Welcome to Birdquest

Finding The World's Bird Families

Most of us are never going to have the time or the resources to see 8000 bird species or more in our lifetimes, let alone the full 10,500 or so, but a far more important and more satisfying milestone is to see every basic form of avian life, the bird families.

Many people now share this increasingly popular ambition, which is not only eminently achievable for a much wider group of birders, but which will take you to a fantastic diversity of wild places, in every continent with the possible exception of Europe. (Antarctica, while not necessary from a family viewpoint, will likely be included in any wildlife cruise that produces Snowy Sheathbill.)

Once you have seen every family, you can go for bird species that have the potential to be recognized as families in the future, as well as former families that may be elevated once again!

Just in case you think seeing all the world's bird families in your lifetime is still a tall order, we can reassure you that with careful planning it is not that difficult: not so many years ago, Derek Scott, one of the longest established Birdquest guides, and a friend managed to see all the world's bird families in a single year, and got themselves into the Guinness Book of Records in the process!

Many of the families occur in relatively restricted geographical areas and some are highly localized, or may only be seen reliably on just one or very few tours even if they range widely. This guide is intended to point out the essential Birdquest tour destinations for seeing the more localized families. Only tours with a very high chance of a sighting are mentioned.

This is still a work in progress, and we will add more information to this guide as time permits! We might even illustrate the guide if it proves popular. Let us know what you think!

Taxonomy here follows the IOC World Bird List.


CATEGORY 1   LOCALIZED BIRD FAMILIES OF THE WORLD

RHEAS   FAMILY RHEIDAE
(sole family in the order Rheiformes)
Jaguars & Birds of Brazil, The Pantanal & Interior Brazil; Bolivia; Paraguay; Chile; Argentina (all tours)

CASSOWARIES   FAMILY CASUARIIDAE
(one of only two families in the order Casuariiformes)
Eastern Australia (nigh on 100% certain)

EMU   FAMILY DROMAIIDAE
(one of only two families in the order Casuariiformes)
Southern Australia; Outback Queensland

KIWIS   FAMILY APTERYGIDAE
(sole family in the order Apterygiformes)
New Zealand

MAGPIE GOOSE   FAMILY ANSERANATIDAE
Western Australia; Northern Australia; Outback Queensland; Eastern Australia

DIVING PETRELS   FAMILY PELECANOIDIDAE

New Zealand; Central Peru; Chile; Antarctica, the Falklands & South Georgia; The Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand & Australia (and other cruises visiting the subantarctic). In addition, Southern & Central Argentina (fair chance)

SHOEBILL   FAMILY BALAENICIPITIDAE
Uganda (all tours)

MESITES   FAMILY MESITORNITHIDAE
(sole family in the order Mesitornithiformes)
Madagascar (all tours)

SERIEMAS   FAMILY CARIAMIDAE
(sole family in the order Cariamiformes)
Northeast Brazil; Jaguars & Birds of Brazil; The Pantanal & Interior Brazil; Bolivia; Paraguay; Northern Argentina

KAGU   FAMILY RHYNOCHETIDAE
(one of only two families in the order Eurypygiformes)
New Caledonia

TRUMPETERS   FAMILY PSOPHIDAE

Suriname (around 100% chance); Guyana (around 100% chance); Peru’s Tambopata Wilderness (high chance)

SHEATHBILLS   FAMILY CHIONIDAE
Southern & Central Argentina; Antarctica, the Falklands & South Georgia (and other Antarctic cruises from South America)

MAGELLANIC PLOVER   FAMILY PLUVIANELLIDAE
Chile; Southern & Central Argentina

CRAB PLOVER   FAMILY DROMADIDAE
Iran, Oman; Western India; Ultimate Kenya; Tanzania's Eastern Arc (chances around 100% on all these tours); Madagascar (all tours); The Seychelles, Mauritius & Reunion (both a high chance, but by no means certain)

