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Phasianidae
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Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Superorder: Galloanserae
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Horsfield, 1821
Type species
Phasianus colchicus
Linnaeus, 1758
Subgroups

The Phasianidae is a family of birds which consists of the pheasants and partridges, including the junglefowl (including chicken), Old World Quail, francolins, monals and peafowl. 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 being in this family as well; the American Ornithologists' Union includes Tetraonidae (the grouse), Numididae (guineafowls), and Meleagrididae (turkeys) in Phasianidae as subfamilies.

The earliest fossil records of phasianids date to the late Oligocene epoch, about 30 million years ago.[1]

Distribution

The pheasants and their allies are 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 down into much of eastern Australia and (formerly) New Zealand. The greatest diversity of species is in Southeast Asia and Africa. Amongst the pheasants, with the exception of the Congo Peafowl, the distribution is entirely restricted to Asia; the Perdicinae have a much more widespread distribution. Within their range they occupy almost every available habitat except for boreal forest 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. Captive populations of peacocks and chickens have also escaped and become feral.

Description

Phasianids are terrestrial, ground living species. They are variable in size and ranging from 43 g, in the case of the King Quail, to 6 kg in the case of the Indian Peafowl. There is generally sexual dimorphism 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 with guineafowl and turkeys but no other galliform birds. The bill is short and generally strong, particularly in species that dig in order to obtain food. Males of the larger species often have brightly coloured plumage as well as facial ornamentations such as wattles or crests.

Behaviour

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 there is a considerable amount of variation in breeding strategies amongst the Phasianidae. Compared to birds in general there is a large number of species that 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 monds 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 last 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. Several species are threatened by human activities.

Species list

Subfamily Rollulinae

Genus Xenoperdix

Genus Melanoperdix

Genus Rhizothera

Genus Caloperdix

Genus Rollulus

Genus Arborophila, the hill partridges

Subfamily Pavoninae

Incertae sedis

Genus Tropicoperdix

Tribe Pavonini

Genus Rheinartia

Genus Argusianus

Genus Afropavo

Genus Pavo

Tribe Polyplectronini

Genus Haematortyx

Genus Galloperdix

Genus Polyplectron, peacock-pheasants

Tribe Gallini

Genus Peliperdix

Genus Francolinus

Genus Bambusicola

Genus Gallus

Genus Scleroptila

Tribe Tetraogallini

Genus Ammoperdix

Genus Synoicus

Genus Excalfactoria

Genus Margaroperdix

Genus Anurophasis

Genus Coturnix

Genus Tetraogallus

Genus Alectoris

Genus Ophrysia

Genus Perdicula

Genus Pternistis

Subfamily Phasianinae

Tribe Ithaginini

Genus Ithaginis

Tribe Lophophorini

Genus Tragopan

Genus Lerwa

Genus Tetraophasis

Genus Lophophorus


Tribe Tetraonini

Genus Pucrasia

Genus Meleagris

Genus Bonasa

Genus Tetrastes

Genus Centrocercus - sage grouse

Genus Dendragapus

Genus Tympanuchus - prairie grouse

Genus Lagopus - ptarmigans

Genus Falcipennis

  • Siberian Grouse, Falcipennis falcipennis
    • Franklin's Grouse, Falcipennis (canadensis) franklinii

Genus Canachites

Genus Tetrao - black grouse

Genus Lyrurus

Tribe Phasianini

Genus Perdix

Genus Syrmaticus, Long-tailed Pheasants

Genus Phasianus, Typical Pheasants

Genus Chrysolophus, Ruffed Pheasants

Genus Catreus

Genus Crossoptilon, Eared Pheasants

Genus Lophura, Gallopheasants

References

  1. ^ Mayr G., Poschmann, M. and Wuttke, M. (2006). "A nearly complete skeleton of the fossil galliform bird Palaeortyx from the late Oligocene of Germany." Acta Ornithol., 41: 129–135. [1]
  • McGowan, P.J.K. (1994) Family Phasianidae (Pheasants and Partridges) P.p. 434-479 in del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A. & Sargatal, J. (editors). (1994). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 8487334156

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