Updated: Jun 5
This question has two answers depending on the intent of your question. However, if you are a scientist, this question may have ±7 answers. (That is a science joke.)
How many species of bird are in the world?
Currently, there are 10,824 species of bird described in the world, depending on the source of information. However, this does not imply there are "ONLY" 10,824 species of bird. It means that scientists have either described or recognized "ONLY" 10,824 species of bird. There are likely still undescribed species in some under-researched areas, and there are still many species that have traditionally been lumped as a single species but are actually two or more separate species. Birds like the Dark-eyed Junco or the Yellow-rumped Warbler may eventually be split into 3+ species by groups like the AOS. In fact, several species have been discovered in the past few years.
*This number may also include ~350 species of bird that are extinct, extinct in the wild, likely extinct, or status unknown.
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How many total birds are in the world?
According to a 2021 study, there are approximately 50 billion birds, globally. You read that correctly; there are ~50,000,000,000 birds in the world. How did they come up with such a number? Math. And a lot of it. Using a specialized algorithm, this group of researchers utilized citizen science databases, like eBird, and macroscale publications. Is this number 100% accurate? No. But currently, it may be the best estimate we have. In fact, this group of researchers even provided a range for global bird populations from 10 billion to 428 billion.
*Many ornithologists have disagreed with some of these numbers, so take them with a grain of salt.
Which bird species has the largest population?
Again, this study lists four species with global populations of over 1 billion individuals. The bird listed in this study with the largest population is the House Sparrow, with a population of over ~1.6 billion birds.
House Sparrow - Population: 1.6 billion
Range: 750 million to 4 billion
European Starling - Population: 1.3 billion
Range: 500 million to 4 billion
Ring-billed Gull - Population: 1.2 billion
Range: 100 million to 6 billion
Barn Swallow - Population: 1.1 billion
Range: 200 million to 3 billion
These numbers are not agreed upon across the ornithology spectrum, so hedge your bets against the totals.
Want to try to photograph all 50,000,000,000 birds?
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A world full of birds!
Birds are a diverse and abundant class of organisms. However, even with those eye-popping numbers above, birds still do not earn top billing as the most diverse or the most abundant. Birds are still some of the most interesting and charismatic animals available for viewing, with actions as simple as hanging a bird feeder! Despite being so numerous as a Class of organism, many species of birds are still in peril of extinction, and we can take actions even at our own homes to help slow or stop declines. Making a switch to Bird Friendly coffee or protecting windows from bird impacts are two such changes!
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Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, B. K. Keeney, P. G. Rodewald, and T. S. Schulenberg, Editors). Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/home
Global abundance estimates for 9,700 bird species (Corey T. Callaghan, Shinichi Nakagawa, William K. Cornwell). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences May 2021, 118 (21) e2023170118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2023170118