Life, Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.

From what I read, birds are the class of Aves [feathered, winged, bipedal, warm-blooded, egg-laying and vertebrate animals].  Also, and this is pretty cool, there are extinct birds that have different characteristics [no wings, for example.  Who knew?].

No surprise: there have been debates about how all the birds should be organized within this structure.

No surprise: there are about 10000 different species of birds in the world currently living.

“But how many families of birds are there?” you might ask.  No surprise: finding the number of bird families is no easy task.

I looked in many different places for the current accepted number of bird families.  Everywhere I looked, the number was different, anywhere from 172 to 234.  To get the authoritative answer, I checked the Cornell website for Clements Checklist of Birds of the World.  I downloaded the entire spreadsheet, which includes subspecies as well, and sifted my way through 31,660 rows of spreadsheet.  And counted each and every family.

Three times.

Because it’s important to get this right.

And the answer is 223 different bird families.

So extreme kudos to Jason and Nick for getting it right.  I assume.  And to Clare for giving it a good shot.

If I counted correctly, Clements has 9,915 existing bird species, plus 156 extinct species for a total of 10,071.  [I will not be asking Corey or Mike to change the name of the blog.]

EXTRA CREDIT … which no one guessed correctly.  When creating this last quiz, the software we use automatically keeps track of the number of words in the post.  And much to my surprise, 223 is the exact number of words in the original quiz.

If you’re interested in taking a look at the Clements Checklist, here is the link to the spreadsheet on the Cornell website.

DISCLAIMER: In high school, I took one course in Biology.  I must have passed because I didn’t have to take it again.  Therefore I have one big fat disclaimer to this column:  I am not a biologist, I am not a taxonomist and I am not one of the folks who really understands the classifications of life forms on the earth.  I’m a birder, just like you.

Written by Jory
Jory's first field guide-identified bird was a Northern Cardinal. This turned out to be his gateway drug into birding. In 2007 Jory became the least accomplished birder to see 300 birds in New York State in one year. He has birded the world over but maintains his birding "beginner mind", of which he is inordinately proud. Just ask him. Jory is the 10,000 Birds Avian Quizmaster, coming up with ever more diabolical ways to stump his legion of devoted fans. He lives with his wife and the possessions of his children just outside of Albany NY.