Birds are bipedal, warm-blooded, egg-laying vertebrates with about 10,000 living species. The fossil record indicates birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs 200 to 150 million years ago, and the earliest known bird is the late Jurassic Archaeopteryx. There is significant evidence that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs; as more non-avian theropods that are closely related to birds are discovered, the formerly clear distinction between non-birds and birds becomes blurred. A genetically consistent evolutionary tree would classify birds as reptiles, though some scientists would elevate birds, turtles and crocodilians to their own class, on an equal footing with reptiles.

Globally, 1,223 species of birds, or about 12 percent of the total of 9,998 extant described bird species, were deemed endangered or threatened with extinction by IUCN's 2009 Red List. In the United States, about 74 bird species are at risk, about 9 percent of the total.

Photo by Scott Frier, USFWS