions reflected in the above listing are mine, including all the errors.



  page created 9 Feb 1999, content last updated 15 May 2021  
all text & photos © Don Roberson, except as otherwise indicated; all rights reserved