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Australian birds

Australia has about 800 species of bird, ranging from the tiny 8 cm Weebill to the huge, flightless Emu.

To the visitor from the northern hemisphere, many will immediately seem familiar - Australian wrens look and act very like northern hemisphere wrens, Australian robins seem to be close relatives of the northern hemisphere robinss - but in fact the majority of Australian passerine birds are descended from the ancestors of the crow family, and the close resemblance is misleading: the cause is not genetic relatedness but convergent evolution.

For example, almost any land habitat offers a niche for a small bird that specialises in finding small insects: the form best fitted to that task is one with long legs for agility and obstacle clearance, moderate-sized wings optimised for quick, short flight, and a large, upright tail for rapid changes of direction. In consequence, the unrelated birds that fill that niche in the Americas and in Australia look and act as though they were close relatives.

Very broadly speaking, Australian birds can be classified into four categories:

For a comprehensive listing, see Australasian birds, which includes the birds of Australia, New Zealand, and the Southern Ocean.

See also:

External links