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Wading Birds and New World Vultures: Ciconiiformes

Physical Characteristics

Most of the birds in the order Ciconiiformes (including the heron, hammerhead, stork, New World vulture, shoebill, and ibis families) are wading birds. Recently, the New World vultures (including condors) were switched into this order from a birds of prey family. (The New World vultures live in North and South America. Old World vultures live in the rest of the world and are still considered birds of prey.) The New World vultures were moved into this group with the wading birds because they are more closely related to storks than they are to hawks and eagles, but many people still think of all vultures as birds of prey.

All of the ciconiiforms (birds in the order Ciconiiformes) have big bills and long necks, bulky bodies with short tails, long legs and toes, and large, broad wings. They are all medium to very large birds, and males and females look alike. Very few of these birds have colorful feathers—most are combinations of gray, brown, black, or white. But many of the wading birds and vultures have bare parts on their heads, necks, and legs that are very colorful.

Birds in the heron family (including egrets and bitterns) have some other special features in common. They have a have a comblike claw on each of their middle toes. At breeding time, both males and females grow long, showy feathers on their heads, necks, and backs. They also have powder downs, which are feathers that are not shed. Instead, these feathers turn to powder that the birds use to keep their other feathers in good shape.

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Animal Life ResourceBirdsWading Birds and New World Vultures: Ciconiiformes - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Wading Birds, New World Vultures, And People - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE