Welcome to my website which offers an alternative way of grouping the birds of the world. It is not intended as a replacement for the conventional classification system but it does provide another way of looking at birds which birders may find interesting and perhaps even useful.
To see an overview of the purpose and content of related websites please click on http://bbsi.wikidot.com or type Gruffalump’s Birds into the Google search engine.
My interest in bird photography led me to want to present my photographs and thoughts in a way which would illustrate the "big picture". The classification system used by ornithologists seemed to be an obvious place to start but, although it is essential to any scientific discussion, it is of little help in providing the average birder with a “minds eye view” of the birds of the world.
I had naively expected birds in the same family to look like each other but I soon realised that is not always the case. When ornithologists talk about similarities they are usually referring to the anatomical structure of the birds not their outward appearance and behaviour. For example Barbets and Toucans hardly look much like each other but they are listed together in family Ramphastidae. One of the Diving Petrels looks almost identical to the Little Auk and yet they each belong to different orders and families! There are many other examples.
My point is that, for the birder wanting a “minds-eye picture”, scientific names with implied family relationships, can present a confusing picture. It is important to realise that species within a family may have a totally different appearance, behaviour and feeding technique. It is also useful to recognise that birds often have counterparts in different parts of the world.
Eventually I decided to turn the problem around and look at the habitats and niches which the birds occupy rather than the birds themselves. This led me to another way of grouping birds which focuses on appearance and observable characteristics like habitats and feeding techniques rather than anatomical structure.
Some time later when I was trying to develop a better understanding of the genetic aspects associated with the evolution and development of birds, I realised the important part which the environment and habitat plays. I sum it up in the phrase genes provide options but the environment makes the choice.
I have assembled information and my thoughts under the following headings:-
Foods and food sources.
If we define the main foods which birds take we are well on the way to being able to describe the habitat in which the birds are likely to be found. What complicates things is the fact that many birds are adaptable and have evolved to take a variety of foods. Nevertheless it's a starting point. Click on Food Source.
Environments and Habitats.
Information suggests that birds can be grouped in four broad habitats. Each of these habitats can be divided into sub-habitats and niches but the treatment is not comprehensive and only goes to the species (and hence niche level) in a few selected cases. Indeed my over-riding objective is to find a way to simplify the presentation of the birds of the world by grouping the birds in a way which is meaningful to birders. Click on Enviro / Habitats.
I am currently in the process of revising the data presented and simplifying the structure of the website. My website visitor monitoring system enables me to see which modules and pages are attracting interest. Most visitors enter the website via search engines and the key words and phrases indicate the type of information that people want to see.
In general terms birders tend to use Common Names for the groups of birds that interest them. There is a clear interest in habitats, feeding techniques and behaviour and I will be developing my thoughts on this in a separate website which focuses on some specific Common Name Groups such as Birds of Prey, Wetlands Birds, Sea and Ocean Birds, Finches and Warblers etc. You can access this website by clicking on Birds-Common Name Groups
I welcome your thoughts.
This website contains information about the habitats and niches which the birds occupy. I use it to assemble information and test out my own thoughts. It should always be regarded as work in progress and subject to change. You may not agree with the views I express but I hope they will cause you to think about them and respond with views of your own. Please click on Comments.
By June 2013 it was gratifying to see that most pages of this website were attracting visitor interest in reasonable depth.
24th January 2013 - I have made some changes to the presentation of the modules in the top navigation bar which should clarify my approach. Currently my thinking is focussed on habitats and how they have been affected by changes during the long period of time that the birds have been evolving.
August 2012 - Following a period of monitoring website visitors and pages viewed I realised that I needed to be more specific with some of my page names. Aerial, Aquatic, Terrestrial and Arboreal are far too general. I am in the process of revising these four sub-modules.