types of birds

25 Types of Birds: Classification, Facts, And Photos

As diverse as the environments they inhabit, birds are a testament to nature's remarkable adaptability. This exploration into various types of birds will take you on a journey that spans continents and climates, offering a detailed look at the diversity of our feathered friends.

The spectrum of bird life is vast, from the industrious Woodpecker to the huge Albatross. By exploring this section of the animal kingdom, we can better appreciate their purpose in the ecosystem. 

So, are you ready to soar into the expansive world of types of birds? Read on to learn their characteristics, habitats, classification, and more.

Characteristics of Bird Species

With over 10,000 species, the Aves family boasts diversity. To understand these many birds, we must first examine their distinctive characteristics. Here are the top five features to look out for in avians.

1. Endothermic Metabolism - Birds use their metabolic systems to maintain a constant internal body temperature. This ability allows them to endure in various environments, even those with extreme cold or heat.

2. Feathers - Most bird species’ primary means of locomotion is flight, thanks to their feathers. Aside from flying, their feather also serves as insulation and tools for courtship display.

3. Beak and No Teeth - All birds possess a beak, or bill, without teeth. Instead of teeth, their food is ground down by muscular organs called gizzards.

4. Hard-Shelled Eggs - Birds lay hard-shelled eggs, which protect the embryo while allowing for the exchange of gasses. Through this adaptation, birds can produce offspring in various habitats. Nearly all species of birds incubate their eggs until they hatch.

5. High Respiration Rate - Birds have an efficient respiratory system adapted to the energy needs of flight. This feature enables them to obtain the oxygen they need to sustain their high metabolic rates.

Read more: Find out more about avians in our list of bird Facts. Also, below, we cover living bird species, and if you're interested in birds that have gone extinct and the cause, click on our article on extinct birds.

Types of Birds Based on Habitat

Bird types significantly vary based on their habitats. You find terrestrial birds living predominantly on land, such as sparrows, hawks, or ostriches.

Their preferred nesting spots range from trees and ground burrows to natural alcoves. They show a dietary preference for anything from seeds and insects to smaller mammals and carrion. 

Next, we've got marine and freshwater birds adapted to the aquatic lifestyles. Marine birds or seabirds, including the Albatross or penguin species, are coastal dwellers feasting mainly on a fish and crustacean diet. 

On the other hand, freshwater birds are common sightings at wetlands, rivers, and lakes. Species like ducks, herons, and kingfishers populate these areas. 

Taxonomic Classification Of Birds

The world of birds is organized through a hierarchical taxonomic structure, starting from the broadest categories, Aves, and narrowing down to the specific individual species. 

At a high level, there are two subclasses below the Aves class: Archaeornithes and Neornithes. The former is an extinct group of birds, while the latter comprises all modern birds.

These are the infraclass within the subclass Neornithes:

  1. Neognathae - make up the majority of bird species, which have more advanced physical development. A distinctive feature of this group is a keeled or flying sternum, which allows for powerful flight.
    1. Galloanserae comprises approximately 290 species of landfowls and waterfowls, such as chickens, ducks, and their relatives. 
    2. Neoaves constitute the remaining 95% of bird species not within the previous group. This segment includes perching birds, doves, birds of prey, and many more.
  2. Paleognathae - forms a lesser fraction of the Aves class, with about 60 species in total. It consists mainly of flightless birds, such as the ostrich and tinamous. Their defining characteristic is a flat breastbone without the keel-like structure that facilitates strong flight in Neognathae.

Top 25 Types Of Birds You Should Know By Order

1. Duck (Anseriformes)

duck
Photo by Arpingstone on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

This famous waterfowl consists of 130 species that inhabit a wide range of environments, including freshwater and marine bodies of water. As we all know, ducks have webbed feet for efficient swimming and a broad beak suitably designed for their mainly vegetarian diet. 

