The Phasianidae are a family of heavy, ground-living birds, which includes pheasants, partridges, junglefowl, chickens, turkeys, Old World quail, and peafowl. The family includes many of the most popular gamebirds.[1] The family is a large one, and is occasionally broken up into two subfamilies, the Phasianinae, and the Perdicinae. Sometimes, additional families and birds are treated as part of this family. For example, the American Ornithologists' Union includes the Tetraonidae (grouse), Numididae (guineafowl), and Meleagrididae (turkeys) as subfamilies in Phasianidae.

Temporal range: Oligocene-Recent, 30–0 Ma
Satyr Tragopan Osaka
Satyr tragopan
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Superfamily: Phasianoidea
Family: Phasianidae
Horsfield, 1821
Type species
Phasianus colchicus
  • See text


Phasianids are terrestrial. They range in weight from 43 g (1.5 oz) in the case of the king quail to 6 kg (13 lb) in the case of the Indian peafowl. If turkeys are included, rather than classified as a separate family, then the considerably heavier wild turkey reaches a maximum weight of more than 17 kg (37 lb). Length in this taxonomic family can vary from 12.5 cm (4.9 in) in the king quail up to 300 cm (120 in) (including elongated tail streamers) in green peafowl, thus they beat even the true parrots in length diversity within a family of birds.[1][2] Generally, sexual dimorphism is seen in size, with males tending to be larger than females. They are generally plump, with broad, relatively short wings and strong legs. Many have a spur on their legs, a feature shared only with guineafowl and turkeys. The bill is short and generally strong, particularly in species that dig for food. Males of the larger species often have brightly coloured plumage, as well as facial ornaments such as wattles or crests.

Distribution and habitat

The Phasianidae are mostly an Old World family, with a distribution that includes most of Europe and Asia (except the far north), all of Africa except the driest deserts, and south into much of eastern Australia and (formerly) New Zealand. The Meleagridinae (turkeys) are native to the New World, while the Tetraoninae (grouse) are circumpolar. The greatest diversity of species is in Southeast Asia and Africa. The Congo peacock is specific to the African Congo. The subfamily Perdicinae has a much more widespread distribution. Within their range, they occupy almost every available habitat except for the boreal forests and tundra.

The family is generally sedentary and resident, although some quails undertake long migrations. Several species in the family have been widely introduced around the world, particularly pheasants, which have been introduced to Europe, Australia, and the Americas, specifically for hunting purposes. Captive populations of peacocks and chickens have also escaped (or been released) and become feral.

Behaviour and ecology

The pheasants and partridges have a varied diet, with foods taken ranging from purely vegetarian diets of seeds, leaves, fruits, tubers, and roots, to small animals including insects, insect grubs, and even small reptiles. Most species either specialise in feeding on plant matter or are predatory, although the chicks of most species are insectivorous.

In addition to the variation in diet, a considerable amount of variation exists in breeding strategies among the Phasianidae. Compared to birds in general, a large number of species do not engage in monogamy (the typical breeding system of most birds). The francolins of Africa and some partridges are reportedly monogamous, but polygamy has been reported in the pheasants and junglefowl, some quail, and the breeding displays of peacocks have been compared to those of a lek. Nesting usually occurs on the ground; only the tragopans nest higher up in stumps of bushes. Nests can vary from mounds of vegetation to slight scrapes in the ground. As many as 18 eggs can be laid in the nest, although 7-12 is the more usual number, with smaller numbers in tropical species. Incubation is almost always performed by the female only, and lasts from 14–30 days depending on the species.

Relationship with humans

Several species of pheasant and partridge are extremely important to humans. The red junglefowl of Southeast Asia is the wild ancestor of the domesticated chicken, the most important bird in agriculture. Ring-necked pheasants, several partridge and quail species and some francolins have been widely introduced and managed as game birds for hunting. Several species are threatened by human activities.

Systematics and evolution

The clade Phasianidae is the largest of the branch Galliformes, comprising more than 150 species. This group includes the pheasants and partridges, junglefowl chickens, quail, and peafowl. Turkeys and grouse have also been recognized as having their origins in the pheasant- and partridge-like birds.