IBISBILL   FAMILY IBIDORYNCHIDAE
Central Asia; Tibet/Tibetan Plateau; Northern India; Eaglenest & Beyond; Assam & The Northeast Frontier; Nepal; Bhutan

EGYPTIAN PLOVER   FAMILY PLUVIANIDAE
Senegal; Gambia & Senegal; Ghana (Best and Ultimate); Ultimate Cameroon

PLAINS-WANDERER   FAMILY PEDIONOMIDAE

Southern Australia

AUKS or ALCIDS   FAMILY ALCIDAE?Svalbard/Spitsbergen; Iceland; Finland & Arctic Norway; Sakhalin, the Kurils, the Commanders & Kamchatka (and other cruises in eastern Siberia); Japan; Japan in winter; Alaska; Baja California

NEW ZEALAND PARROTS   FAMILY STRIGOPIDAE
New Zealand

OILBIRD   FAMILY STEATORNITHIDAE
Trinidad; Eastern Venezuela; Colombia

CUCKOO-ROLLER   FAMILY LEPTOSOMIDAE
(sole family in the order Leptosomiformes)
Madagascar (all tours)

GROUND ROLLERS   FAMILY BRACHYPTERACIIDAE
Madagascar (all tours)

TODIES   FAMILY TODIDAE
Cuba; Jamaica; Hispaniola & Puerto Rico

TOUCAN BARBETS   FAMILY SEMNORNITHIDAE
Costa Rica (all tours); Panama; Best of Ecuador; Ultimate Ecuador

NEW ZEALAND WRENS   FAMILY ACANTHISITTIDAE
New Zealand

GNATEATERS   FAMILY CONOPOPHAGIDAE
Amazonian Peru; Peru’s Tampopara Wilderness; Eastern Amazonian Brazil; Northeast Brazil; Ultimate Southeast Brazil; Northern Argentina

CRESCENTCHESTS   FAMILY MELANOPAREIIDAE
Southern Ecuador; Northern Peru; Northeast Brazil; The Pantanal & Interior Brazil; Bolivia; Northern Argentina

LYREBIRDS   FAMILY MENURIDAE
Southern Australia; Eastern Australia

SCRUB-BIRDS   FAMILY ATRICHORNITHIDAE
Western Australia (chances of seeing Noisy over 90%); Eastern Australia (chances of seeing Rufous over 75%)

BRISTLEBIRDS   FAMILY DASYORNITHIDAE
Western Australia; Southern Australia (chances around 100% on either); significantly lower chance on Eastern Australia

LOGRUNNERS   FAMILY ORTHONYCHIDAE
Eastern Australia; Ultimate West Papua; Best of/Ultimate Papua New Guinea

SATINBIRDS   FAMILY CNEMOPHILIDAE
Best of/Ultimate Papua New Guinea

BERRYPECKERS & LONGBILLS    FAMILY MELANOCHARITIDAE
Best of/Ultimate West Papua; Papua New Guinea (all tours)

PAINTED BERRYPECKERS   FAMILY PARAMYTHIIDAE
Best of/Ultimate West Papua; Papua New Guinea (all tours)

NEW ZEALAND WATTLEBIRDS   FAMILY CALLAEIIDAE
New Zealand

STITCHBIRD   FAMILY NOTIOMYSTIDAE

New Zealand

BOATBILLS   FAMILY MACHAERIRYNCHIDAE

Eastern Australia; Best of/Ultimate West Papua; Papua New Guinea (all tours)


VANGAS   FAMILY VANGIDAE
Madagascar (all tours)

(BORNEAN) BRISTLEHEAD   FAMILY PITYRIASEIDAE
Borneo

MOTTLED BERRYHUNTER   RHAGOLOGIDAE
Remote Papua New Guinea (very high chance); Best of/Ultimate Papua New Guinea (60% chance); Best of/Ultimate West Papua (low chance)