These types of birds typically show gregarious behavior and exhibit a distinctive 'quacking' sound as a key means of communication. Check out more of their social behavior and other behaviors in our collection of duck facts and types of ducks.

2. Swan (Anseriformes)

swan
Photo by Šárka Krňávková on Unsplash

With only seven species, swans can live in fresh and saltwater environments commonly found in ponds, lakes, and coastal areas. If you have seen one in your local parks, you can often observe them in pairs or family groups, displaying high sociability. 

Known for their large and elegant build, these waterfowl birds feature predominantly white plumage with long, curved necks and strong flight capabilities. If you think they only come in one color, no, they don’t because black swans exist!

For more information, visit our swan facts.

3. Chicken (Galliformes)

chicken
Photo by Ludmila Korolyuk on Unsplash

As the top domesticated bird, chickens have a strong social structure, often establishing a pecking order within their flock. Moreover, farmers prefer to raise them because they stick to their routine, adapting quickly to the patterns of feeding, roosting, and laying eggs. 

Other chicken-like birds under this Order include quails and peacocks.

4. Crow (Passeriformes)

crow
Photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash

Often living in suburban and rural settings, crows prefer open areas with nearby trees for nesting. They are notable for their black feathers, intelligence, and adaptability, excelling in problem-solving and memory. Their memories are so sharp that you don’t want to make them your enemies.

Interestingly, a group of crows is called a "murder," highlighting their unusual, communal nature. Dig deeper into these corvids in our crow facts.

5. American Robin (Passeriformes)

american robin
Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

Known for their cheery song, American Robins are perching birds that make their home in gardens, fields, yards, forests, and tundra across North America. They display an orange belly and grey-brown upper body about ten inches long.

Moreover, these diurnal birds have different palates. They typically favor insects and earthworms in the summer and prefer a more fruit-based diet during winter.

Did you know they produce blue eggs? Find out more when you read our list of robin facts.

6. Dove (Columbiformes)

dove
Photo by 1195798 on PIxabay

Doves, sporting small, stout bodies and short legs, possess a smooth plumage that varies from light grey to white. These peaceful birds typically live in forests, woodlands, or parks, easily adapting to different environments and climates. 

Known for their monogamous nature, doves often pair for life, mirroring the ideals of partnership and fidelity inherent to matrimony. This shared characteristic has led to dove releasing during wedding ceremonies, symbolizing lifelong commitment.

If you want to know more about this type of bird, visit our dove facts or find out more about the different types of doves.

7. Eagle (Falconiformes)

eagle
Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

Eagles are birds of prey with large beaks, long wings, and heavy bodies. With approximately 60 species distributed worldwide, these large birds live mostly in forested areas where they demonstrate their impressive hunting skills.

There are four types of eagles: booted, snake, harpy, and fish eagles. Although some species are endangered due to habitat destruction and hunting, various conservation efforts ensure a steady recovery for these iconic birds.

Read some fun facts about the United States national bird and more eagle species in our compilation of eagle facts.

8. Falcon (Falconiformes)

falcon
Photo by David St. Louis on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original)

Distinct in appearance, falcons are medium-sized birds of prey that have thin, pointed wings, enabling high speed and powerful flight. Boasting 40 species, these types of birds of prey live in all kinds of habitats across the world, from forests to cities. 

Notably, one of the species, the Peregrine Falcon, is the fastest animal on the planet, clocking at 240 mph1.

Characteristically solitary in hunting, falcons rely on their extraordinary vision and speed to swoop on prey, catching them mid-air or on the ground. Learn more about their hunting techniques and more in our list of falcon facts.

9. Vulture (Falconiformes)

vulture
Photo by Roberto Navarro on Unsplash

Vultures are recognizable for their bald heads, necks, and large and robust bodies. With 23 species worldwide, they live in various natural environments around the globe, and these scavengers spend their time in regions from deserts to subtropical forests. 

