The paper summarizes the current understanding of the evolution and diversification of birds. New insights into this field have mainly come from two fundamentally different, but complementary sources of information: the many newly discovered Mesozoic bird fossils and the wealth of genetic analyses of living birds at various taxonomic levels. The birds have evolved from theropod dinosaurs from which they can be defined by but a few morphological characters. The early evolutionary history of the group is characterized by the extinctions of many major clades by the end of the Cretaceous, and by several periods of rapid radiations and speciation. Recent years have seen a growing consensus about the higher-level relationships among living birds, at least as can be deduced from genetic data.