Bird Species & Orders: Names & Numbers

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Birds are a diverse and fascinating group of animals. This lesson will highlight some bird orders and then will give some facts about some amazing bird species.

Classification System

There are blue jays, hummingbirds, owls, ducks, cranes, parrots, ravens.... and the list goes on and on. Some can migrate thousands of miles, others can survive frigid temperatures, some can swim, and others can reach speeds of 200 miles per hour. Birds certainly make a diverse group of critters. Would you believe that there are nearly 10,000 species of bird? Keeping all of these birds organized is a monumental task for taxonomists, or scientists who study and classify living organisms.

Taxonomists break up living critters into groups, starting with the broadest grouping, or domains and from there kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species.


This lesson will looks at some of the orders, or the classification group between class and family, and the species, or the smallest taxonomic division, of birds.

Bird Orders

There are around 23 orders of birds. Let's take a moment to highlight some of these orders. Oh yeah, and you'll know it's an order here if it ends with ''formes''. Okay, let's start with a group of birds that you can find all around the world in wetlands, streams, and rivers. Some of them migrate thousands of miles, whereas others stay put. Any guesses? This order makes up 140 species of waterfowl, or birds that live in or near the water, and includes geese, swans, ducks, screamers, and mergansers among a few others and is called Anseriformes. And the word Anseriformes comes from the Latin anser for goose, which makes sense.

Many members of Anseriformes have complex mating rituals, as seen here with these Canada geese

The next order of birds makes up meat-eating hunters and scavengers. This order is called Falconiformes and includes falcons (hey, I guess that's how it gets its name, FALCONiformes), eagles, osprey, vultures, and hawks, among others. This group makes up some of the most agile hunting birds on the planet.

Osprey belong to the Falconiformes order. Members of this order are meat-eaters and many hunt. Osprey use their sharp talons to capture and eat fish

The second to last order we'll talk about has birds that can rotate their heads 270 degrees and are known for their nearly silent flight. They are found all over the world and includes nearly 200 species, most of which eat meat. Yep, if you haven't guessed it, this order is the owls or Strigiformes. And Strigiformes comes from a Latin word for owl, so although these order names sound scary, most makes sense if you know Latin or Greek.

A barred owl is a member of the Strigiformes order. Owls have a flat face that helps amplify hearing

The last order we'll highlight is an extremely large order of birds, making up nearly half of all bird species! Chances are, if you're not familiar with one of these birds, you've at least heard them! They are known as the songbirds and belong to the order Passeriformes. The distinguishing characteristic of this group is their feet and they are sometimes referred to as perching birds because they have three forward toes and one toe pointing backward. Think of all of the songbirds you've come across and chances are, they belong to this order.

White crowned sparrows belong to the Passeriformes order

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