• Western Bowerbird, Male arranging ornaments in front of its avenue bower

Bird Taxonomy and Photo Album Collections

There are about 10,000 known species and 22,000 subspecies of birds in the world, and to-date I have only photographed a modest 500 species. However, taking sexual dimorphism, different subspecies, age, habitat, and behaviour into account, I have significantly more images of interest.

Aves (Bird) Taxonomy

Choosing one of the many bird taxonomies and associated checklist to follow depends in part on the aims, location of the authority and personal requirements. There are four primary checklists for birds of the world: Clements, Howard & Moore, HBW Alive/Birdlife, and IOC World Bird Name. There are others, such as Sibley & Monroe.

I decided to follow HBW Alive because:

(a) It offers online access to HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, published by Lynx Edicions;
(b)  BirdLife International is ‘The International Union for Conservation of Nature’ (IUCN) Red List Authority for birds;
(c) And I have full access to HBW Alive on an annual subscription basis and to ‘My Birding’ database allowing me to record sightings and birding trips.

Note: The Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW Alive) content has transitioned from Lynx Edicions (Lynx) to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. HBW Alive will become the backbone of the new Cornell Labs ‘Birds of the World’ in early 2020. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology houses the eBird database and associated birding tools together with the Macaulay Library, which will also hose the Internet Bird Collection (IBC). Currently, I don’t know how the change from HBW/BirdLife checklist to Clements affects my records. Similarly, how the shift from HBW ‘My Birding’ to eBird will impact my bird records.

Photo Album and Collections

My bird image names are consistent with common and scientific names given in the HBW Alive / Birdlife checklist. However, the arrangement of families, genera and species into higher-level taxonomic groups is complicated with several completing classification systems. I’ve arranged my photo albums in six collections

The first four cover passerines based on taxonomy:

(a) Basal Oscines;
(b) Passerida;
(c) Corvida;
(d) Suboscines.

The last three cover Non-passerine based on habitat:

(a) Landbirds;
(b) Core Waterbirds;
(c) Waterbirds (including waders);
(d) Seabirds (including pelagic).

For each collection of photo albums, a webpage introduces them and provides hypertext links to second level webpages that display image galleries of related bird families. The galleries feature portraits of each species that I’ve photographed. Also, an additional gallery that highlights behavioural or environmental themes; such as nesting, hunting, feeding, habitat, action, or my favourite images.


Passerines are birds in order Passeriformes, which is the largest and most diverse bird group. Under Sibley and Ahlquist (S&A) Taxonomy, Passeriformes splits into two suborders:  Tyranni (Suboscines) and Passeri (Oscines). Passeri then splits into two parvorders Corvida and Passerida parvorders. However, more recent studies using the modern approach to avian taxonomy using DNA sequences and analytical methods have shown that S&A taxonomy is complicated. Proposed taxonomic changes are frequent with only some of the less controversial ones accepted by some authorities. To help the presentation of my photo album, I follow J Boyd’s Taxonomy in Flux Checklist, and to some extent IOC World Bird List, Order of Birds. I use both these for reference when understanding taxonomic changes and proposals to Aves orders and families.

The primary difference between S&A and J Boyd Checklist for passerines is the split them into three suborders: Acanthisitti (New Zealand Wrens), Tyranni (Suboscines) and Passeri (Oscines). Also, the introduction of Basal Oscines, the latter is split from Corvida into several new parvorders and new superfamilies.

Oscines distribution has a worldwide with about 40% of known species. Often but less accurately called songbirds, these birds have highly developed voice boxes. Suboscines has about 10% of known species; these have simple voice boxes with a pan-tropical distribution. And New Zealand Wrens has four known species.

Passerines or perching birds, so-called because of their toe arrangement, three toes forward and one backward allowing them to grip a perch. They are vocal, small to medium size, brightly coloured birds that need to care for their chicks before they can fledge.


Non-passerines refer to the other 50% or so of birds species, that placed in separate Avian orders. Authorities disagree as to the number of species and their placement in families and orders.

HBW Alive recognises 35 orders and 105 families of non-passerine although this is subject to update when they accept change. I follow J Boyd’s Taxonomy in Flux Checklist, which currently lists 46 orders, including Passeriformes and 248 families. I have adopted most taxonomic changes to the Aves orders and families in J Boyd’s Taxonomy in Flux Checklist. I also check differences with the IOC World Bird List, Order of Birds.

The species list in both passerines and non-passerine is constant, give or take a hundred or so. But their placement in families and orders is ever-changing as is sub-species, common names and with the discovery of new species and subspecies.

References: Online Resources

    1. Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW) Alive website allows subscription-based access to the [Online] Available from //www.hbw.com [Accessed 15th September 2018].

    2. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. [Online] Available from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/ [Accessed 15th November 2018].

    3. BirdLife International (2016). Nature conservation Partnership. [Online] Available from //www.birdlife.org/ [Accessed 15th September 2018].

