The incidence of pneumatization in avian long bones was studied, by direct observation, in a large sample of species. Only proximal bones (humerus and femur) presented pneumatization in the sample studied. The incidence obtained was related to the variation of the maximum cortical thickness and mechanical properties, such as bending strength and flexural Young's modulus. Cortical thickness, bending strength and flexural Young's modulus were significantly lower in pneumatized bones than in marrow-filled bones. Furthermore, some congruence was found between pneumatization and systematic groups when compared. In this sense, Charadriformes was the only order studied with total absence of long bone pneumatization. Results on cortical thickness appear to be in agreement with modelling predictions previously made and with results obtained on other groups of flying vertebrates. The possible selective advantage of reduction in cortical thickness in relation to flying is suggested.