Until the early 1990s, this family was broken up into two subfamilies: the Phasianinae, including pheasants, tragopans, junglefowls, and peafowls;[3] and the Perdicinae, including partridges, Old World quails, and francolins.[4] Molecular phylogenies have shown that these two subfamilies are not each monophyletic but actually constitute only one lineage with one common ancestor.[5][6] For example, some partridges (genus Perdix) are more closely affiliated to pheasants, whereas Old World quails and partridges from the genus Alectoris are closer to junglefowls.[5][6]

The earliest fossil records of phasianids date to the late Oligocene epoch, about 30 million years ago.[7]

A tentative list of the subfamilies of Phasianidae was:[5] and extinct genus assignment follows the Mikko's Phylogeny Archive[8] and websites.[9][10]


Living Galliformes based on the work by John Boyd.[11]





ArborophilaArboricolaGingicaKeulemans white background.jpg

RollulusRollulus rouloul male 1838 white background.jpg

CaloperdixCaloperdix oculeus Hardwicke white background.jpg




AmmoperdixAmmoperdix griseogularis 1849 white background.jpg

SynoicusCoturnix novaezelandiae white background.jpg

ExcalfactoriaExcalfactoria chinensis.jpg

AnurophasisSnow Mountains Quail white background.JPG

MargaroperdixMargaroperdix madagarensis 1838 white background.jpg


TetraogallusTetraogallus caucasicus white background.jpg

AlectorisAlectoris chukar hm white background.jpg

PternistisFrancolinusTetraoninusKeulemans flipped.jpg

OphrysiaOphrysia superciliosa white background.jpg

PerdiculaPerdicula erythrorhyncha hm white background.jpg


BambusicolaBirdsAsiaJohnGoVIGoul white background.jpg

GallusRed Junglefowl by George Edward Lodge white background

ScleroptilaFrancolinusCrawshayiKeulemans white background.jpg

PeliperdixFrancolinusAlbogularisSmit white background.jpg

FrancolinusFrancolinus francolinus hm white background.jpg


RheinardiaBulletin de la Société nationale d'acclimatation de France white background

ArgusianusBorneanArgusThorburn white background

AfropavoGalloperdix spadicea spadicea Hardwicke white background.jpg

PavoBlauwe pauw white background.jpeg




PolyplectronPolyplectron napoleonis 1838 white background.jpg


IthaginisIthaginis cruentus 1838 white background.jpg


TragopanCeriornisBlythiiKeulemans white background.jpg

?LerwaLerwa nivicola white background.jpg

TetraophasisTetraophasis-obscurus white background.jpg

LophophorusLophophorus impejanus male 1838 white background.jpg


PerdixRapphöna, Iduns kokbok white background.jpg

SyrmaticusSyrmaticus reevesii 1838 flipped

PhasianusFMIB 42017 Mongolian Pheasant white background.jpeg

ChrysolophusCuvier-61-Faisan doré


CatreusBirdsAsiaJohnGoVIIGoul Catreus wallichii

CrossoptilonCrossoptilon auritum white background.jpg


PucrasiaPucrasia macrolopha xanthospila white background.jpg

MeleagrisNederlandsche vogelen (KB) - Meleagris gallopavo (white background)













  1. ^ a b McGowan, P. J. K. (1994). "Family Phasianidae (Pheasants and Partridges)". In del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. (eds.). New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Handbook of the Birds of the World. 2. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions. pp. 434–479. ISBN 84-87334-15-6.
  2. ^ Harper, D. 1986. Pet Birds for Home and Garden. London: Salamander Books Ltd.
  3. ^ Johnsgard, P. A. (1986). The Pheasants of the World. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ Johnsgard, P. A. (1988). The Quails, Partridges, and Francolins of the World. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ a b c Kimball, R. T.; Braun, E. L.; Zwartjes, P. W.; Crowe, T. M.; Ligon, J. D. (1999). "A molecular phylogeny of the pheasants and partridges suggests that these lineages are not monophyletic". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 11 (1): 38–54. doi:10.1006/mpev.1998.0562. PMID 10082609.
  6. ^ a b Kimball, Rebecca T.; Braun, Edward L. (2014). "Does more sequence data improve estimates of galliform phylogeny? Analyses of a rapid radiation using a complete data matrix". PeerJ. 2: e361. doi:10.7717/peerj.361. PMC 4006227. PMID 24795852.
  7. ^ Mayr, G.; Poshmann, M.; Wuttke, M. (2006). "A nearly complete skeleton of the fossil galliform bird Palaeortyx from the late Oligocene of Germany". Acta Ornithologica. 41 (2): 129–135. doi:10.3161/000164506780143852.
  8. ^ Haaramo, Mikko (2007). "Aves [Avialae]– basal birds". Mikko's Phylogeny Archive. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  9. ^ "Taxonomic lists- Aves". (net, info). Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  10. ^ Çınar, Ümüt (November 2015). "02 → Gᴀʟʟᴏᴀɴsᴇʀᴀᴇ : Gᴀʟʟɪfᴏʀᴍᴇs". English Names of Birds. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  11. ^ Boyd, John (2007). "GALLIFORMES- Landfowl". John Boyd's website. Retrieved 30 December 2015.