WHITEHEADS   FAMILY MOHOUIDAE
New Zealand

(WATTLED) PLOUGHBILL   FAMILY EULACESTOMIDAE
Best of/Ultimate West Papua; Best of/Ultimate Papua New Guinea

AUSTRALO-PAPUAN BELLBIRDS   FAMILY OREOICIDAE
Northern Australia; Southern Australia; Outback Queensland; Best of/Ultimate West Papua; Best of/Ultimate Papua New Guinea

AUSTRALIAN MUDNESTERS   FAMILY CORCORACIDAE
Northern Australia; Southern Australia; Outback Queensland; Ultimate West Papua; Best of/Ultimate Papua New Guinea

MELAMPITTAS   FAMILY MELAMPITTIDAE
Best of/Ultimate West Papua; Best of/Ultimate Papua New Guinea

IFRITA   FAMILY IFRITIDAE
Best of/Ultimate West Papua; Papua New Guinea (all tours)

BIRDS OF PARADISE    FAMILY PARADISAEIDAE
Sulawesi & Halmahera; Ultimate Sulawesi & Halmahera; Eastern Australia; Best of/Ultimate West Papua; Papua New Guinea (all tours)

ROCKFOWL (OR PICATHARTES)   FAMILY PICATHARTIDAE
Sierra Leone; Ghana (all tours); Cameroon (all tours)

ROCKJUMPERS   FAMILY CHAETOPIDAE
South Africa (all tours)

RAIL-BABBLER   FAMILY EUPETIDAE
The Malay Peninsula

WAXWINGS   FAMILY BOMBYCILLIDAE
Finland & Arctic Norway; Southern Manitoba & Churchill; Eastern United States; Alaska

SILKY-FLYCATCHERS   FAMILY PTILOGONATIDAE
Western Mexico; Southern Mexico; Costa Rica (all tours)

(GREY) HYPOCOLIUS   FAMILY HYPOCOLIIDAE
Oman; Bahrain; Western India

PALMCHAT   FAMILY DULIDAE
Hispaniola (Dominican Republic)

HYLOCITREA   FAMILY HYLOCITREIDAE
Sulawesi (all tours)

BEARDED REEDLING   FAMILY PANURIDAE
Belarus; Hungary (all tours); Bulgaria; Turkey; Armenia; Central Asia

(SPOTTED) ELACHURA   FAMILY ELACHURIDAE

Eastern China; China’s Wetlands; Eaglenest & Beyond; India’s Northeast Frontier; Burma

STREAKED SCRUB WARBLER   FAMILY SCOTOCERCIDAE
Morocco; Egypt & Jordan; Iran; Oman

GRAUER'S WARBLER & GREEN AND TIT HYLIAS   FAMILY UNCERTAIN ('INCERTAE SEDIS')
Gambia & Senegal; Sierra Leone; Ghana (all tours); Cameroon (all tours); Gabon, São Tomé & Príncipe; Uganda (all tours); Kenya (all tours)

MALAGASY WARBLERS   FAMILY BERNIERIDAE
Madagascar (all tours)

DAPPLE-THROAT & ALLIES   FAMILY ARCANATORIDAE
Cameroon (all tours), Uganda (all tours); Kenya (all tours); Tanzania's Eastern Arc

SUGARBIRDS   FAMILY PROMEROPIDAE
South Africa (all tours)

WALLCREEPER   FAMILY TICHODROMIDAE

Wild Spain; Hungary & Transylvania; Bulgaria; Turkey; Georgia; Central Asia; Mongolia; Sichuan; Eaglenest & Beyond; Nepal

OLIVE WARBLER   FAMILY PEUCEDRAMIDAE
Arizona; Western Mexico; Southern Mexico; Honduras

PRZEVALSKI'S (OR PINK-TAILED) FINCH   FAMILY UROCYNCHRAMIDAE
Tibet/Tibetan Plateau

GREEN-TAILED, YELLOW-HEADED, ORIENTE AND WHITE-WINGED WARBLERS, WRENTHRUSH & YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT   FAMILY UNCERTAIN ('INCERTAE SEDIS')
Eastern United States; Texas; Arizona; Costa Rica (all tours); Cuba; Hispaniola (Dominican Republic)

LONGSPURS & SNOW BUNTINGS   FAMILY CALCARIIDAE
Finland & Arctic Norway; Kamchatka, the Kurils, the Commanders & Kamchatka (and other cruises in northeastern Siberia); Manitoba; Colorado; Alaska



CATEGORY 2    WIDESPREAD ORIENTAL FAMILIES
(those marked * also occur in the Palearctic)

Asian Barbets   Family Megalaimidae*
Woodshrikes & Allies   Family Tephrodornithidae*
Ioras   Family Aegithinidae
Wren-babblers   Family Pnoepygidae*
Babblers   Timaliidae
Fulvettas & Ground Babblers   Family Pellorneidae
Fairy-bluebirds   Family Irenidae
Leafbirds   Family Chloropseidae


CATEGORY 3    WIDESPREAD AFROTROPICAL FAMILIES
(a few also occur marginally in the Palearctic)

Ostriches   Family Struthionidae
Guineafowl   Family Numididae
Hamerkop   Family Scopidae
Secretarybird   Family Sagittariidae
Flufftails   Family Sarothruridae
Turacos   Family Musophagidae
Mousebirds   Family Coliidae
Wood Hoopoes   Family Phoeniculidae
Ground Hornbills   Family Bucorvidae
African Barbets   Family Lybiidae
Wattle-eyes & Batises   Family Platysteiridae
Helmetshrikes   Family Prionopidae
Bushshrikes   Family Malaconotidae
Nicators   Family Nicatoridae
Crombecs & African Warblers   Family Macrosphenidae?
Yellow Flycatchers   Family Erythrocercidae?
Hyliotas   Family Hyliotidae?Oxpeckers   Family Buphagidae
?Indigobirds & Whydahs   Family Viduidae


CATEGORY 4    WIDESPREAD AUSTRALASIAN FAMILIES

Megapodes   Family Megapodidae
Owlet-nightjars   Family Aegothelidae
Cockatoos   Family Cacatuidae
Bowerbirds   Family Ptilonorynchidae
Australasian Treecreepers   Family Climacteridae
Australasian Wrens   Family Maluridae
Honeyeaters   Family Meliphagidae (one species reaches Bali)
Pardalotes   Family Pardalotidae
Australasian Warblers   Family Acanthizidae
Australasian Babblers   Family Pomatostomidae
Whipbirds & Jewel-babblers & Quail-thrushes   Family Psophodidae
Butcherbirds & Allies   Family Cracticidae
Sittellas   Family Neosittidae
Australasian Robins   Family Petroicidae


CATEGORY 5    WIDESPREAD NEOTROPICAL FAMILIES
(those marked * also occur in the Nearctic)

Tinamous   Family Tinamidae
Chachalacas, Curassows & Guans   Family Cracidae*
New World Quails   Family Odontophoridae*
Screamers   Family Anhimidae
New World Vultures   Family Cathartidae*
Sunbittern   Family Eurypygidae
Limpkin   Family Aramidae*
Seedsnipes   Family Thinocoridae
Hoatzin   Family Opisthocomidae
Potoos   Family Nyctibiidae
Hummingbirds   Family Trochilidae*
Motmots   Family Momotidae
Jacamars   Family Galbulidae
Puffbirds   Famnily Bucconidae
New World Barbets   Family Capitonidae
Toucans   Family Ramphastidae
Ovenbirds or Furnarids   Family Furnaridae
Antbirds   Family Thamnophilidae
Antthrushes   Family Formicaridae
Antpittas   Family Grallariidae
Tapaculos   Family Rhinocryptidae
Tyrant Flycatchers: Family Tyrannidae*
Cotingas   Family Cotingidae
Manakins   Family Pipridae
Tityras & Becards   Family Tityridae*
Black-capped Donacobius   Family Donacobiidae
Gnatcatchers   Family Polioptilidae*
Mockingbirds & Thrashers   Family Mimidae*
New World Warblers   Family Parulidae*
Oropendolas, Orioles & Blackbirds   Family Icteridae*
Banaquit   Family Coerebidae
Tanagers & Allies   Family Thraupidae*
Cardinals, Grosbeaks & Allies   Family Cardinalidae*