Unlike most birds, their crucial role in nature is cleaning up carrion, thus helping control the spread of diseases. However, many vulture species are endangered due to environmental and human factors. For instance, the Indian White-Rumped Vulture and the California condor are critically endangered species.

Get to know more about their unique adaptations in our collection of vulture facts.

10. Owl (Strigiformes)

owl
Photo by Jesse Cason on Unsplash.

Owls, with their heart-shaped faces and large eyes, are staple types of birds everyone knows. More than 200 owl species inhabit varying ecosystems across the globe, ranging from dense woodlands to open prairies. 

Most notably, these birds exhibit a quiet flying technique, deftly swooping down on prey, using their superior hearing and night vision to hunt in the dark. Explore these bird features further by visiting our owl facts and discover their diversity with our types of owls.

11. Parrot (Psittaciformes)

parrot
Photo by Ilona Frey on Unsplash

Displaying vibrant colors, the parrot is a feast for the eyes, often seen in green, blue, yellow, or red hues. They're native to tropical and subtropical regions and are known for their complex social structures and intelligent problem-solving abilities. 

Their ability to mimic human voices and their interactive nature have made them a favored choice for pet birds worldwide. Not only that, parrot species like the African Gray Parrot are so intelligent that they can outsmart five-year-old humans on some cognitive tasks.

From their long lifespan to their conservation status, visit our compilation of parrot facts.

12. Albatross (Procellariiformes)

albatross
Photo by traveller1955 on Pixabay.

Characterized by the largest wingspan of any bird—up to 11 feet—the Albatross is an exceptional creature designed for long-distance flight. Primarily, these large birds are native to the Southern and North Pacific oceans, circumnavigating these expansive waters for extensive periods, often for several years. 

For more information on this type of seabird, save our albatross facts.

13. Flamingo (Phoenicopteriformes)

flamingo
Photo by Danilo Borges on Unsplash

Renowned for their bright pink bills and plumage, flamingos owe their hue to their diet rich in carotenoid pigments in algae and tiny aquatic organisms. And even with only six species, they still boast diverse characteristics (others are entirely white!)

These types of birds inhabit parts of Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, typically in large, shallow bodies of saltwater that support their diet. 

Relying on a specialized beak designed to filter feed, these birds eat by sweeping their heads side to side in the water to catch their food. If you want to learn why they always raise one of their legs, check our list of flamingo facts.

14. Hummingbird (Apodiformes)

hummingbird
Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash

Showing off their iridescent feathers, hummingbirds present an appealing visual spectacle, hence their nickname, the flying jewel. They primarily populate the Americas, from Ecuador's cloud forests to various U.S.A landscapes. 

One of their impressive ability is their flight. They can hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings - up to 80 times per second. This sets them apart from other bird species. 

Weighing less than a dime, it's worth noting that the title for the smallest bird in the world goes to a type of hummingbird: the bee hummingbird.

Expand your exploration by visiting our article about Hummingbird Facts.

15. Woodpecker (Piciformes)

woodpecker
Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

The Woodpecker is an easily recognizable bird, cloaked in a combination of black and white feathers, with select species adding red to their color scheme. Instead of the open skies, 240 species of this type of bird prefer living in sturdy trunks of trees in forests and woodlands. 

They use their sharp beaks to peck rapidly into the wood to excavate beetles and other grubs. Surprisingly, their brains are seldom affected by repetitive pecking damage2, owing to the hyoid apparatus - a specialized structure that safeguards their tiny cerebrums.

Learn more about their other adaptations with our woodpecker facts.

16. Puffin (Charadriiformes)

puffin
Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

Unlike penguins, puffins are relatively small sea birds, identifiable by their black backs, white underparts, and enormous, multi-colored beaks. They thrive within the cold marine environments of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans.

This type of bird mainly eats fish like herring and sand eels. Moreover, puffins are known for carrying several fishes in their beaks simultaneously, a feat achieved through their specialized tongue and palate.

