HOW DO WE CLASSIFY BIRDS?
So, what is taxonomy, exactly? Put simply, it’s the study of the classification and scientific naming of living things, and taxa include large units, such as kingdoms and families, and smaller ones such as orders, genera, species and subspecies. In a ‘taxonomic’ or ‘systematic’ list of birds, species are placed in a linear sequence according to how long ago they are thought to have evolved, oldest first. Related taxa are grouped together. Scientists are constantly uncovering new relationships between taxa, so some of our long-held beliefs about the relationships between different species have to be rethought. The main reason has been the introduction of molecular taxonomy, typically using DNA, to replace the old phenetic approach (based on observable traits). An initial reordering of birds in the 1990s, using DNA, is gradually being revised using more and more sophisticated techniques.