CATEGORY 6    WIDESPREAD FAMILIES FOUND IN TWO OR MORE FAUNAL REGIONS

Pheasants & Allies   Family Phasianidae
Ducks, Geese & Swans   Family Anatidae
Loons or Divers   Family Gaviidae   (Holarctic)
Penguins   Family Spheniscidae   (primarily Southern Ocean)
Albatrosses   Family Diomedeidae   (Southern Ocean and Pacific)
Petrels & Shearwaters   Family Procellariidae
Storm Petrels   Family Hydrobatidae
Grebes   Family Podicipedidae
Flamingos   Family Phoenicopteridae
Tropicbirds   Family Phaethontidae
Storks   Family Ciconiidae
Ibises & Spoonbills   Family Threskiornithidae
Herons & Bitterns   Family Ardeidae
Pelicans   Family Pelecanidae
Frigatebirds   Family Fregatidae
Gannets & Boobies   Family Sulidae
Cormorants & Shags   Family Phalacrocoracidae
Anhingas & Darters   Family Anhingidae
Ospreys   Family Pandionidae
Kites, Hawks & Eagles   Family Accipitridae
Caracaras & Falcons   Family Falconidae
Bustards   Family Otididae   (Old World and Australia)
Finfoots   Family Heliornithidae
Rails, Crakes & Coots   Family Rallidae
Cranes   Family Gruidae
Buttonquails   Family Turnicidae   (Old World and Australia)
Stone-curlews & Thick-knees   Family Burhinidae
Oystercatchers   Family Haematopodidae
Stilts & Avocets   Family Recurvirostridae
Plovers   Family Charadriidae
Painted-snipes   Family Rostratulidae
Jacanas   Family Jacanidae
Sandpipers & Snipes   Family Scolopacidae
Coursers & Pratincoles   Family Glareolidae   (Old World and Australasia)
Gulls, Terns & Skimmers   Family Laridae
Skuas   Family Stercoraridae
Sandgrouse   Family Pteroclidae   (Old World)
Pigeons & Doves   Family Columbidae
Parrots   Family Psittacidae
Cuckoos   Family Cuculidae
Barn Owls   Family Tytonidae
Owls   Family Strigidae
Frogmouths   Family Podargidae   (tropical Asia and Australasia)
Nightjars   Family Caprimulgidae
Treeswifts   Family Hemiprocnidae   (tropical Asia to the Solomons)
Swifts   Family Apodidae
Trogons   Family Trogonidae
Rollers   Family Coraciidae   (Old World and Australasia)
Kingfishers   Family Alcedinidae
Bee-eaters   Family Meropidae   (Old World and Australasia)
Hoopoes    Family Upupidae   (Old World)
Hornbills   Family Bucerotidae   (tropical Africa and Asia, east to the Solomons)
Honeyguides   Family Indicatoridae   (tropical Africa and to a much lesser degree southern Asia)
Woodpeckers   Family Picidae
Broadbills   Family Eurylaimidae   (tropical Africa and Asia; outliers in Madagascar and the American tropics)
Pittas   Family Pittidae   (tropical Africa, Asia and Australasia)
Woodswallows   Family Artamidae   (Australasia and to a lesser degree tropical Asia)
Cuckooshrikes   Family Campephagidae   (Africa, Africa and Australasia)
Whistlers & Allies   Family Pachycephalidae   (Australasia and to a lesser degree tropical Asia)
Shrikes   Family Laniidae
Vireos & Greenlets    Family Vireonidae   (primarily the Americas, with outliers in Asia)
Figbirds & Orioles   Family Oriolidae   (Old World and Australasia)
Drongos   Family Dicruridae   (Africa, Asia and Australasia)
