Are Birds Reptiles? Here’s The Interesting Answer

Are birds and lizards cousins?! 🐦🦎

When you think of reptiles, you’re probably thinking of long tails, scaly skin and yellow eyes.

When you think of birds, you’re probably thinking of colorful feathers, perfectly built nests and a lot of chirping at 6 a.m. on a Saturday.

But did you know that there’s actually tons of researchers who go back and forth on one very interesting question: Are birds reptiles?

We reached out to Diana Ludwiczak, a certified wildlife rehabber at Birdy Birdy Birdy, to try to get to the bottom of this long-running debate.

What is a reptile?

Shutterstock/Kurit afshen

There are many different types of reptiles (over 10,000!), but they all share some common characteristics.

“Reptiles are air-breathing, cold-blooded vertebrates that don't have fur, and most lay eggs on land,” Ludwiczak told The Dodo. “Instead [of having fur], they have scales that help them regulate their body temperature and protect their skin from the elements.”

Reptiles are found all over the world and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from slithery to tough.

“Some reptiles are small, like certain Italian wall lizards, and others are large, like the American crocodile,” Ludwiczak said.

While reptiles seem to be pretty easy to pin down, one group of feathery friends has confused people for a long, long time: birds.

So … are birds reptiles?

Shutterstock/Sumruay Rattanataipob

There’s a lot of debate over whether or not birds are reptiles, and Ludwiczak noted that the science community has not come to a consensus on the matter — so it’s technically still up in the air.

“Birds have many characteristics that are similar to reptiles, such as their scales, legs and their ability to lay eggs,” Ludwiczak said. “However, they also have some traits that set them apart from reptiles, such as their feathers and their warm-bloodedness.”

According to Ludwiczak, there are two different classification systems that scientists use when it comes to animals — the Linnaean system and the phylogenetic system.

Linnaean: This system is based on physical similarities. If using this system, then birds would not be classified as reptiles.

Phylogenetic: This system is based on genetic similarities. If using this system, then birds can be classified as reptiles.

“Ultimately, birds can be classified as either reptiles or as a separate group altogether,” Ludwiczak said.

So when it comes to whether or not birds are reptiles, it all depends on which classification system you’re talking about!