The order Suliformes (dubbed "Phalacrocoraciformes" by Christidis & Boles 2008) is an order recognised by the International Ornithologist's Union.[1] In regard to the recent evidence that the traditional Pelecaniformes is polyphyletic,[2] it has been suggested that the group be split up to reflect the true evolutionary relationships. The Suliformes are the oldest order of living birds, with the fossil record of 90 million years ago

Temporal range: Late Cretaceous - present 90–0 Ma
Northern Gannet 2006 2
Northern gannet (Morus bassanus)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Aequornithes
Order: Suliformes
Sharpe, 1891

Systematics and evolution

Of the families in Pelecaniformes, only Pelecanidae, Balaenicipitidae, and Scopidae remain. The tropicbird family Phaethontidae has since been moved to their own order Phaethontiformes. Genetic analysis seems to show that the Pelecaniformes is actually closely related to the Ardeidae and Threskiornithidae. As for the Suliformes, they are distantly related to the current Pelecaniformes.[3] According to Hackett et al. (2008), loons, penguins, storks, and as well as Suliformes and Pelecaniformes, all seem to have evolved from a common ancestor. The proposed waterbird superorder has been suggested.[4]

In their landmark 2008 work Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds, Australian ornithologists Les Christidis and Walter E. Boles coined the name Phalacrocoraciformes for the group due to the much greater number of species of cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae) over boobies and gannets (Sulidae).[5] However, this has not been taken up elsewhere.

In 1994, American ornithologist Walter J. Bock wrote that the name Suloidea had been used consistently as a term for a superfamily containing the two families, so therefore "Sulidae" and not "Phalacrocoracidae" should take priority in any arrangement containing the two genera.[6]

In 2010, the AOU adopted the term Suliformes for the taxon.[7] The IOC followed in 2011.[8]

In 1994, Martyn Kennedy and colleagues constructed a behavioural data set, with the resulting tree showing a high level of congruence with existing phylogenies based on genetics or morphology. It showed the darters as sister group to the cormorants and shags, with the gannets and boobies, then pelicans, then frigatebirds and lastly tropicbirds as progressively earlier offshoots.[9]






Cladogram based on Gibb, G.C. et al. (2013)[10]


Fregata foot bones
Bones of the left foot of Fregata aquila showing pectinate edge to mid claw,[11] a characteristic of the Suliformes.[12]
Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger) in Hyderabad W IMG 8389
Little cormorant Phalacrocorax niger


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-01. Retrieved 2012-03-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Mayr (2003)
  3. ^ Jarvis, E.D. et al. (2014) Whole-genome analyses resolve early branches in the tree of life of modern birds. Science, 346(6215):1320-1331. DOI: 10.1126/science.1253451
  4. ^ Hackett, S.J. et al. (2008) A Phylogenomic Study of Birds Reveals Their Evolutionary History. Science 320, 1763.
  5. ^ Christidis, Les; Boles, Walter E. (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Canberra: CSIRO Publishing. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-643-06511-6.
  6. ^ Bock, Walter J. (1994). "History and nomenclature of avian family-group names". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 222: 1–281 [166–67]. If Sula and Phalacrocorax are included in the same family-level taxon (e.g. superfamily), then Sulidae Reichenbach, 1849 (1836) (Sula Brisson, 1760) has priority in preference to Phalacrocoracidae Reichenbach, 1849-50 (1836) (Phalacrocorax Brisson, 1760), because the name Suloidea has been consistently used in avian classification as a superfamily name. Phalacrocoracidae Reichenbach, 1849-50 (1836) can still be used for any taxon containing Phalacrocorax but not Sula.
  7. ^ R. Terry Chesser, Richard C. Banks, F. Keith Barker, Carla Cicero, Jon L. Dunn, Andrew W. Kratter, Irby J. Lovette, Pamela C. Rasmussen, J. V. Remsen Jr., James D. Rising, Douglas F. Stotz and Kevin Winker (July 2010). "Fifty-First Supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-List of North American Birds" (PDF). The Auk. 127 (3): 726–44. doi:10.1525/auk.2010.127.4.966.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Taxonomy Version 2". IOC World Bird List: Version 3.1. 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  9. ^ Kennedy, Martyn; Spencer, Hamish G.; Gray, Russell D. (1996). "Hop, step and gape: do the social displays of the Pelecaniformes reflect phylogeny?". Animal Behaviour. 51 (2): 273–91. doi:10.1006/anbe.1996.0028.
  10. ^ Gibb, G.C. et al. (2013) Beyond phylogeny: Pelecaniform and Ciconiiform birds, and long-term niche stability. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 68(2):229–238.
  11. ^ Shufeldt, Robert Wilson (1903). "The osteology of the Steganopodes". Memoirs of the Carnegie Museum. 1 (3): 109–223.
  12. ^ Mayr, Gerald (2008). "Avian higher-level phylogeny: well-supported clades and what we can learn from a phylogenetic analysis of 2954 morphological characters" (PDF). J. Zool. Syst. Evol. Res. 46 (1): 63–72. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2007.00433.x.

