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Temporal range: Oligocene–recent, 30–0 Ma
Crested partridgeRed-billed partridgeFerruginous partridgeSri Lankan junglefowlIndian peafowlHarlequin quailCommon pheasantWild turkeyWestern capercaillie
Diversity of Phasianidae.

1st row (Rollulinae): crested partridge, red-billed partridge, ferruginous partridge;
2nd row (Phasianinae "non-erectile clade"): Sri Lankan junglefowl, Indian peafowl, harlequin quail;
3rd row (Phasianinae "erectile clade"): common pheasant, wild turkey, western capercaillie.

Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Superfamily: Phasianoidea
Family: Phasianidae
Horsfield, 1821
Type genus




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 includes 185 species divided into 54 genera. It was formerly broken up into two subfamilies, the Phasianinae and the Perdicinae. However, this treatment is now known to be paraphyletic and polyphyletic, respectively, and more recent evidence supports breaking it up into two subfamilies: Rollulinae and Phasianinae, with the latter containing multiple tribes within two clades. The New World quail (Odontophoridae) and guineafowl (Numididae) were formerly sometimes included in this family, but are now typically placed in families of their own; conversely, grouse and turkeys, formerly often treated as distinct families (Tetraonidae and Meleagrididae, respectively), are now known to be deeply nested within Phasianidae, so they are now included in the present family.


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[edit]

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 Meleagridini (turkeys) are native to the New World, while the Tetraonini (grouse) are circumpolar; both of these are members of Phasianinae. The greatest diversity of species is in Southeast Asia and Africa. The Congo peacock is specific to the African Congo.

Overall, Rollulinae is restricted to the tropics of East and Southeast Asia and the mountains of Tanzania, Phasianinae have a circumpolar range in the temperate zones of both Eurasia and North America (but also range into the tropics of east and southeast Asia), and Pavoninae have a wide range across Africa, Eurasia, and Australasia in both temperate and tropical zones.

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, domestic chickens, and turkeys have also escaped or been released and became feral.

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

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[edit]

The red junglefowl of Southeast Asia is the wild ancestor of the domesticated chicken, the most important bird in agriculture, and the wild turkey similarly is the ancestor of the domestic turkey. Several species of pheasants and partridges are extremely important to humans. 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[edit]

The clade Phasianidae is the largest of the branch Galliformes, comprising 185 species divided into 54 genera.[3] 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;[4] and the Perdicinae, including partridges, Old World quails, and francolins.[5] Molecular phylogenies have shown that these two subfamilies are not each monophyletic, but actually constitute only one lineage with one common ancestor.[6][7] 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.[6][7]

The earliest fossil records of phasianids date to the late Oligocene epoch, about 30 million years ago.[8]

Recent genera[edit]

Taxonomy and ordering is based on Kimball et al., 2021, which was accepted by the International Ornithological Congress. Tribes and subfamily names are based on the 4th edition of the Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. Genera without a tribe are considered to belong to tribe incertae sedis.[6][9][10][11]

Past taxonomy[edit]

This is the paraphyletic former ordering of Phasianidae, which primarily grouped genera based on appearance and body plans.[12]

Fossil genera[edit]

Extinct genus assignment follows the Mikko's Phylogeny Archive[13] and Paleofile.com websites.[14]


Cladogram based on a 2021 study by De Chen and collaborators that sequenced DNA flanking ultra-conserved elements. The extinct Himalayan quail (genus Ophrysia) was not included in the study.[16] The species numbers and the inclusion of the genera Canachites, Ortygornis, Campocolinus and Synoicus follows the list maintained by Frank Gill, Pamela Rasmussen and David Donsker on behalf of the International Ornithologists' Union.[3]


Xenoperdix – forest partridges (2 species)

Arborophila – forest partridges (19 species)

Caloperdix – ferruginous partridge

Rollulus – crested partridge

Melanoperdix – black partridge

Lerwa – snow partridge

Ithaginis – blood pheasant

Tragopan – horned pheasants

Tetraophasis – monal-partridges (2 species)

Lophophorus – monals (3 species)

