Water Birds, Game Birds and Birds of Prey

By Chester A. Reed

Table of Contents


Title Page




Characteristics of Form or Habit That Will Determine to What Order or Family Birds Belong.

ORDER 1. DIVING BIRDS - Pygopodes.

GREBES; Colymbidæ: Form, duck-like; bill pointed and never flattened; no tail; legs at extreme end of body; each flattened toe with an individual web; wings small. Flies rapidly, but patters along the water before taking wing. Expert divers, using wings as well as feet, to propel them, under water.

LOONS. Family Gaviidæ: Larger than Grebes; bill long, heavy, and pointed; tail very short; feet webbed like a duck's, but legs thin and deep; form and habits, grebe-like.

AUKS, MURRES, PUFFINS. Family Alcidæ: Bills very variable; tail short; usually takes flight when alarmed, instead of diving as do grebes and loons. With the exception of puffins, which stand on their feet, all birds of this order sit upon their whole leg and tail. They are awkward on land; some can hardly walk.


SKUAS, JAEGERS. Family Stercorariidæ: Marine birds of prey; bill strongly hooked, with long scaly shield, or cere, at the base; claws strong and curved^ hawk-like; flight hawk-like; plumage often entirely sooty-black, and always so on the back.

GULLS, TERNS. Family Laridæ: Gulls have hooked bills, usually yellowish, yellow eyes and pale, webbed feet. Heap, underparts and square tail are white in adults; back, pearl-grey; exceptions are the four small black-headed gulls, which also have reddish legs. Gulls fly with the bill straight in front, and often rest on the water. Terns have forked tails, black caps, and their slender, pointed bills and small webbed feet are usually red. They fly with bill pointed down, and dive upon their prey.


FULMARS, SHEARWATERS, PETRELS. Family Procellariidæ: Nostrils opening in a tube on top of the hooked bill. Plumage of fulmars, gull-like; shear . . .

. . . waters entirely sooty black, or white below; petrels blackish, with white rumps, very small birds. All seabirds.


All four toes joined by webs.

TROPIC BIRDS. Family Phaethontidæ: Bill and form tern-like; middle tail feathers very long.

GANNETS. Family Sulidæ: Bill heavy and pointed; face and small throat pouch, bare.

SKAKE-BIRDS. Family Anhingidæ: Bill slender and pointed; neck and tail very long, the latter rounded; habits like those of the following.

CORMORANTS. Family Phalacrocoracidæ: Bill slender, but hooked at the tip; plumage glossy black and brown; eyes green. They use their wings as well as feet when pursuing fish under water.

PELICANS. Family Pelecanidæ: Bill very long and with a large pouch suspended below.

MAN-O'-WAR BIRDS. Family Fregatidæ: very long and strongly hooked; tail long and forked; wholly maritime, as are all but the preceding three.


Mergansers, with slender, toothed bills with which to catch the fish they pursue under water.

Other ducks have rather broad bills, more or less resembling those of the domestic duck. Their flight is rapid and direct. River ducks have no web, or flap, on the hind toe; they get their food without going entirely under water, by tipping up. Sea ducks have a broad flap on the hind toe.

ORDER 6. FLAMINGOES. Odontoglossae.

Family Phoenicopteridæ: Large, long-necked, pink birds with a crooked box-like bill, long legs and webbed feet.


Long-legged, wading birds, with all four toes long, slender and without webs. Usually found about the muddy edges of ponds, lakes or creeks, and less often on the sea shore. Wings large and rounded.

SPOONBILL. Family Plataleidæ: Bill long, thin and much broadened at the end; head bare.

IBISES. Family Ibididæ: Bill long, slender and curved down. Ibises and Spoonbills fly with the neck fully extended.

STORKS. Family Ciconiidæ: Bill long, heavy, and curved near the end; head and upper neck bare.

HERONS, BITTERNS, EGRETS. Family Ardeidæ: Bill long, straight and pointed; head usually crested, and back often with plumes. Herons fly with a fold in the neck, and the back of the head resting against the shoulders.

ORDER 8. MARSH BIRDS. Paludicohe

Birds of this order, vary greatly in size and appearance, but all agree in having the hind toe elevated, whereas that of the members of the last order leaves the foot on a level with the front toes; neck extended in flight.

CRANES. Family Grudidæ: Very large and heron-like, but with plumage close feathered; top of head bare; bill long, slender and obtusely pointed.

COURLANS. Family Aramidæ: Size mid-way between the cranes and rails; bill long and slender.

RAILS, ETC. Family Rallidæ: Bills are variable, but toes and legs long; wings short; flight slow and wavering; marsh skulkers, hiding in rushes. Gallinules have a frontal shield on the forehead, Coots have lobate-webbed feet, short, whitish bills.


Comparatively small, long legged, slender-billed birds seen running along edges of ponds or beaches.

PHALAROPES. Palaropodidæ. Toes with lobed webs.

AVOCETS, STILTS. Recurvirostridæ: Avocet, with slender recurved bill, and webbed feet; stilt, with straight bill, very long legs, toes not webbed.

SNIPES, SNADPIPERS, ETC. Family Scolopacidæ: Bills very variable but slender, and all, except the Woodcock, with long pointed wings; flight usually swift and erratic.

PLOVERS. Family Charadriidæ: Bill short and stout; three toes.

TURNSTONES. Family Aphrizidæ: Bill short, stout and slightly up-turned; four toes.

OYSTER-CATCHERS. Family Hmatopodidæ: Bill long, heavy and compressed; legs and toes stout; three toes slightly webbed at base.

JACANAS. Family Jacanidæ: Bill with leaf-like shield at the base; legs and toes extremely long and slender; sharp spur on wing.

ORDER 10. FOWLS. Gallinæ.

Ground birds of robust form; bill hen-like; wings short and rounded; feet large and strong.

PARTRIDGES, GROUSE. Family Tetraonidæ: Legs bare in the partridges, feathered in grouse.

TURKEYS, PHEASANTS. Family Phasianidæ: Legs often spurred, or head with wattles, etc.

GUANS. Family Cracidæ: Represented by the Chachalaca of Texas.


Family Columbidæ: Bill slender, hard at the tip, and with the nostrils opening in a fleshy membrane at the base. Plumage soft grays and browns.

ORDER 12. BIRDS OF PREY. Raptores.

VULTURES. Cathartidæ: Head bare; feet hen-like.

HAWKS, EAGLES. Falconidæ: Bill and claws strongly hooked; nostrils in a cere at base of bill.

BARN OWLS. Aluconidæ: Black eyes in triangular facial disc; middle toe-nail serrated.

HORNED OWLS, ETC. Bubonidæ: Facial disc round; some species with ears, others without.