Aequornithes (from Latin aequor, expanse of water + Greek ornithes, birds), or core water birds are defined as "the least inclusive clade containing Gaviidae and Phalacrocoracidae".The monophyly of the group is currently supported by several molecular phylogenetic studies.Aequornithes includes the clades Gaviiformes, Sphenisciformes, Procellariiformes, Ciconiiformes, Suliformes and Pelecaniformes. It does not include several unrelated groups of aquatic birds such as flamingos and grebes (Mirandornithes), shorebirds and auks (Charadriiformes), or the Anseriformes.

Based on a whole-genome analysis of the bird orders, the kagu and sunbittern (Eurypygiformes) and the three species of tropicbirds (Phaethontiformes) together styled as the Eurypygimorphae are the closest sister group of the Aequornithes in the clade Ardeae.

Cladogram based on Burleigh, J.G. et al. (2015)

African darter

The African darter (Anhinga rufa), sometimes called the snakebird, is a water bird of sub-Saharan Africa and Iraq.

Antarctic shag

The Antarctic shag (Leucocarbo bransfieldensis), is a marine cormorant native to the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic peninsula in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Bank cormorant

The bank cormorant (Phalacrocorax neglectus), also known as Wahlberg's cormorant is a medium-sized cormorant that is endemic to Namibia and the western seaboard of South Africa, living in and around coastal waters; it is rarely recorded more than 15 km offshore.


A booby is a seabird in the genus Sula, part of the Sulidae family. Boobies are closely related to the gannets (Morus), which were formerly included in Sula.

Campbell shag

The Campbell shag (Leucocarbo campbelli), also known as the Campbell Island shag, is a species of bird in the family Phalacrocoracidae. It is endemic to Campbell Island. Its natural habitats are open seas and rocky shores. It is a medium-sized bird, around 63 cm in length, with a wingspan of 105 cm, weighing between 1.6 – 2 kg. They only breed on Campbell Island and forage within 10 km of the island.

Some taxonomic authorities, including the International Ornithologists' Union, place this species in the genus Leucocarbo. Others place it in the genus Phalacrocorax.

Crozet shag

The Crozet shag (Leucocarbo melanogenis), also known as the South Georgia cormorant, is a marine cormorant native to the Crozet, Prince Edward and Marion in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Japanese cormorant

The Japanese cormorant (Phalacrocorax capillatus), also known as Temminck's cormorant, is a cormorant native to East Asia. It lives from Taiwan north through Korea and Japan to the Russian Far East.

The Japanese cormorant has a black body with a white throat and cheeks and a partially yellow bill.

It is one of the species of cormorant that has been domesticated by fishermen in a tradition known in Japan as ukai (鵜飼). It is called umiu (ウミウ sea cormorant) in Japanese. The Nagara River's well-known fishing masters work with this particular species to catch ayu.

List of Suliformes by population

You can help build this list by migrating species from the List of Pelecaniformes by population to align it with the article Pelecaniformes.

Suliformes include the following families: Sulidae (gannets and boobies), Fregatidae (frigatebirds), Phalacrocoracidae (cormorants), Anhingidae (darters), and the Plotopteridae (flightless seabirds of the North Pacific that went extinct in the Miocene).

List of birds

This page lists living orders and families of birds. The links below should then lead to family accounts and hence to individual species.

The passerines (perching birds) alone account for well over 5000 species. In total there are about 10,000 species of birds described worldwide, though one estimate of the real number places it at almost twice that.

