a web page by Don Roberson

16th edition

list last revised Dec 2018
this list has 258 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. DNA evidence has revised much of what was thought to be known about bird evolution and relationships. It had been the 'wild wild West' for nearly two decades as new research was published but, perhaps, a greater degree of consensus is now being 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, at least within the passerines.

For this 16th edition, the changes highlighted below bring my list to 258 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 14 editions, it was not until 17 years and a month [6238 days] that, with the posting of the Vireonidae [Vireos], the project finally has a web page with text and photos for every family. Many of the old pages badly need updating in both layout, text, and photos but at least the initial goal has been reached. The updating of old pages — including the Dulidae — will go on. I've used my own photos when I had them, but I'm very grateful to the many photographers around the world who've permitted me to use their wonderful shots when I needed them.               – D. Roberson, 9 Mar 2016

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 Ornithologists' Union Checklist for Middle and North America, the South American Classification Committee, 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 have been a volunteer junior member of the Clements team since 2011 but I continue to depart from Clements for purposes of this project.]

HIGHTLIGHTS OF CHANGES in this 16th edition

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 AOU, 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) or greater for passerine families (and older dates for non-passerines). With these two splits, Puerto Rican Tanager [Nesospingidae], is split from the Spindalises, and Yellow-breasted Chat [Icteriidae], moves from a New World warbler to nearer the Icterids, making it the youngest family of all bird families at only about 11 mya. It also creates a formal family name [Icteriidae] that will be confused with that of the Orioles and allies [Icteridae].

Another new family is derived from Winkler et al. (2015) book on bird families: the Crested Jay Platylophus galericulatus of southeast Asia is remained and elevated to its own family Shrikejay [Platylophidae]. Recent genetic evidence suggested it is related to shrikes, not jays but its true level of divergence from shrikes is not yet clearly understood. Still, despite some uncertainty, Clements and IOC have adopted the split.

The AOU 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 AOU 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 AOU for the New World suboscines.

The final new family was proposed by Cai et al. (2019), elevating the babbler genus Alcippe from the Ground-Babbler family [Pellorneidae] on new genetic 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) do so. I'd like something better than "Alcippe Fulvettas" for these mostly southeast Asian small babblers.

Finally, I've adopted almost entirely the Clements/eBird sequence for the Bird Families of the World, except that I follow the AOU sequence of families in the New World suboscines.

Net result: + 5 families

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 258 families, 15 more than the Bird Families book: 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], 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], Hylias, Wallcreeper [Tichodromidae; also split by Clements, IOC], Parrotbills & allies [Paradoxornithidae; also split by Clements], Cinnamon Ibon, and the Alcippe Fulvettas. In short, this Family list incorporates all of the extant families adopted by Clements, AOU, or IOC [except Bananaquit, which is a tanager; Burns et al. 2014].
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