    4. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. [Online] Available from: http://www.iucnredlist.org/ [Accessed15th September 2018].

    5. Boyd, J (No date). Taxonomy in Flux Checklist. V3.08. [Online] Available from: http://jboyd.net/Taxo/List.html [Accessed 15th September 2018].

    6. Gill, F & Donsker, D (Editors) (2016). IOC World Bird List (v 8.2). [Online] Available from: //www.worldbirdnames.org/ [Accessed 15th September 2018]. DOI: 10.14344/IOC.ML.6.2.

    7. Gill, F & D Donsker (Editors) (2019). IOC World Bird List, Order of Birds, Draft, June 28, 2019. [Online] Available from: worldbirdnames.org/classification/orders-of-birds-draft/ [Accessed 28th November 2019].

    8. Wetlands International (2019). “Waterbird Population Estimates”. Available from http://wetlands.org [Accessed 8th August 2019]. Wetlands International, Ramsar Convention webpage: http://wpe.wetlands.org/Iwhatrwb

Bibliography: Online Resources

    1. Avibase – the world bird database (2016). Avibase is an extensive database information system about all birds of the world. [Online] Available from: //avibase.bsc-eoc.org/avibase.jsp?lang=EN&pg=home. [Accessed 21st April 2016].

    2. Birdforum – dedicated to wild birds and birding. [Online] Available from //www.birdforum.net [Accessed 15th September 2018].

    3. Heron Conservation – The IUCN-SCC Heron Specialist Group. [Online] Available from: //www.heronconservation.org [Accessed 15th September 2018].

    4. iNaturalist.org. . [Online] Available from: //www.inaturalist.org. [Accessed 21st April 2016].

    5. Oriental Bird Images – A database of the Oriental Bird Club. [Online] Available from: http://orientalbirdimages.org/ [Accessed 17th September 2018].

    6. Singapore Birds Project (No Date). [Online] Available from: //singaporebirds.com/ [Accessed 17th September 2018].

    7. The Internet Bird Collection (IBC). [Online] Available from: //ibc.lynxeds.com/ [Accessed 7th April 2016].Howard, L. 2003. “Anatidae” [On-line], Animal Diversity Web. Available from: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Anatidae/ [Accessed 8th August 2019].

    8. Howard, L. 2003. “Anatidae” [On-line], Animal Diversity Web. Available from:  //animaldiversity.org/accounts/Anatidae/ [Accessed 8th August 2019].

    9. Nicole. Bird resource website (No Date). [Online] Available from: http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/home-page.html [Accessed 8th August 2019].

Bibliography: Printed Resources

    1. Bowler, J. (2006). Wildlife of Seychelles. Old Basing, Hampshire: WILD Guides.

    2. Bruun, B., Delin H., Svensson, L. (1970). Birds of Britain and Europe (Hamlyn Guide). (1992 ed). London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd.

    3. Bucknill, Sir John A.S., Chasen, F.N. (1927). Birds of Singapore and South East Asia. (1990 ed). Singapore: Graham Brash (Pte) Ltd.

    4. Fitter, J. (2010). Field guide to the wildlife of New Zealand. London: Christopher Helm. (Reprint 2014).

    5. Fitter, J., Fitter, D., Hosking, D., Withers, M. and O’Dwyer, S. (2015). Wildlife of the Galapagos. 2nd ed. London: William Collins.

    6. Kenefick, M., Restall, R., Hayes, F. and Kenefick, M. (2007). Birds of Trinidad & Tobago. (2nd ed, reprinted 2013). London: Christopher Helm (An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc).

    7. Martin, S. (2010). Bradt Australian Wildlife: A Visitor’s Guide. Bradt Pubns.

    8. Monroe, Jr., B. and Sibley, C. (1993). A World checklist of birds. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

    9. Morony, J.J., Bock, W.J. & Farrand, J. (1975). Reference List of the Birds of the World. American Museum of Natural History, New York.

    10. Robertson, H., Heather, B. and Onley, D. (1999.). The Hand Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. (Revised and updated 3rd Ed 2015). New Zealand: Penguin.

    11. Robson, C. (2005). Birds of South-East Asia. (2015 ed, reprinted 2016). London: Christopher Helm (An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc).

    12. Swash, A. and Still, R. (2005). Birds, mammals, & reptiles of the Galápagos Islands. 2nd ed. London: Christopher Helm.

    13. Yong, D., Lim, K. and Lee, T. (2013.). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. Oxford: John Beaufoy Publishing.

    14. Swash, A. and Still, R. (2005). Birds, mammals, & reptiles of the Galápagos Islands. 2nd ed. London: Christopher Helm.

    15. Menkhost, P., Rogers, D, Clarke, R. et al. (2017). The Australian Bird Guide. 1st ed. London: Christopher Helm.