How Many Birds Are In The World?

Written by Volia Nikaci
Published: August 24, 2022
Image Credit Huy Thoai/Shutterstock.com
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It is quite likely that you will see a bird soaring through the sky if you look up at the sky at any given moment. In terms of beauty and quirkiness, birds are unmatched. Aren’t birds incredible in their diversity, with so many different types, shapes, and colors?

Since many of them can fly, birds can almost seem to be everywhere. Considering how many birds there are in the world, have you ever wondered how many birds there are in total? Here are some fun facts about birds and bird species around the world!

How Many Birds Are In The World?

three birds on branch
In total, there are about 4,000 bird species that regularly migrate around the world.

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Data from crowd-sourced research and advanced analytics were combined to estimate the entire bird population. A 2021 study estimates that there are about six birds for every human on the planet. That leaves us with a total bird population of about 50 billion. That’s right, you read it correctly! We, humans, are outnumbered many times over by birds. The shocking fact is that this number is actually quite conservative. According to a study conducted in 1997 by Gaston, K.J., and Blackburn, the number of birds that they counted was between 200 billion and 400 billion.

Researchers involved in the 2021 study in Australia collected almost a billion bird sightings from eBird to estimate the number of birds in the world. This website is a citizen science resource curated by Cornell Lab of Ornithology that contains bird observations. It is estimated that over 600,000 people contributed information to the database. A lot of information was taken into account. These included the species of the birds, the location, the size, and the color of the birds.

Let’s find out how many bird species there are now that we know how many birds there are in the world!

What Is The Number Of Bird Species In The World?

flamingos standing in the water
The number of bird species is about twice the number of mammal species in the world.

iStock.com/YULIIA LAKEIENKO

Scientists estimate that there are between 9,000 and 11,000 species of birds in the world today. In accordance with the study published in 2021, which we mentioned earlier, there are approximately 9,700 species of wild birds worldwide. Based on data from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, however, the number of species is estimated at 10,824. Those numbers are agreed upon by the International Ornithological Committee, which came to a conclusive number of 10,933. However, there are still a number of people who disagree with this number. According to the IUCN red list, more than 11,000 bird species have been identified to date. 

However, because it is difficult to observe and name every bird, they believe that this number is actually an underestimate. It is worth mentioning that according to the American Museum of National History, the total number of species is actually closer to 18,000! However, it is important to note that this estimate uses a different methodology for classifying species. They classified them according to their physical characteristics instead of who they can breed with. Consequently, we have no idea how many species of birds there actually are in the world.

Now that we have a better idea of the number of bird species in the world, let’s explore another data set. Would you believe us if we told you there are certain bird species with the highest bird populations? Scientists have named four bird species as belonging to the ‘billion club.’

Is There A Species Of Bird With The Largest Population?

house sparrow
The house sparrow can be found on every continent but Antarctica, making it the most widely distributed wild bird worldwide.

PatP66/Shutterstock.com

Bird populations are both large and diverse, but when it comes to sheer numbers, only a few species dominate the bird world. In spite of the fact that some species are in danger of extinction, others are extraordinarily abundant. It is estimated that four bird species have over a billion individuals, forming what researchers call ‘the billion club.’ Among them are the house sparrow, the European starling, the ring-billed gull, and the barn swallow.

The populations for these 4 are:

  • House Sparrow: 1.6 billion
  • The European Starling: 1.3 billion
  • Ring-Billed Gull: 1.2 billion
  • Barn Swallow: 1.1 billion

Despite the fact that a small number of birds dominate the ecosystems, many others are in danger of extinction. The 2021 study found that 12% of the bird species included in the study had populations under 5,000, making them extremely vulnerable to extinction. A few examples of these birds are the Chinese Crested Tern, the Noisy Scrub-bird, and the Invisible Rail.

Approximately a decade from now, another study will be conducted to determine how the most vulnerable species are doing. The health of their native ecosystems could be seriously threatened if these populations do worse than expected.

Where Can You Find The Most Diverse Species Of Birds?

Even though there is a great variety of different species of birds all around the world, the distribution of their populations is varied. Birds are not equally plentiful in every country. The Guinness world record for the largest number of species of birds is held by South America, often referred to as the “bird continent.” There are over 3,000 species of birds in South America, one-third of which lives in the Amazon rainforest.

Among all the countries in the world, Colombia has by far the most species of birds. It is estimated that Colombia has 19.5% of the 10,000 species of birds in the world. A bird census conducted by Birdlife International found that Colombia is home to 1,864 species of birds. In contrast, Avibase counts species based on a different number of classifications and put the number at 1,958. Regardless, Colombia definitely offers the most diverse variety of bird species in the world.

Second place goes to Peru, another South American country. A great deal of biodiversity is found in Peru, primarily in the form of birds. The birds of Peru number 1,869 species, representing 18.57 percent of Earth’s and 54.97 percent of South America’s birds.

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About the Author

Volia Nikaci is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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