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Temporal range: Oligocene-recent, 30–0 Ma
Satyr Tragopan 2.jpg
Satyr tragopan
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Superfamily: Phasianoidea
Family: Phasianidae
Horsfield, 1821
Type species
Phasianus colchicus
  • See text

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.


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 capably 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 the elongated train) in green peafowl, thus they beat even the true parrots in length diversity within a family of birds.[1][2] Generally, sexual dimorphism is greater in larger-sized birds, with males tending to be larger than females. They are generally plump, with broad, relatively short wings and powerful legs. Many have a spur on each leg, most prominently with junglefowl (including chickens), pheasants, turkeys, and peafowl. Some, like quails, partridges, and grouse, have reduced spurs to none at all. A few have two spurs on each of their legs instead of one, including peacock-pheasants and spurfowl. The bill is short and compact, particularly in species that dig deep in the earth for food such as the Mearns quail. Males of the bigger galliform species often boast brightly-coloured plumage, as well as facial ornaments such as combs, wattles, and/or crests.[citation needed]

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 general distributions, they occupy almost every available habitat except for the boreal forests and tundra.

The family is generally sedentary and resident, although some members of the group undertake long migrations, like ptarmigans and Old World quail. 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 peafowl and domestic chickens have also escaped or been released and became feral.

Behaviour and ecology

The phasianids 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 trees or stumps of bushes. Nests can vary from mounds of vegetation to slight scrapes in the ground. As many as 20 eggs can be laid in the nest, although 7-12 are the more usual numbers, with smaller numbers in tropical species. Incubation times can range from 14–30 days depending on the species, and is almost always done solely by the hen, although a few involve the male partaking in caring for the eggs and chicks, like the willow ptarmigan and bobwhite quail.

Relationship with humans

Several species of pheasants and partridges are extremely important to humans. The red junglefowl of Southeast Asia is the undomestic 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 the 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.png

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.jpg

ArgusianusBorneanArgusThorburn white background.jpg

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.jpg

PhasianusFMIB 42017 Mongolian Pheasant white background.jpeg

ChrysolophusCuvier-61-Faisan doré.jpg


CatreusBirdsAsiaJohnGoVIIGoul Catreus wallichii.jpg

CrossoptilonCrossoptilon auritum white background.jpg


PucrasiaPucrasia macrolopha xanthospila white background.jpg

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













  1. 1.0 1.1 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. 5.0 5.1 5.2 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. 6.0 6.1 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

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