The Atlantic Puffin is known for its colorful beak and distinctive black and white markings among the only four species. There’s also the Horned Puffin, notable for the fleshy, horn-like extension above its eye. Learn more about this type of bird in our puffin facts.

17. Pelican (Pelecaniformes)

pelican
Photo by Birger Strahl on Unsplash.

Recognizable by its long beak and large throat pouch, the pelican typically reaches a size of up to 70 inches. In their natural habitat, they often live near lakes, rivers, and coastlines where fish are abundant. 

These large birds use their elastic pouches to scoop up fish, embodying a method of feeding that is distinct to their kind. Get to know more about this seabird’s beak and more on our list of pelican facts.

18. Frigate Bird (Suliformes)

frigate bird
Photo by 57RPrp19 on Pixabay

Resembling a kite in flight, frigate birds possess an elongated wingspan, predominantly black or brown plumage lending a somewhat ominous appeal. These birds are typically inhabiting tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, favoring locations near the sea. 

Their diet primarily comprises fish and squid, which they skillfully snatch from the ocean surface. These agile birds are also known to exhibit kleptoparasitism, a behavior where they forcefully steal food from other sea birds mid-flight.

19. Kagu (Gruiformes)

kagu
Photo by JJ Harrison on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original)

Sporting a ghostly grey plumage, the Kagu is a bird species exclusive to the dense forests and shrublands of New Caledonia. Its diet consists mainly of small animals like insects, snails, and lizards.

They are also the only birds with nasal corns that cover their nose as they sift through leaves. Unfortunately, the Kagu is endangered because of habitat destruction3, invasive species, and stray hunting dogs, escalating its need for protection and conservation efforts.

20. Courol (Leptosomidae)

The Cuckoo-roller, also known as the Courol, is the only species in the family Leptosomidae within its own Order Leptosomiformes. This type of bird has vibrant plumage, predominantly featuring a rich greenish-blue hue. Their natural habitats are the dense forests and woodlands of Madagascar and the Comoros.

Flightless Birds

21. Penguin (Sphenisciformes)

penguin
Photo by Yomex Owo on Unsplash

Penguins boast a striking appearance, characterized by their predominantly black-and-white color and unique gait. Eighteen species live mainly in the frigid landscapes of Antarctica, the tips of South Africa and New Zealand, and the Galapagos Islands. 

Since their main diet is fish, they are exceptional swimmers, using their wings as flippers to navigate the icy waters safely. Known for their behaviors during breeding season, they form large, tight colonies and steal stones from others’ nests.

Explore more about these famous birds by checking our penguin facts and types of penguins.

22. Ostrich (Struthioniformes)

ostrich
Photo by Catherine Merlin on Unsplash

Spanning a height of up to 9 feet, the ostrich stands as the largest bird in the world, primarily thriving in Africa's plains and desert regions. The only ostrich species are the North African ostrich, also known as the red-necked ostrich, and the South African ostrich, notable for their black and white plumage.

Regarding speed, these flightless birds outpace many with velocities of up to 43 miles per hour. They also have a feeding habit wherein they consume pebbles to help grind food in their stomachs. 

Learn more about their peculiarities and other adaptations in our collection of ostrich facts.

23. Cassowary (Struthioniformes)

cassowary
Photo by seiichiro on Unsplash

Resembling modern dinosaurs, Cassowaries are large flightless birds with vibrant blue and red tones on their face and neck, contrasted by their glossy black, feathered body. They inhabit the tropical forests of New Guinea and northeast Australia, where they consume a diet primarily of fruits, fungi, and small invertebrates. 

Even with their size, they are surprisingly strong swimmers, using their powerful legs to steer through water and challenging the typical bird stereotype. Explore more exciting creatures with our list of animals that start with C.

