One can call any flying (or even non-flying) feathered thing a bird (excluding oddities such as bats). But what would we call any animal that stays on the ground? A ground animal?

Note: this isn't a homework question or anything, it's a word I want to use to describe a class, which inherits from Animal.

Edit: Clearly this is a very broad question, I believe that I should be more specific. So lets narrow the choices of "ground animals" to those that you could find in a zoo, which means not bugs, dinosaurs, etc.

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    There is no such word, because the distinction does not make sense. Terrestrial animals are animals that don't rely on water to live, but live more or less on the ground (so what are penguins, then? Half and half, I guess); but birds are terrestrial as well, just like flies, mosquitoes, bats, etc. are. There is no word for all animals that fly, because they are so diverse; and the same goes for animals that live on the ground. Also, many snakes are amphibians and live partly in water. Sep 7, 2014 at 22:13
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    Would a mosquito, fly, butterfly, ladybird/bug be all called birds?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 7, 2014 at 22:14
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    @Mari Those aren't feathered, so they're not included—which is where BitNinja’s parallel already starts to break down. Sep 7, 2014 at 22:15
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    The thing is that there are equivalents (eg. mammal, fish etc.) but you've kind of started on a flawed premise by muddling the meaning of the category bird. It doesn't fit the category system you're proposing and that's why you can't find others that do. If it suits you, perhaps make up words to mean precisely what you want, such as hydronian, geonian and aeronian.
    – Niall
    Sep 7, 2014 at 22:45
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    @FumbleFingers No, almost all dinosaurs had feathers, but only avian dinosaurs are flying dinosaurs. Pterosaurs did fly but weren’t dinosaurs and had “protofeathers”, not quite “real” feathers, which developed only in dinosaurs. Well maybe; there is some question out there about whether the feather-like structures are homologous between the pterosaurs (pterodactyls and such) and the theropods (like birds and other dinosaurs). OBTW, penguins fly underwater, you know. 😻
    – tchrist
    Sep 8, 2014 at 0:45

4 Answers 4


This doesn't cover every animal in the zoo, but, based on the distinction that you have created, I propose using the term Avian Vertebrate versus Non-Avian Vertebrates - the latter would include the snake, lion and the human.

But Vertebrate wouldn't cover animals like crabs, lobsters etc.


The problem, in software, is when you make a rigid class hierarchy as you appear to have done, you end up with these problems. Instead of a rigid hierarchy, you should consider traits, one of which is the ability to fly. Another might be the ability to convert sunlight in to energy.

In reality, the ability to fly doesn't belong to a specific species, so don't do it.


Why not just use flying and walking? You can also create classes like swimming, etc. These describe what the animals do and are more easily identifiable because of it.

Alternatively, you can describe the location where you see them most active.

  • air
  • ground
  • water
  • etc.

the problem is, 'animal' is one of those very misused words... this 'tree' may help.. https://www.mindmeister.com/50988/animal-kingdom

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