Problems in Avian Classification

  • Robert J. Raikow
Part of the Current Ornithology book series (CUOR, volume 2)


That the higher-level classification of birds is in an unsatisfactory state is clearly demonstrated by the continued proliferation of new classifications and by the failure of biologists in general to adopt any one system as standard. Recent years have seen comprehensive classifications by Mayr and Amadon (1951), Stresemann (1959), Wetmore (1960), Storer (1971), Morony et al. (1975), Wolters (1975–82), Cracraft (1981), and others. The Peters’ checklist and the American Ornithologists’ Union checklist continue to evolve, and many attempts have been made to reclassify avian subgroups. Pizzey (1980, p. 13) stated that “The classification of birds (avian taxonomy) is in some ways like the peace of God—it passeth all understanding.” Olson (1981, p. 193) agreed with this sentiment, but also recognized the basic reason: “… the present classification of birds amounts to little more than superstition and bears about as much relationship to a true phylogeny of the Class Aves as Greek mythology does to the theory of relativity.”


Monophyletic Group Avian Systematic Satisfactory Classification Phenetic Relationship American Ornithologist 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. Raikow
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Carnegie Museum of Natural HistoryPittsburghUSA

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