Every family has a link to a separate web page, with photos, that I created over the years. Some are now very dated and badly need revision.
Non-passerine families
Struthionidae Ostrich  Chionidae Sheathbills Ardeidae Herons
Rheidae Rheas Pluvianellidae Magellanic Plover Threskiornithidae Ibises & Spoonbills
Tinamidae Tinamous Burhinidae Thick-knees Cathartidae New World Vultures
Casuariidae Cassowaries & Emu Pluvianidae Egyptian Plover Sagittariidae Secretarybird
Apterygidae Kiwis Recurvirostridae Stilts & Avocets Pandionidae Osprey
Anhimidae Screamers Ibidorhynchidae Ibisbill Accipitridae Hawks, Kites & Eagles
Anserantidae Magpie-Goose Haematopodidae Oystercatchers Tytonidae Barn Owls & allies
Anatidae Ducks, Geese & Swans Charadriidae Plovers Strigidae Owls
Megapodiidae Megapodes  Pedionomidae Plains-wanderer Coliidae Mousebirds
Cracidae Curassows & Guans Thinocoridae Seedsnipes Leptosomidae Cuckoo-Roller
Numididae Guineafowl Rostratulidae Painted-snipe Trogonidae Trogons
Odontophoridae New World Quails Jacanidae Jaçanas Upupidae Hoopoes
Phasianidae Pheasants, Partridges, Grouse & Turkeys Scolopacidae Sandpipers, Snipes & Phalaropes Phoeniculidae Woodhoopoes & Scimitarbills
Phoenicopteridae Flamingos Turnicidae Buttonquails Bucorvidae Ground-Hornbills
Podicipedidae Grebes Dromadidae Crab Plover Bucerotidae Hornbills
Columbidae Pigeons & Doves Glareolidae Coursers & Pratincoles Todidae Todies
Mesitornithidae Mesites Stercorariidae Skuas & Jaegers Momotidae Motmots
Pteroclidae Sandgrouse Alcidae Auks Alcedinidae Kingfishers
Otididae Bustards Laridae Gulls, Terns, Skimmers Meropidae Bee-eaters
Musophagidae Turacos & allies Rhynochetidae Kagu Coraciidae Rollers
Cuculidae Cuckoos, Coucals & Anis Eurypygidae Sunbittern Brachypteraciidae Ground-Rollers
Podargidae Frogmouths Phaethontidae Tropicbirds Bucconidae Puffbirds
Caprimulgidae Nightjars & Nighthawks Gaviidae Loons Galbulidae Jacamars
Nyctibiidae Potoos Spheniscidae Penguins Lybiidae African Barbets & Tinkerbirds
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, Shearwater & Diving-Petrels 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 & Caracaras
Heliornithidae Finfoots Phalacrocoracidae Cormorants Strigopidae New Zealand Parrots
Aramidae Limpkin Pelecanidae Pelicans Cacatuidae Cockatoos
Psophiidae Trumpeters Balaenicipitidae Shoebill Psittaculidae Lories, Lovebirds & Old World Parrots
Gruidae Cranes Scopidae Hamerkop Psittacidae New World & Gray Parrots
Passerine families
Acanthisittidae New Zealand Wrens  Pachycephalidae Whistlers, Shrike-Thrushes & allies Paradoxornithidae Parrotbills, Fulvettas & allies
Calyptomenidae African & Green Broadbills Rhagologidae Berryhunter Zosteropidae White-eyes, Yuhinas & allies
Eurylaimidae Asian & Grauer's Broadbills Oreoicidae Australo-Papuan Bellbirds Timaliidae Tree Babblers & allies
Sapayoidae Sapayoa Platylophidae Crested Shrikejay Alcippeidae Alcippe Fulvettas
Philepittidae Asities Laniidae Shrikes Pellorneidae Ground Babblers & allies
Pittidae Pittas Pteruthiidae Shrike-babblers Leiothrichidae Laughingthrushes & allies
Thamnophilidae Typical Antbirds  Erpornithidae Erpornis Promeropidae Sugarbirds
Melanopareiidae Crescentchests Vireonidae Vireos & allies Modulatricidae Dapple-throat & allies
Conopophagidae Gnateaters Oriolidae Old World Orioles, Figbirds & true Pitohuis Irenidae Fairy-Bluebirds
Grallariidae Antpittas Dicruridae Drongos Hyliotidae Hyliotas
Rhinocryptidae Tapaculos Lamprolidae Silktails Muscicapidae Old World Flycatchers & Chats
Formicariidae Antthrushes Rhipiduridae Fantails Turdidae Thrushes
