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Furnariidae: Upucerthia, Ochetorhynchus : 8 species. Ground-probers. Mimidae: Toxostoma : 7 species. Alaudidae: Alaemon : 2 species. Bill longer than typical insectivore, decurved, sharply pointed. Ground-probers typically have plain backs that match substrate. Upupidae: 1 species.

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ground probers

Furnariidae: Upucerthia, Ochetorhynchus: 8 species


Mimidae: Toxostoma: 7 species

Alaudidae: Alaemon: 2 species

Bill longer than typical insectivore, decurved, sharply pointed. Ground-probers typically have plain backs that match substrate.

Upupidae: 1 species

Two orders, at least 4 families; at least 18 species

bark probers

Certhiidae: 8 species


Like Ground-probers, but back typically with some streaks. Toes and tail often show climbing adaptations, as in these specialized climbers.

Dendrocolaptidae: woodcreepers ;ca. 50 species

bark probers1


Vangidae: Falculea, 1 species

Fringillidae: Hemignathus; ca. 4 species

Like Ground-probers, but back typically with some streaks. This set of birds are not as specialized for climbing as the Dendrocolaptidae and Certhiidae – their toes have extra-dtrong and curved toenails, but their tails are not specilaized for bracing against a branch.

Paradisaeidae: Epimachus, 2 species

Phoeniculidae: wood-hoopoes, 8 species

Two orders, at least 6 families; at least 70 species

mud probers


Bill very long, typically rather blunt at tip. Legs long for wading.

Scolopacidae:, ca. 85 species

Ibidorhynchidae: Ibisbill, 1 species

mud probers1

Rostratulidae:painted-snipes, 2 species

Rallidae: ca. 50 species


Bill very long, typically rather blunt at tip. Legs long for wading.

Threskiornithidae: 30 species

Apterygidae: kiwis, 3 species

Aramidae: Limpkin, 1 species

Four orders, at least 7 families; at least 170 species

flower probers

8families, ca. 500 species

Philepittidae: Neodrepanis, 2 species

Meliphagidae: honeyeaters, ca. 30 species


Fringillidae: Vestiaria, 1 species

Although most flower-probers are brightly colored, some that are not territorial are dull – you won’t be tested on a dull one.

Nectariniidae: sunbirds, ca. 125 species

flower probers1

Thraupidae: Cyanerpes, Chlorophanes, 4 species


Promeropidae: sugarbirds, 2 species

Trochilidae: ca. 330 species

Mohoidae: O’os, 5 species (Hawaii; extinct)

fish eaters dagger shape

Alcidae: murresand guillemots, 5 species

Anhingidae: 3 species

Fish-eaters – dagger shape

Podicipedidae: 20 species

Gaviidae: 5 species

The species in these 4 groups catch fish using underwater, mostly by pursuit.

fish eaters dagger shape1

Most kingfishers don’t eat fish but instead are landbirds that eat large insect and small vertebrates; these species are all in the Afrotropics, Indomalayan, and Australasian (e.g., Kookabura) regions, and their bills differ subtly from those of fish-eating kingfishers.

8 orders, 9 families, ca. 180 species

Ardeidae: 65 species

Note: there are a number of fish-eaters that you will not be tested on that have bills that are basically dagger-shaped but are slightly decurved at the tip, but not really hooked: boobies, gannets, some storks, some terns, some penguins.

Fish-eaters – dagger shape

Alcedinidae: ca. 25 species

Phaethontidae: tropicbirds, 3 species

Terns and tropicbirds dive-bomb fish from the air.

Ciconiidae: ca. 15 species

Herons and storks ambush fish by stalking from shore; kingfishers dive-bomb them from perches (although a couple of species also do it while hovering in flight).

Laridae: terns, ca. 40 species

fish eaters hooked

3 orders, 4 families, ca. 80 species

Anatidae: mergansers, 5 species

Fish-eaters – hooked

Phalacrocoracidae: 36 species

Procellariidae: ca. 20 species

Diomedeidae: albatrosses, 15 species

Fregatidae: 5 species



Picidae: 210 species

Bark-driller bills superficially look like dagger-shaped fish-eating bills, but in cross-section they are diamond-shaped, not laterally compressed (like a knife blade), and are often blunt at the tip.

Although they don’t drill bark the way woodpeckers do, note that there are several other groups that have similar bill shapes for pecking at hard substrates, e.g., nuthatches (Sittidae) and turnstones (Arenaria).