Systematics of birds

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The systematics of birds is intended to bring order to the species diversity of birds. Systematic sequences, groupings and lists of species should reflect current knowledge of natural development ( phylogenesis ) and relationship. Groups should only include species that have a common origin ( monophyletic groups). In the past, the opinions of systematists differed widely about such classifications, so that the systematics of birds was uncertain and highly controversial for a long time.


From Thomas Huxley , who used characteristics of the skull in 1867, to Livezey and Zusi, whose publication took place in 2007, attempts were initially made to bring order into the more than ten thousand bird species with the help of morphology .

Later, molecular biological methods to. Charles Gald Sibley and Jon Edward Ahlquist used the possibilities of DNA hybridization and published a very different taxonomy of birds. The Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy , however, did not find general acceptance.

Since the 1990s, DNA hybridization has been replaced by DNA sequencing , which enables the direct comparison of DNA from the cell nucleus or the mitochondria ( mtDNA ). Such genetic comparisons led to rapid changes and deviations from the classifications in previous identification books.

In June 2008, SJ Hackett and co-authors presented a complete revision of the bird systematics, which is less based on the classic, rank-based taxonomy in the sense of Carl von Linné , but pursues a more cladistic , phylogenetic approach based on comparative DNA sequence analyzes. After that, there are very far-reaching changes compared to the previous system. Several families are radically rearranged, assigned to other orders and new taxa above the family level are introduced. The classic rank designations are deliberately avoided. In October 2015, a system based on the analysis and comparison of DNA sections from 198 different bird species from all orders was published. A recent cladogram from this study is shown below.

In the following, the system of birds according to the IOC World Bird List (as of 2018) is reproduced. Species and genera are listed separately on their own entries in the family articles. Almost 60 percent of the species belong to the order passerine birds . The scientific names of the orders end with “-formes”, those of the families with “-idae”.

Great Pine Birds (Palaeognathae)

African ostrich ( Struthio camelus )
Chestnut Sinamu ( Crypturellus obsoletus )

All great jawbirds except the cockles are ratites . The order of the "ratites (Struthioniformes)" is now considered to be paraphyletic , since the cockroaches are phylogenetically within this group, but are not ratites, and has been divided into several new orders.

New-jawed birds (Neognathae)

Pheasant ( Phasianus colchicus )

Cladogram of recent birds

Cladogram according to Prum et al .:

  Great jawbirds  

 Ostriches (Struthioniformes)


 Rheas (Rheiformes)


 Kiwi fruit (Apterygiformes)


 Casuariiformes ( cassowaries and emus )


 Cockles (tinamiformes)

  New pine birds  

 Goose birds (Anseriformes)


 Chicken birds (Galliformes)


Nightjar (Caprimulgidae)


Fat swallows (Steatornithidae)


Day sleeper (Nyctibiidae)


Owl dong (Podargidae)


Cave Dwarf (Aegothelidae)


Sailor birds (Apodiformes)


 Turacos (Musophagiformes)


 Cuckoo birds (Cuculiformes)


 Bustards (Otidiformes)


 Stilt claws (Mesitornithiformes)


 Flight chickens (Pterocliformes)


 Pigeons (columbiformes)


 Crane birds (Gruiformes)


 Aequorlithornithes (see below)


 Inopinaves (see below)

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 Flamingos (Phoenicopteriformes)


 Grebes (Podicipediformes)


 Plover-like (Charadriiformes)


 Eurypygiformes ( Sun Rail & Kagu )


 Tropical birds (Phaethontiformes)


 Loons (Gaviiformes)


 Penguins (Sphenisciformes)


 Tubular noses (Procellariiformes)


 Storks (Ciconiiformes)


 Suliformes (oarsopods without pelicans)


 Pelecaniformes (pelicans, herons, ibises, etc.)

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 Hoatzin (Opisthocomiformes)


 Birds of prey (Accipitriformes)


 Owls (Strigiformes)


 Mouse birds (Coliiformes)


 Kurol (Leptosomatiformes)


 Trogons (Trogoniformes)


 Hornbills and hops (Bucerotiformes)


 Rockers (Coraciiformes)


 Woodpecker birds (Piciformes)


 Seriemas and relatives ( Cariamiformes )


 Falk-like (falconiformes)


 Parrots (Psittaciformes)

  Passerines  (Passeriformes)  

 Maori panties (Acanthisittidae)


 Shrieking Birds (Suboscines)


 Songbirds (oscines)

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Cladogram of the "primeval birds"

Cladogram of the "primeval birds" according to Pei et al. (2020):







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Recent birds (Neornithes)

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  1. Livezey, BC and RL Zusi (2007): Higher-order phylogeny of modern birds (Theropoda, Aves: Neornithes) based on comparative anatomy. II. Analysis and discussion, Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 149, 1-95.
  2. Charles gald Sibley & Ahlquist Jon Edward (1990): Phylogeny and classification of birds. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn.
  3. Hackett et al .: A Phylogenomic Study of Birds Reveals Their Evolutionary History . Science 27 June 2008: Vol. 320. no. 5884, pp. 1763–1768 doi : 10.1126 / science.1157704
  4. a b Richard O. Prum et al. A comprehensive phylogeny of birds (Aves) using targeted next-generation DNA sequencing. Nature, October 7, 2015; doi: 10.1038 / nature15697
  5. ^ List of bird names of the IOU - Family Index in the IOC World Bird List
  6. Mourer-Chauviré, Cécile & Balouet, JC (2005): Description of the skull of the genus Sylviornis Poplin, 1980 (Aves, Galliformes, Sylviornithidae new family), a giant extinct bird from the Holocene of New Caledonia. In: Alcover, JA & Bover, P. (eds.): Proceedings of the International Symposium "Insular Vertebrate Evolution: the Palaeontological Approach" . Monographs de la Societat d'Història Natural de les Balears 12 : 205-118
  7. Federico L. Agnolin: Brontornis burmeisteri Moreno & Mercerat, un Anseriformes (Aves) gigante del Mioceno Medio de Patagonia, Argentina. Revista del Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales Nueva Series 9, 2007, pp. 15-25
  8. ^ Peter F. Murray: Magnificent Mihirungs: The Colossal Flightless Birds of the Australian Dreamtime. Indiana University Press, 2003, ISBN 0253342821
  9. Janet L. Gardner, John WHTrueman, Daniel Ebert, Leo Joseph, and Robert D. Magratha: Phylogeny and evolution of the Meliphagoidea, the largest radiation of Australasian songbirds . In: Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution . June 2010, doi : 10.1016 / j.ympev.2010.02.005 , PMID 20152917 .
  10. a b c d e f g h David W. Winkler, Shawn M. Billerman, Irby J. Lovette: Bird Families of the World - An Invitation to the Spectacular Diversity of Birds. Lynx Edicions and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2015, ISBN 978-84-941892-0-3 . Page 10 and 11.
  11. Rui Pei, Michael Pittman, Pablo A. Goloboff, T. Alexander Dececchi, Michael B. Habib, Thomas G. Kaye, Hans CE Larsson, Mark A. Norell, Stephen L. Brusatte and Xing Xu. 2020. Potential for Powered Flight Neared by Most Close Avialan Relatives, but Few Crossed Its Thresholds. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016 / j.cub.2020.06.105

See also

Web links

Commons : Birds  - collection of images, videos and audio files
  • Neornithes. Modern birds. ; Mindell, David P. and Brown, Joseph W. 2005 .; December 14, 2005 version; in "The Tree of Life Web Project"