Character state trees were devised for 70 mainly skeletal characters of 227 species of charadriiform birds. Character compatibility analysis (described herein) was used to determine the largest sets of mutually compatible characters in the data set. Largest sets of mutually compatible characters were chosen as the best estimators of the phylogenetic history of the order. Smaller and smaller monophyletic groups (as identified by previous analysis of the next larger monophyletic group) were analysed to find locally largest sets of mutually compatible characters until the cladistic information in the data set was exhausted.
The results of these analyses indicate that the Charadriiformes consist of three phyletic lines (here treated as suborders): the Scolopaci, the Charadrii and the Alcae. The Scolopaci consist of the birds usually included in the families Jacanidae, Rostratulidae, Scolopacidae, Phalaropodidae and Thinocoridae. The Charadrii consist of two major phyletic branches: one leading to the Lari and the other to the line discussed below. The second branch of the Charadrii gives rise to five lineages: one which leads to Dromas, a second to Pluvianellus and Chionis, a third to Pluvianus and the Burhinidae, a fourth to the Glareolidae, and a fifth to the plovers, lapwings, oystercatchers, Ibisbill, avocets, and stilts.
Evidence which supports these findings, that which contradicts them, and relationships in need of further study are discussed.