Furnariidae Ovenbirds, Miners, Leaftossers & Woodcreepers Ifritidae Ifrita Mimidae Thrashers & Mimids
Pipridae Manakins Monarchidae Monarchs & allies Sturnidae Starlings, Mynas & Rhabdornises
Cotingidae Cotingas Corvidae Crows, Jays & allies Buphagidae Oxpeckers
Tityridae Tityras, Becards & allies Corcoracidae Apostlebirds Chloropseidae Leafbirds
Oxyruncidae Sharpbill Paradisaeidae Birds-of-Paradise Dicaeidae Flowerpeckers
Onychorhynchidae Royal Flycatcher & allies Melampittidae Melampittas Nectariniidae Sunbirds & Spiderhunters
Tyrannidae Tyrant Flycatchers Petroicidae Australo-Papuan Robins Prunellidae Accentors
Menuridae Lyrebirds Picathartidae Rockfowl Motacillidae Pipits & Wagtails
Atrichornithidae Scrub-birds Chaetopidae Rockjumper Urocynchramidae Przevalski's Pinktail
Ptilonorhynchidae Bowerbirds  Eupetidae Rail-babbler Elachuridae Spotted Elachura
Climacteridae Australasian Treecreepers Panuridae Bearded Reedling Bombycillidae Waxwings
Maluridae Fairywrens & Grasswrens Nicatoridae Nicators Ptilogonatidae Silky-flycatchers
Meliphagidae Honeyeaters & allies Alaudidae Larks Dulidae Palmchat
Dasyornithidae Bristlebirds Hirundinidae Swallows & Martins Hylocitreidae Hylocitrea
Pardalotidae Pardalotes Stenostiridae Fairy Flycatchers Hypocoliidae Hypocolius
Acanthizidae Thornbills & allies Paridae Tits & Chickadees Peucedramidae Olive Warbler
Pomatostomidae Pseudo-babblers Remizidae Penduline Tits Fringillidae Finches, Euphonias, & allies including Hawaiian Honeycreepers
Orthonychidae Logrunners Aegithalidae Long-tailed Tits Calcariidae Longspurs & Snow Buntings
Cnemophilidae Satinbirds Sittidae Nuthatches Rhodinocichlidae Rosy Thrush-tanager
Melanocharitidae Berrypeckers & Longbills Tichodromidae Wallcreeper Emberizidae Old World Buntings
Mohouidae Mohouids Certhiidae Treecreepers Passerellidae New World Sparrows
Paramythiidae Painted Berrypeckers Troglodytidae Wrens Calyptophilidae Chat-tanagers
Callaeidae New Zealand Wattlebirds Polioptilidae Gnatcatchers Phaenicophilidae Hispaniolan tanagers
Notiomystidae Stitchbird Cinclidae Dippers Nesospingidae Puerto Rican Tanager
Psophodidae Whipbirds & Wedgebills Pycnonotidae Bulbuls Spindalidae Spindalises
Cinclosomatidae Quail-thrushes & Jewel-babblers Regulidae Kinglets Zeledoniidae Wrenthrush
Platysteiridae Batises, Wattle-eyes & allies Pnoepygidae Cupwings Teretristidae Cuban Warblers
Vangidae Vangas, Helmetshrikes, Woodshrikes & allies Macrosphenidae Crombecs & African Warblers Icteriidae Yellow-breasted Chat
Malaconotidae Bushshrikes Hyliidae Hylias Icteridae New World Orioles and allied icterids
Machaerirhynchidae Boatbills Erythrocercidae Bristle-flycatcher Parulidae New World Warblers
Artamidae Woodswallows Scotocercidae Bush Warblers, Stubtails & allied cettids Mitrospingidae Mitrospingid tanagers
Cracticidae Butcherbirds & allies Phylloscopidae Leaf Warblers Cardinalidae Cardinals, Grosbeaks & allies
Pityriaseidae Bristlehead Acrocephalidae Reed Warblers & allies Thraupidae Tanagers
Aegithinidae Ioras Locustellidae Grassbirds & allies Passeridae Old World Sparrows
Campephagidae Cuckooshrikes Donacobiidae Donacobius Ploceidae Weavers
Neosittidae Sittellas Bernieridae Malagasy Warblers Hypocryptadiidae Cinnamon Ibon
Eulacestomatidae Ploughbill Cisticolidae Cisticolas & allies Estrildidae Waxbills, Munias & allies
Falcunculidae Shrike-Tit Sylviidae Sylvids Viduidae Whydahs & Indigobirds
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.

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 21 Dec 2018  
all text & photos © Don Roberson, except as otherwise indicated; all rights reserved