Rhizothera – partridges (2 species)

Pucrasia – koklass pheasant

Meleagris – turkeys (2 species)

Bonasa – ruffed grouse

Tetrastes – grouse (2 species)

Centrocercus – sage-grouse (2 species)

Dendragapus – grouse (2 species)

Tympanuchus – prairie chickens (3 species)

Lagopus – ptarmigans (3 species)

Falcipennis – Siberian grouse

Canachites – spruce grouse

Tetrao – capercaillies (2 species)

Lyrurus – grouse (2 species)

Perdix – true partridges (3 species)

Syrmaticus – long-tailed pheasants (5 species)

Chrysolophus – pheasants (2 species)

Phasianus – pheasants (2 species)

Catreus – cheer pheasant

Crossoptilon – eared pheasants (4 species)

Lophura – gallopheasants (9 species)

Rheinardia – crested argus

Argusianus – great argus

Afropavo – Congo peafowl

Pavo – peafowls (2 species)

Tropicoperdix – partridges (2 species)

Haematortyx – crimson-headed partridge

Galloperdix – spurfowl (3 species)

Polyplectron – peacock-pheasants (8 species)

Bambusicola – bamboo partridges (3 species)

Gallus – junglefowl (4 species)

Peliperdix – Latham's francolin

Ortygornis – francolins (3 species)

Francolinus – francolins (3 species)

Campocolinus – francolins (3 species)

Scleroptila – francolins (7 species)

Tetraogallus – snowcocks (5 species)

Ammoperdix – desert partridges (2 species)

Synoicus – dwarf quails (4 species)

Margaroperdix – Madagascar partridge

Coturnix – quails (6 species)

Alectoris – rock partridges (7 species)

Perdicula – bush quails (4 species)

Pternistis – spurfowl (24 species)


  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. Vol. 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. ^ a b Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (January 2022). "Pheasants, partridges, francolins". IOC World Bird List Version 12.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 6 July 2022.
  4. ^ Johnsgard, P. A. (1986). The Pheasants of the World. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ Johnsgard, P. A. (1988). The Quails, Partridges, and Francolins of the World. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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:10.3161/068.041.0209. S2CID 73586654.
  9. ^ Kimball, R.T.; Hosner, P.A.; Braun, E.L. (2021). "A phylogenomic supermatrix of Galliformes (Landfowl) reveals biased branch lengths". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 158: 107091. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2021.107091. ISSN 1055-7903. PMID 33545275. S2CID 231963063.
  10. ^ "Pheasants, partridges, francolins – IOC World Bird List". Retrieved 2022-08-04.
  11. ^ "H&M4 Checklist family by family - The Trust for Avian Systematics". www.aviansystematics.org. Retrieved 2022-08-04.
  12. ^ Çınar, Ümüt (November 2015). "02 → Gᴀʟʟᴏᴀɴsᴇʀᴀᴇ : Gᴀʟʟɪfᴏʀᴍᴇs". English Names of Birds. Archived from the original on 10 August 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  13. ^ Haaramo, Mikko (2007). "Aves [Avialae]– basal birds". Mikko's Phylogeny Archive. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  14. ^ "Taxonomic lists- Aves". Paleofile.com (net, info). Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  15. ^ Ksepka, Daniel T.; Early, Catherine M.; Dzikiewicz, Kate; Balanoff, Amy M. (October 2022). "Osteology and neuroanatomy of a phasianid (Aves: Galliformes) from the Miocene of Nebraska". Journal of Paleontology. 97: 223–242. doi:10.1017/jpa.2022.80. ISSN 0022-3360. S2CID 253033983.
  16. ^ Chen, D.; Hosner, P.A.; Dittmann, D.L.; O’Neill, J.P.; Birks, S.M.; Braun, E.L.; Kimball, R.T. (2021). "Divergence time estimation of Galliformes based on the best gene shopping scheme of ultraconserved elements". BMC Ecology and Evolution. 21 (1): 209. doi:10.1186/s12862-021-01935-1. PMC 8609756. PMID 34809586.

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