Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Aves

Orders in Illinois - 18

Species in Illinois - Over 400

List of Species in Illinois


Ornithology is the study of birds.  There are approximately 10,000 extant (still living) species of birds in approximately 34 orders and 174 families.


  • are vertebrates (have a backbone)
  • have feathers
  • have wings
  • have a beak with no teeth
  • have hollow bones

The ability to fly has allowed birds to colonize every land mass on earth including the Arctic and Antarctic.

Some, like the Penguins, have adapted an aquatic lifestyle, with short scale-like feathers on their forelimbs turning their wings into powerful flippers!

Basic Bird Taxonomy

Based on fossil evidence, birds are the last surviving group of dinosaurs, evolved from ancestors that were theropods. Both groups share feathers, air-filled bones, and a wishbone

Birds are divided into two major groups:


  • mostly non-flying birds
  • evolved from ancestors that flew
  • have an "old jaw"

Tinamiformes (tinamous)
Struthioniformes (ostrich)





Bird phylogeny from Jarvis, E. D.; Mirarab, S.; Aberer, A. J.; et al. (2014).

(click to enlarge)

Neognathae - the flying birds

  • have a keeled sternum (breastbone) which is where the muscles powering the wings attach
  • have a bony palate "new jaw"


Galliformes - landfowl
Anseriformes - waterfowl




Passeriformes (perching birds)
Psittaciformes (parrots)
Falconiformes (falcons)
Cariamiformes (seriemas)
Coraciformes (bee-eaters)
Piciformes (woodpeckers)
Bucerotiformes (hornbills)
Trogoniformes (trogons)
Leptosomiformes (cuckoo-roller)
Coliiformes (mousebirds)
Strigiformes (owls)
Accipitriformes (eagles and vultures)
Pelecaniformes (pelicans, herons, ibises, cormorants)
Procellariformes (fulmars)
Sphenisciformes (penguins)
Gaviiformes (loons)
Phaethonitiformes (tropcibirds)
Eurypgiformes (sunbittern)
Charadriiformes (plovers)
Gruiformes (cranes)
Opisthocomiformes (hoatzin)
Caprimulgiformes (hummingbirds, swifts, nightjars)
Otidiformes (bustards)
Musophagiformes (turacos)
Cuculiformes (cuckoos)
Mesitornithiformes (mesites)
Pterocliformes (sandgrouses)
Columbiformes (doves)
Podicipediformes (grebes)
Phoenicopteriformes (flamingos)

For more detailed information, see Jarvis, E. D.; Mirarab, S.; Aberer, A. J.; et al. (2014). "Whole-genome analyses resolve early branches in the tree of life of modern birds". Science. 346 (6215): 1320–1331. doi:10.1126/science.1253451


Some past articles published in INHS Reports:

Responses to Nest Predation and Brood Parasitism in a Migratory Songbird. Winter 2002

Effects of Excluding Birds on Illinois Prairies. Winter 2002

Fruit Complementarity in Feeding Birds. Spring 2001

Effects of Exotic Plants on Bird Nesting Success. Autumn 2001

Exotic Shrubs and Songbird Nest Success. Summer 2000

Species Spotlight: American Robin. May-June 2000

Urban Conservation of a Wetland Bird Species. March-April 2000

Turkeys on the Edge of the Prairie. September-October 1999

Bird Migration: How Much Fuel Does a Songbird Need. July-August 1999

INHS Bird Collection. March-April 1999

Wetland Bird Conservation in Northeastern Ilinois. May-June 1998

Species Spotlight: Passenger Pigeon. May-June 1998

Species Spotlight: Downy Woodpecker. January-February 1998

Cowbird Parasitism in Different Habitats. November-December 1997

Wingbeats over Illinois. September-October 1997

Species Spotlight: Yellow-headed Blackbird. March-April 1997

Grassland for Prairie Chickens: How much is Enough?. January-February 1997

Eastern Bluebirds: Effects of Environment on Reproductive Strategies. March-April 1996

Land Management for Waterfowl in the Illinois and Mississippi Floodplains. March-April 1996

Tree Cavity Abundance and Use by Nesting Wood Ducks. September-October 1995

Kentucky Warbler Population Dynamics in a Forest Mosaic. May-June 1995

Non-resident Prairie Chickens in Illinois. March-April 1995