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Order Description


Order Description

This order contains over 60 families and 5,200-5,700 species, more than half of all species of birds in the world. In Georgia, there are over 20 families and at least 173 species which live in the state, breed in the state, migrate through the state, are found occasionally in the state, or accidentally appear in the state.

Family Alaudidae

Larks are small ground birds with cryptic coloration. The back of the tarsus is rounded and scaled. The bills are usually pointed and curve slightly downward. There is a long claw on the hind toe that faces back. These birds feed on seeds and insects.
Species in this family:
    Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)

Family Bombycillidae

The waxwings are small, crested, arboreal birds with soft, velvety plumage. They have a short slightly hooked bill. They are named for the waxy red deposits found at the ends of their secondary feathers. Waxwings have brown, gray and yellow plumage above and the tail is generally tipped in yellow. These birds are highly gregarious after the breeding season and during migration.
Species in this family:
    Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Family Cardinalidae

This family contains the cardinals, grosbeaks and buntings. These are small to medium sized birds with conical bills. Some of the species have enlarged beaks. The males of most members of this family are brightly colored. These birds feed on seeds and insects.
Species in this family:
    Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)
    Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea)
    Dickcissel (Spiza americana)
    Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)
    Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
    Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)
    Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

Family Certhiidae

The creepers are small, slim climbers with long bills curved downward. Their plumage is generally streaked brownish above and lighter below. The tail is long and stiff; the feathers pointed at the ends.
Species in this family:
    Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)

Family Corvidae

The crows, jays and magpies are medium to large birds. Their powerful bills can handle a varied diet. Bristly feathers usually cover the nostrils. Plumages vary from black to bright colors. The sexes are alike.
Species in this family:
    American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
    Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
    Common Raven (Corvus corax)
    Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus)
    Florida Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)

Family Emberizidae

This family contains sparrows, towhees and their allies. These are small to medium birds with a conical bill. They generally feed on seeds and occasionally on insects.
Species in this family:
    American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea)
    Bachman's Sparrow (Aimophila aestivalis)
    Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
    Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida)
    Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
    Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
    Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)
    Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)
    Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)
    Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus)
    Harris's Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula)
    Henslow's Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii)
    Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus)
    Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys)
    Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)
    Le Conte's Sparrow (Ammodramus leconteii)
    Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii)
    Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni)
    Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus)
    Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)
    Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus)
    Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)
    Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
    Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)
    Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
    Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus)
    White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
    White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)

Family Fringillidae

This family consists of finches and their allies. These birds are small to medium sized with small to very large conical bills. They are mainly seed eaters. They have an undulating flight pattern.
Species in this family:
    American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
    Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea)
    Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus)
    House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
    Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus)
    Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)
    Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)

Family Hirundinidae

Swallows are small, slender birds with long, pointed wings. The tail is usually notched or forked and the bill is usually short with a wide gape surrounded by bristles. The compact plumage may have a metallic sheen. Swallows are excellent fliers. This group is unique among the passerines because they have double bronchial rings. Members of this family feed on insects which the birds catch while flying.
Species in this family:
    Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia)
    Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
    Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon fulva)
    Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
    Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)
    Purple Martin (Progne subis)
    Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

Family Icteridae

The blackbirds, meadowlarks and orioles are members of this family. These are medium to large birds with strong, pointed, unnotched bills. The plumage colors vary from iridescent black to bright colors. The wings are often long and pointed. The legs and feet are strong.
Species in this family:
    Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
    Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major)
    Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
    Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
    Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
    Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii)
    Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
    Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)
    Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)
    Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
    Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus)
    Scott's Oriole (Icterus parisorum)
    Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis)
    Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)
    Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

Family Laniidae

The shrikes are small to medium passerines with hooked bills. They are sometimes called "butcher - birds" because of their habit of impaling their prey on thorns. They also cache their prey in crevices of trees. Their plumage is soft, usually black, gray or brown above.
Species in this family:
    Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)

Family Mimidae

The mockingbirds, thrashers and allies are included in this family. These are medium-sized birds with long tails. The bills are slender, medium to longish and the nostrils are always exposed. They are very territorial and many are non-migratory in Georgia. Their plumage ranges from light to dark gray and brown. They are also known as mimic thrushes because some members of this family mimic the songs of other species.
Species in this family:
    Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)
    Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
    Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
    Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus)

Family Motacillidae

This family contains the pipits and wagtails. These are sparrow-sized ground birds. They are known for bobbing their long tails up and down or wagging them side to side. Their bills are thin and pointed. The legs are long and usually have an elongated hind toe and claw facing backward.
Species in this family:
    American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)
    Sprague's Pipit (Anthus spragueii)

Family Paridae

Titmice, chickadees and their allies are small perching birds with usually drab plumage. They have short bills and wings. These birds often hang upside down from twigs to feed. In Georgia, many of these are common at backyard feeders.
Species in this family:
    Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)
    Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)