24. Tinamous (Tinamiformes

tinamous
Photo by Dominic Sherony on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original)

Unlike other birds in this list, Tinamou is not well-known. It is a medium-sized bird, measuring about 10 to 21 inches, with a robust body and short wings. Its natural habitat spans the rainforests and grasslands of Mexico, Central America, and South America. 

A distinct behavior of Tinamous is their unique call, often mistaken as a whistle, which the males use to attract females during the breeding season. Unfortunately, many species of Tinamous are considered either vulnerable or near-threatened due to deforestation and hunting.

Extinct Birds

25. Dodo (Columbiformes)

dodo
Photo by bergslay on Pixabay

The Dodo bird boasted a robust, flightless body covered in greyish plumage, standing approximately three feet tall. With a large, hooked beak and tiny, stubby wings, it was ill-equipped for evasion, contributing to their demise. 

It met its extinction in 1662 on the islet Ile d'Ambre, primarily due to the relentless hunting activities of humans and the introduction of invasive species to their habitat4.

Conclusion

Overall, with their diverse habitats and unique appearances, birds represent a remarkable feat of evolution and play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of nature. Their resilience and adaptability over millions of years are a testament to nature's ingenuity. 

However, their survival is tied to our actions and the health of our planet. Ensuring the longevity of these species calls for consistent and diligent efforts toward environmental preservation.

Types Of Birds: FAQs

1. What is the animal classification of birds?

Birds belong to the animal classification group called Aves. Interestingly, modern birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, the same group as Tyrannosaurus Rex!

2. Approximately how many bird species are there in the world?

There are about 10,000 known bird species worldwide. 

3. What are the smallest and largest types of birds, and what sizes are they?

The smallest bird is the Bee Hummingbird, around 2 inches long, while the largest, the Ostrich, can reach up to 9 feet in height.

4. Which bird species has the longest wingspan, and how large is it?

The Wandering Albatross has the longest wingspan, measuring up to 11 feet.

5. Which bird has the longest migration, and why do birds need to migrate?

The Arctic Tern holds the record with a migration distance of about 25,000 miles annually. Most species typically migrate to take advantage of favorable environmental conditions, such as abundant food supply and preferable breeding locations.

6. Why did some types of birds evolve to be flightless?

Examples of flightless birds include the Ostrich, Emu, Kiwi, and Penguin. These species evolved to be flightless primarily due to a lack of predators, which allows them to focus energy on other survival skills, like running or swimming.

7. Why is monogamy a common practice among birds?

Yes, many bird species are monogamous, including swans, doves, and bald eagles. Birds often form monogamous pairs to share the burden of nest building, incubating eggs, and feeding and protecting young. This team effort can increase the likelihood of survival for their offspring. Read more in our article on how birds mate.

8. Are there any extinct species of birds?

As of 2020, about 1,481 bird species are considered threatened with extinction, including the California Condor, Kakapo, and Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

9. What are the differences between male and female birds?

During the courtship phase, males commonly perform elaborate rituals or calls to attract females. Females, on the other hand, usually have more subdued colors for camouflage while nesting. Explore this in-depth with our article on how birds mate.

10. What is the typical lifespan of birds?

Birds' lifespans can vary greatly depending on the species. Small birds, like sparrows, may live 4-5 years, while larger birds, like eagles, can live 20-30 years. Exceptionally, some birds, like the albatross and parrots, can live up to 50 years or more in the wild.

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1

Tucker, V. A. (1998). Gliding flight: Speed and acceleration of ideal falcons during diving and pull out. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 201(3), 403–414.

2

Wang, L., Cheung, J. T., Pu, F., Li, D., Zhang, M., & Fan, Y. (2011). Why do woodpeckers resist head impact injury: A biomechanical investigation. PLOS ONE, 6(10), e26490. 

3

BirdLife International. (2019). Rhynochetos jubatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T22692211A156666402. 

4

BirdLife International. (2016). Raphus cucullatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22690059A93259513. 

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