Bird Classification

– G. Radcliffe, 2004 

Lab 3A – Bird Classification

Problem: Develop a classification system for organizing birds.

Background Information: When we classify, we try to group organisms with similar characteristics.  You are grouped with whales, dogs, horses, and bats because you have characteristics in common with them: warm-blooded, hair, give birth to live offspring, and feed young milk.  We could have grouped you with birds because you have 2 legs, and we could have grouped whales with fish.  What is important in classification is to select the most important similarities and differences as the basis for grouping.  The body of a human is very different from that of a bird, and even though whales have no legs and are aquatic, our internal organs and reproductive process are almost identical.

Pre-Lab Question:

Separate the items below in 2 groups, and then tell why you divided them that way.

Stove, refrigerator, TV, radio


  1. Classify the 15 birds listed in the data below.
  2. Complete the chart below using available field guides to see the birds.
  3. Use the information to then complete the classification chart started below.
  4. Use the classification rules that you have previously used.

Classification Rules:

  1. Begin with 1 group, and divide into 2.
  2. Subdivide these 2 groups into 2 more.
  3. Continue subdividing until each remaining group has only 1 species in it.
  4. Once species are separated, never recombine them.
  5. When dividing, create 2 groups that do not overlap.
  6. For each group created, list the numbers of the species included in that group.


Predator: Hooked Beak and TalonsNot a Predator: No Hooked Beak,Talons
10, 111,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,12,13,14,15

Complete chart

SpeciesLengthBeakFeetTailWing MarkingNestHabitatOther
2BluebirdcavityBrown breast
3CardinalFat, orange
4Tufted TitmouseCrest
5Downy Woodpecker4 toescavityWhite back
6A. GoldfinchBlack wings with white stripesEdges,lawns
7Red-winged Blackbird
8Common GracklelongShiny, black
9Song SparrowBrush, gardensBlack dot on breast
10KestrelTalonsLong, brownPointed, curved backCavity
11E. ScreechowlCavity
12Mourning DoveLong, pointed
13Ruby-throated Hummingbird
14Carolina WrenSlim, curvedPointed upWhite eye stripe