Family Parulidae

The warblers are small to medium-sized perching birds with fine, slim bills. Their plumage varies from olive green and gray to bright yellow, red, blue and black. Members of this family primarily feed on insects.
Species in this family:
    American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)
    Bachman's Warbler (Vermivora bachmanii)
    Bay-breasted Warbler (Dendroica castanea)
    Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
    Black-throated Blue Warbler (Dendroica caerulescens)
    Black-throated Gray Warbler (Dendroica nigrescens)
    Black-throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens)
    Blackburnian Warbler (Dendroica fusca)
    Blackpoll Warbler (Dendroica striata)
    Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora pinus)
    Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)
    Cape May Warbler (Dendroica tigrina)
    Cerulean Warbler (Dendroica cerulea)
    Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica)
    Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
    Connecticut Warbler (Oporornis agilis)
    Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera)
    Hooded Warbler (Wilsonia citrina)
    Kentucky Warbler (Oporornis formosus)
    Kirtland's Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii)
    Louisiana Waterthrush (Seiurus motacilla)
    MacGillivray's Warbler (Oporornis tolmiei)
    Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia)
    Mourning Warbler (Oporornis philadelphia)
    Nashville Warbler (Vermivora ruficapilla)
    Northern Parula (Parula americana)
    Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis)
    Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora celata)
    Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla)
    Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum)
    Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus)
    Prairie Warbler (Dendroica discolor)
    Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)
    Swainson's Warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii)
    Tennessee Warbler (Vermivora peregrina)
    Townsend's Warbler (Dendroica townsendi)
    Wilson's Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla)
    Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum)
    Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia)
    Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens)
    Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)
    Yellow-throated Warbler (Dendroica dominica)

Family Passeridae

This is a large Old World family of birds that includes the European Sparrows among other groups. They resemble New World sparrows but have thicker bills and shorter legs. Only one member of this family is found in the Americas, and it was probably introduced after AD 1492 by European colonists.
Species in this family:
    House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Family Regulidae

The kinglets are small, plump birds with short, slender bills and short tails. Their plumage is usually grayish-green above with white wing bars.
Species in this family:
    Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)
    Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)

Family Sittidae

The nuthatches are small birds noted for climbing up and down and around tree trunks. They are stocky with short wings, tails and necks. The bill is straight and long. They are generally gray to blue above. The toes are large with claws which are laterally compressed.
Species in this family:
    Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla)
    Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)
    White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

Family Sturnidae

This family contains the starlings and their allies. These are medium-sized, stocky and very gregarious birds. The legs and feet are strong and the tarsus has unbroken plates behind. Most are typically dark with a metallic sheen. Starlings are not native to the Americas and were introduced to this hemisphere after AD 1492.
Species in this family:
    European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Family Sylviidae

The gnatcatchers are tiny, dainty birds with long, slender, pointed bills and longish tails. Their plumage is blue-gray to brown above and lighter below.
Species in this family:
    Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)

Family Thraupidae

The tanagers are birds of medium size. They may be brightly colored, especially the males. The bill is conical in shape and generally notched. The wings are pointed.
Species in this family:
    Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)
    Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)
    Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)

Family Troglodytidae

The wrens are primarily small, chunky birds with upcocked tails. They have slender curved bills. The plumage is generally barred, spotted or streaked with brown, black and white.
Species in this family:
    Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)
    Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
    House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)
    Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)
    Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis)
    Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

Family Turdidae

This family contains the thrushes, robins, bluebirds and other species. The bill is generally slender and somewhat notched. The tarsus is usually smooth rather than scaled as in most members of this order, and their feet are strong. These birds are found virtually worldwide. Most are fine singers. The young generally have spotted breasts.
Species in this family:
    American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
    Bicknell's Thrush (Catharus bicknelli)
    Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
    Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus)
    Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)
    Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
    Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)
    Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)
    Veery (Catharus fuscescens)
    Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)

Family Tyrannidae

The flycatchers are small to medium in size, with relatively large heads. They have bristles around the mouth and a broad, flattened bill which is hooked at the tip. Most members of this family have dull plumage and many are difficult to distinguish from one another by sight.
Species in this family:
    Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)
    Alder Flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum)
    Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens)
    Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)
    Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
    Eastern Wood-pewee (Contopus virens)
    Gray Kingbird (Tyrannus dominicensis)
    Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)
    Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus)
    Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi)
    Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya)
    Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus)
    Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus)
    Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)
    Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii)
    Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris)

Family Vireonidae

The vireos are small birds with short, sturdy bills which are slightly hooked and notched. The plumage is generally greenish to grayish above, yellow, gray or white below. The sexes are alike.
Species in this family:
    Bell's Vireo (Vireo bellii)
    Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)
    Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus)
    Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)
    Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)
    White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)
    Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)