The Scientific Name for Birds: Aves


Written by

Clinton Atkins



George Dukes

What is the Scientific Name for Birds

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word, would smell as sweet,” says Juliet in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet.

Going by the system developed by Carl Linnaeus in the 1700s, though, there’s plenty in a scientific name. Scientific names allow people to form a picture of the animal’s appearance, who they are related to, and their evolutionary history.

What is the scientific name for birds? Birds are from the class “Aves.”

How does an animal become classified as an aves, and what are some bird classification subgroups (“orders”)? Read on to learn more!

An Overview of Class Aves


All living creatures are given “scientific names” based on their physical appearances and evolutionary history.

Here’s a brief look at its history, evolution, and application on birds.

1. Bird Definition And Unique Characteristics


According to the accepted taxonomic practices, the “aves” or birds category includes warm-blooded vertebrates that are feathered, lay hard-shelled eggs, and have:

  • Wings (but don’t necessarily fly)
  • Toothless, beaked jaws
  • A four-chambered heart
  • A lightweight skeleton
  • Two feet

Birds are considered living dinosaurs because of their close relation to the extinct giants of the past. This is reflected in their scientific name: aves birds are descendants of the avialans (theropod dinosaurs) of the late Jurassic period. An avialan.

2. The Importance of Scientific Names


Why do animals need a Latin name? Why not just go by each one’s common name? The main reason is that many birds have multiple, overlapping names.

For instance, the starling in Europe became known as the European starling in the United States. American goldfinches are also known as wild canaries, different from common canaries.

In short, common names for birds are unreliable since they differ per country and sometimes even per region. Scientific names, however, stay consistent anywhere, making it easier to ensure everyone is discussing the same species.

Birds science name also provides clear, simple clues to each species’ evolutionary history and which species are related.

However, it wasn’t always that way!

An American goldfinch, also known as a wild canary.

3. History and Evolution

An American goldfinch, also known as a wild canary.

Although Carl Linnaeus was the one to devise modern taxonomic classification, he was far from the first scientist to attempt to give “scientific names” to living organisms.

Until the 18th century, many zoologists assigned living organisms Latin names but seemed to do so randomly. The names were inconsistent and too complicated, making them ineffective.

Linnaeus sought to fix the problem by simplifying the process by giving each organism only two names (its “binomial nomenclature”). Using his system, scientists simply refer to each one’s genus and species when referring to the animal.

Linnaeus’ system is still in use today, with numerous modifications to include advances in science and technology. Currently, plants and animals receive eight classification levels from kingdom to species.

4. Classification of Bird Scientific Names


Within the class aves, birds are further grouped according to similar characteristics and features.

  • Passeriformes or passerines are the family classification of birds with three unwebbed toes in the front and one strong toe in the back, which helps them perch. This group is more commonly known as the order of perching birds.
  • Psittaciformes, or the parrot birds family, are considered the sister group of Passeriformes. They are characterized by their sturdy, curved bills, upright stances, strong legs, and zygodactyl feet (two front-facing and two back-facing toes).
  • Linnaeus also specified one order for birds of prey: Accipitriformes. This can be divided into four genera, namely Vultur (vultures), Falco (falcons, eagles, and hawks), Strix (owls), and Lanius (shrikes).
  • Other types of bird orders include Piciformes (woodpeckers), Coraciiformes (kingfishers, bee-eaters, etc.), Pelecaniformes (pelicans, herons, ibis, etc.), Columbiformes (pigeons), and Cuculiformes (cuckoos).

Common Birds And Their Scientific Names

Here are common bird names and their scientific name list:

Common Name Scientific Name
American crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
Goldfinch American Goldfinch: Spinus tristis

European Goldfinch: Carduelis carduelis

American robin Turdus migratorius
Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Chickadee Black-capped Chickadee: Poecile atricapillus

Carolina Chickadee: Poecile carolinensis

Blue jay Cyanocitta cristata
Chicken Gallus gallus domesticus
Cuckoo Cuculidae Cuculiformes
Dark-eyed junco Junco hyemalis
European starling Sturnus vulgaris
Falcon Falconidae falco
Finches House Finch: Haemorhous mexicanus

Purple Finch: Haemorhous purpureus

Common grackle Quiscalus quiscula
Sparrows Chipping sparrow: Spizella passerina

House sparrow: Passer domesticus

Song sparrow: Melospiza melodia

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Mourning dove Zenaida macroura
Northern cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Tufted titmouse Baeolophus bicolor
Woodpeckers Downy Woodpecker: Picoides pubescens

Hairy Woodpecker: Leuconotopicus villosus

Wrens Carolina Wren: Thryothorus ludovicianus

House Wren: Troglodytes aedon


What is the scientific name for birds? While all birds are aves, hundreds and thousands of subclassifications exist under it, allowing scientists and enthusiasts to be specific when discussing our feathered friends.

Though the names are relatively set, they are still constantly updated with advances in DNA analysis technology. Species are occasionally merged or split into separate subgroups until the present day.

Thankfully, you don’t need to know each bird’s Latin or common name to enjoy their singing or colorful plumage as they fly through your backyard or local park.

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