Fantails   Family Rhipiduridae   (Asia and Australasia)
Monarchs   Family Monarchidae   (Africa, Asia and Australasia)
Crows & Jays   Family Corvidae
Fairy Flycatchers   Family Stenostiridae   (tropical Africa and Asia)
Tits & Chickadees   Family Paridae
Penduline Tits   Family Remizidae   (Old World)
Larks  Family Alaudidae
Bulbuls   Family Pycnonotidae   (Africa and Asia)
Swallows & Martins   Family Hirundinidae
Cettia Bush Warblers & Allies   Family Cettiidae   (Old World to Fiji)
Bushtits   Family Aegithalidae
Leaf Warblers & Allies   Family Phylloscopidae   (Old World to the Solomons)
Reed Warblers & Allies   Family Acrocephalidae   (Old World & Australasia)?Grassbirds & Allies   Family Locustellidae   (Old World and Australasia)
Cisticolas & Allies   Family Cisticolidae
Laughingthrushes   Family Leiothrichidae   (Africa and Asia)
Sylviid Babblers   Family Sylviidae   (Old World plus western North America)
White-eyes   Family Zosteropidae   (Africa, Asia and Australasia)
Goldcrests & Kinglets   Family Regulidae
Wrens   Family Troglodytidae   (primarily the Americas but also temperate Eurasia)
Nuthatches   Family Sittidae
Treecreepers   Family Certhiidae
Starlings & Rhabdornis   Family Sturnidae   (primarily Old World and Australasia, introduced elsewhere)
Thrushes   Family Turdidae
Chats & Old World Flycatchers   Family Muscicapidae   (Old World to New Guinea)
Dippers   Family Cinclidae
Flowerpeckers   Family Dicaeidae   (Asia and Australasia)
Sunbirds   Family Nectariniidae   (Africa, Asia and Australasia)
Old World Sparrows & Snowfinches:  Family Passeridae   (Old World, introduced elsewhere)
Weavers & Widowbirds   Family Ploceidae   (tropical Africa and Asia)
Waxbills, Munias & Allies   Family Estrildidae   (Africa, Asia and Australasia, introduced elsewhere)
Accentors    Family Prunellidae    (Palearctic Eurasia)
Wagtails & Pipits    Family Motacillidae
Finches   Family Fringillidae
Buntings, New World Sparrows & Allies   Family Emberizidae


CATEGORY 7: FAMILIES NOT CURRENTLY RECOGNIZED BY THE IOC

(BROAD-BILLED) SAPAYOA    FAMILY SAPAYOIDAE
(Sapayoa aenigma is placed in the Broadbills, family Eurylaimidae, by the IOC, but this must surely be a candidate for future restoration of monotypic family status given the Old World distribution of all the other broadbills.)
Panama; Ultimate Ecuador

ASITIES & SUNBIRD-ASITIES    FAMILY PHILEPITTIDAE
(placed in the Broadbills, family Eurylaimidae, by the IOC)
Madagascar (all tours)

SHARPBILL & ALLIES    FAMILY OXYRUNCIDAE
(placed in the Tityras & Becards, family Tityridae, by the IOC)
Sometimes Sharpbill Oxyruncus cristatus has been treated as a monotypic family, sometimes genera Myiobius (Myiobius species), Terenotriccus (Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher) and Onychorhynchus (royal-flycatchers) have also been placed in the Oxyruncidae.
Sharpbill is most easily seen on Ultimate Southeast Brazil. (The other genera occur between them over a wide area of the Neotropics.)