External links

Blood pheasant

The blood pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus) is the only species in genus Ithaginis of the pheasant family. This relatively small, short-tailed pheasant is widespread and fairly common in eastern Himalayas, ranging across India, Nepal, Bhutan, China and northern Myanmar. Since the trend of the population appears to be slowly decreasing, the species has been evaluated as Least Concern by IUCN in 2009.The blood pheasant was the national bird of the former Kingdom of Sikkim, and remains Sikkim's state bird.

Common quail

The common quail (Coturnix coturnix) or European quail is a small ground-nesting game bird in the pheasant family Phasianidae. Coturnix is the Latin for this species.With its characteristic call of "wet my lips", this species of quail is more often heard than seen. It is widespread in Europe and North Africa, and is categorised by the IUCN as "least concern". It should not be confused with the Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica, native to Asia, which, although visually similar, has a very distinct call. Like the Japanese quail, common quails are sometimes kept as poultry.


Francolins are birds that traditionally have been placed in the genus Francolinus, but now commonly are divided into multiple genera (see Taxonomy), although some of the major taxonomic listing sources have yet to divide them. The francolins' closest relatives are the junglefowl, long-billed partridge, Alectoris and Coturnix. Together this monophyletic group may warrant family status as the Gallusinidae or in a sub-family Gallusininae.

The pheasant Phasianinae and partridge Perdicinae families of the "Order of Phasianidae" have been established as paraphyletic.

When all are maintained in a single genus, it is the most diverse of the Galliformes, having by far the most members. Francolins are terrestrial (though not flightless) birds that feed on insects, vegetable matter and seeds. Most of the members have a hooked upper beak, well-suited for digging at the bases of grass tussocks and rootballs. They have wide tails with fourteen rectrix feathers. Most species exhibit spurs on the tarsi.


Galliformes is an order of heavy-bodied ground-feeding birds that includes turkey, grouse, chicken, New World quail and Old World quail, ptarmigan, partridge, pheasant, francolin, junglefowl and the Cracidae. The name derives from "gallus", Latin for "cock" or "rooster". Common names are gamefowl or gamebirds, landfowl, gallinaceous birds, or galliforms. "Wildfowl" or just "fowl" are also often used for the Galliformes, but usually these terms also refer to waterfowl (Anseriformes), and occasionally to other commonly hunted birds. This group has about 290 species, one or more of which are found in essentially every part of the world's continents (except for the innermost deserts and perpetual ice). They are rarer on islands, and in contrast to the closely related waterfowl, are essentially absent from oceanic islands—unless introduced there by humans. Several species have been domesticated during their long and extensive relationships with humans.

This order contains five families: Phasianidae (including chicken, quail, partridges, pheasants, turkeys, peafowl and grouse), Odontophoridae (New World quails), Numididae (guineafowl), Cracidae (including chachalacas and curassows), and Megapodiidae (incubator birds like mallee fowl and brush-turkeys). They are important as seed dispersers and predators in the ecosystems they inhabit, and are often reared as game birds by humans for their meat and eggs and for recreational hunting. Many gallinaceous species are skilled runners and escape predators by running rather than flying. Males of most species are more colorful than the females. Males often have elaborate courtship behaviors that include strutting, fluffing of tail or head feathers, and vocal sounds. They are mainly nonmigratory.


The gallopheasants (genus Lophura) are pheasants of the family Phasianidae. The genus comprises 10 species and several subspecies.

Grey partridge

The grey partridge (Perdix perdix), also known as the English partridge, Hungarian partridge, or hun, is a gamebird in the pheasant family Phasianidae of the order Galliformes, gallinaceous birds. The scientific name is the Latin for "partridge", and is itself derived from Ancient Greek perdix.


Grouse are a group of birds from the order Galliformes, in the family Phasianidae. Grouse are frequently assigned to the subfamily Tetraoninae (sometimes Tetraonidae), a classification supported by mitochondrial DNA sequence studies, and applied by the American Ornithologists' Union, ITIS, and others. Grouse inhabit temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, from pine forests to moorland and mountainside, from 83°N (rock ptarmigan in northern Greenland) to 28°N (Attwater's prairie chicken in Texas).

Hainan partridge

The Hainan partridge (Arborophila ardens) is a species of bird in the family Phasianidae. It is endemic to Hainan Island, China. Its natural habitats are primary evergreen forests. It is threatened by habitat loss and has been assessed as a vulnerable species.