Taxonomy is very fluid in the age of DNA analysis, so comments are made where appropriate, and all numbers are approximate. In particular see Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy for a very different classification.

List of birds of Kyrgyzstan

376 bird species have occurred in the Kyrgyz Republic.

List of birds of North America (Suliformes)

The birds listed below all belong to the biological order Suliformes, and are native to North America.

Nazca booby

The Nazca booby (Sula granti) is a large seabird of the booby family, Sulidae, native to the eastern Pacific. First described by Walter Rothschild in 1902, it was long considered a subspecies of the masked booby until recognised as distinct genetically and behaviorally in 2002. It has a typical sulid body shape, with a long pointed orange-yellow bill, long neck, aerodynamic body, long slender wings and pointed tail. The adult is bright white with black and white wings, a black tail and a dark face mask.


Neoaves is a clade that consists of all modern birds (Neornithes or Aves) with the exception of Paleognathae (ratites and kin) and Galloanserae (ducks, chickens and kin). Almost 95% of the roughly 10,000 known species of modern birds belong to the Neoaves.

The early diversification of the various neoavian groups occurred very rapidly around the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, and attempts to resolve their relationships with each other have resulted initially in much controversy.

New Zealand king shag

The New Zealand king shag (Leucocarbo carunculatus), also known as the rough-faced shag, king shag or kawau, is a rare bird endemic to New Zealand. Some taxonomic authorities, including the International Ornithologists' Union, place this species in the genus Leucocarbo. Others place it in the genus Phalacrocorax.


The Pelecaniformes are an order of medium-sized and large waterbirds found worldwide. As traditionally—but erroneously—defined, they encompass all birds that have feet with all four toes webbed. Hence, they were formerly also known by such names as totipalmates or steganopodes. Most have a bare throat patch (gular patch), and the nostrils have evolved into dysfunctional slits, forcing them to breathe through their mouths. They also have a pectinate nail on their longest toe. This is shaped like a comb and is used to brush out and separate their feathers. They feed on fish, squid, or similar marine life. Nesting is colonial, but individual birds are monogamous. The young are altricial, hatching from the egg helpless and naked in most. They lack a brood patch.

The Fregatidae (frigatebirds), Sulidae (gannets and boobies), Phalacrocoracidae (cormorants and shags), Anhingidae (darters), and Phaethontidae (tropicbirds) were traditionally placed in the Pelecaniformes, but molecular and morphological studies indicate they are not such close relatives. They have been placed in their own orders, Suliformes and Phaethontiformes, respectively.


Plotopteridae is the name of an extinct family of flightless seabirds from the order Suliformes. Related to the gannets and boobies, they exhibited remarkable convergent evolution with the penguins, particularly with the now extinct giant penguins. That they lived in the North Pacific, the other side of the world from the penguins, has led to them being described at times as the Northern Hemisphere's penguins, though they were not closely related. More recent studies have shown, however, that the shoulder-girdle, forelimb and sternum of plotopterids differ significantly from those of penguins, so comparisons in terms of function may not be entirely accurate.Their fossils have been found in California, Washington, British Columbia and Japan. They ranged in size from that of a large cormorant (such as a Brandt's cormorant), to being 2 m long. They had shortened wings optimised for underwater wing-propelled pursuit diving (like penguins or the now extinct great auk), a body skeleton similar to that of the darter and the skull similar to that of a sulid.

The earliest known member of the family, Phocavis maritimus lived in the mid-Eocene, but most of the known species lived in the early and mid-Miocene, after which it appears they became extinct. That they became extinct at the same time as the giant penguins of the Southern Hemisphere, which also coincided with the radiation of the seals and dolphins, has led to speculation that the expansion of marine mammals was responsible for the extinction of the Plotopteridae, though this has not been formally tested.

Reed cormorant

The reed cormorant (Microcarbo africanus), also known as the long-tailed cormorant, is a bird in the cormorant family Phalacrocoracidae. It breeds in much of Africa south of the Sahara, and Madagascar. It is resident but undertakes some seasonal movements.

South Georgia shag

The South Georgia shag (Leucocarbo georgianus), also known as the South Georgia cormorant, is a marine cormorant native to South Georgia and a few other subantarctic islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Order: Suliformes (Phalacrocoraciformes)
Birds (class: Aves)
Fossil birds
Human interaction

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