Hainan peacock-pheasant

The Hainan peacock-pheasant (Polyplectron katsumatae) is an endangered bird that belongs to the pheasant family Phasianidae. It is endemic to the island of Hainan, China. It is extremely rare.

Himalayan monal

The Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus), also known as the Impeyan monal and Impeyan pheasant, is a bird in the pheasant family, Phasianidae. It is the national bird of Nepal, where it is known as the danphe, and state bird of Uttarakhand, India, where it is known as the monal. It was also the state bird of Himachal Pradesh until 2007.

The scientific name commemorates Lady Mary Impey, the wife of the British chief justice of Bengal Sir Elijah Impey.


Meleagridinae is a subfamily of birds in the family Phasianidae. It includes turkeys and their extinct relatives.

Old World quail

Old World quail is a collective name for several genera of mid-sized birds in the pheasant family Phasianidae.

New World quail are also found in the Galliformes, but are not in the same family (Odontophoridae). Buttonquails are not closely related at all, but are named for their similar appearance. They are presently found in the Turnicidae family in the Charadriiformes, more closely related to shorebirds, gulls and auks.

The collective noun for a group of quail is flock, bevy or covey.


Partridges are medium-sized non-migratory birds, with a wide native distribution throughout the Old World, including Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa. They are sometimes grouped in the Perdicinae subfamily of the Phasianidae (pheasants, quail, etc.). However, molecular research suggests that partridges are not a distinct taxon within the family Phasianidae, but that some species are closer to the pheasants, while others are closer to the junglefowl.


Perdicinae is a subfamily of birds in the pheasant family, Phasianidae, regrouping the partridges, Old World quails, and francolins. Although this subfamily was considered monophyletic and separated from the pheasants, tragopans, junglefowls, and peafowls (Phasianinae) till the early 1990s, molecular phylogenies have shown that these two subfamilies actually constitute only one lineage. For example, some partridges (Perdix genus) are more closely affiliated to pheasants, whereas Old World quails and partridges from the Alectoris genus are closer to junglefowls.Perdicinae is a non-migratory Old World group. These are medium-sized birds, and are native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. They are ground-nesting seed-eaters. The subfamily includes the partridges, the snowcocks, the francolins, the spurfowl and the Old World quail.


The Phasianinae (Horsfield, 1821) are a subfamily of the pheasant family (Phasianidae) of landfowl, the order Galliformes. The subfamily includes pheasants, tragopans, junglefowl, peafowl, and other similar birds. Although this subfamily was considered monophyletic and separated from the partridges, francolins, and Old World quails (Perdicinae) till the early 1990s, molecular phylogenies have shown that this two subfamilies actually constitute only one lineage. For example, some partridges (genus Perdix) are more closely affiliated to pheasants, whereas Old World quails and partridges from the genus Alectoris are closer to junglefowls.Phasianinae are characterised by strong sexual dimorphism, males being highly ornate with bright colours and adornments such as wattles and long tails. Males are usually larger than females and have longer tails. Males play no part in rearing the young. They typically eat seeds and some insects.


Pheasants () are birds of several genera within the subfamily Phasianinae, of the family Phasianidae in the order Galliformes. Though they can be found world over in introduced (and captive) populations, the pheasant genera native range is restricted to Asia.

Pheasants are characterised by strong sexual dimorphism, males being highly decorated with bright colors and adornments such as wattles. Males are usually larger than females and have longer tails. Males play no part in rearing the young.

Pheasants typically eat seeds and some insects.

The best-known is the common pheasant, which is widespread throughout the world, in introduced feral populations and in farm operations. Various other pheasant species are popular in aviaries, such as the golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus).


Quail is a collective name for several genera of mid-sized birds generally placed in the order Galliformes.

Old World quail are placed in the family Phasianidae, and New World quail are placed in the family Odontophoridae. The species of buttonquail are named for their superficial resemblance to quail, and form the family Turnicidae in the order Charadriiformes. The king quail, an Old World quail, often is sold in the pet trade, and within this trade is commonly, though mistakenly, referred to as a "button quail". Many of the common larger species are farm-raised for table food or egg consumption, and are hunted on game farms or in the wild, where they may be released to supplement the wild population, or extend into areas outside their natural range. In 2007, 40 million quail were produced in the U.S.The collective noun for a group of quail is a flock, covey, or bevy.


The snowcocks are a group of bird species in the genus Tetraogallus of the pheasant family, Phasianidae. They are ground-nesting birds that breed in the mountain ranges of southern Eurasia from the Caucasus to the Himalayas and western China. Some of the species have been introduced into the United States. Snowcocks feed mainly on plant material.

Birds (class: Aves)
Fossil birds
Human interaction

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