Temporal range: Eocene-Holocene, 45–0 Ma
Flickr - Rainbirder - Ceylon Junglefowl (Gallus lafayetii) Male.jpg
Male Sri Lankan junglefowl (Gallus lafayetii)
Scientific classification edit
Temminck, 1820
Extant families


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.

Systematics and evolution

Despite its distinct appearance, the wild turkey is actually a very close relative of pheasants

The living Galliformes were once divided into seven or more families. Despite their distinctive appearance, grouse and turkeys probably do not warrant separation as families due to their recent origin from partridge- or pheasant-like birds. The turkeys became larger after their ancestors colonized temperate and subtropical North America, where pheasant-sized competitors were absent. The ancestors of grouse, though, adapted to harsh climates and could thereby colonize subarctic regions. Consequently, the Phasianidae are expanded in current taxonomy to include the former Tetraonidae and Meleagrididae as subfamilies.[1]

The Anseriformes (waterfowl) and the Galliformes together make up the Galloanserae. They are basal among the living neognathous birds, and normally follow the Paleognathae (ratites and tinamous) in modern bird classification systems. This was first proposed in the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy and has been the one major change of that proposed scheme that was almost universally adopted. However, the Galliformes as they were traditionally delimited are called Gallomorphae in the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, which splits the Cracidae and Megapodiidae as an order "Craciformes". This is not a natural group, however, but rather an erroneous result of the now-obsolete phenetic methodology employed in the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy.[2] Phenetic studies do not distinguish between plesiomorphic and apomorphic characters, which leads to basal lineages appearing as monophyletic groups.

Historically, the buttonquails (Turnicidae), mesites (Mesitornithidae) and the hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin) were placed in the Galliformes, too. The former are now known to be shorebirds adapted to an inland lifestyle, whereas the mesites are probably closely related to pigeons and doves. The relationships of the hoatzin are entirely obscure, and it is usually treated as a monotypic order Opisthocomiformes to signify this.


The earliest galliform-like fossils hail from the Late Cretaceous, most notably those of Austinornis lentus. Its partial left tarsometatarsus was found in the Austin Chalk near Fort McKinney, Texas, dating to about 85 million years ago (Mya). This bird was quite certainly closely related to Galliformes, but whether it was a part of these or belongs elsewhere in the little-known galliform branch of Galloanserae is not clear. However, in 2004, Clarke classified it as a member of the larger group Pangalliformes, more closely related to chickens than to ducks, but not a member of the crown group that includes all modern galliformes.[3] Another specimen, PVPH 237, from the Late Cretaceous Portezuelo Formation (Turonian-Coniacian, about 90 Mya) in the Sierra de Portezuelo (Argentina) has also been suggested to be an early galliform relative. This is a partial coracoid of a neornithine bird, which in its general shape and particularly the wide and deep attachment for the muscle joining the coracoid and the humerus bone resembles the more basal lineages of galliforms.[4]

Additional galliform-like pangalliformes are represented by extinct families from the Paleogene, namely the Gallinuloididae, Paraortygidae and Quercymegapodiidae. In the early Cenozoic, some additional birds may or may not be early Galliformes, though even if they are, they are unlikely to belong to extant families:

  • Argillipes (London Clay Early Eocene of England)
  • Coturnipes (Early Eocene of England, and Virginia, USA?)
  • Paleophasianus (Willwood Early Eocene of Bighorn County, USA)
  • Percolinus (London Clay Early Eocene of England)
  • Amitabha (Bridger middle Eocene of Forbidden City, USA) – phasianid?
  • "Palaeorallus" alienus (middle Oligocene of Tatal-Gol, Mongolia)
  • Anisolornis (Santa Cruz Middle Miocene of Karaihen, Argentina)

From the mid-Eocene onwards – about 45 Mya or so, true galliforms are known, and these completely replace their older relatives in the early Neogene. Since the earliest representatives of living galliform families apparently belong to the Phasianidae – the youngest family of galliforms, the other families of Galliformes must be at least of Early Eocene origin but might even be as old as the Late Cretaceous. The ichnotaxon Tristraguloolithus cracioides is based on fossil eggshell fragments from the Late Cretaceous Oldman Formation of southern Alberta, Canada, which are similar to chachalaca eggs,[5] but in the absence of bone material, their relationships cannot be determined except that they are apparently avian in origin.

Modern genera of phasianids start appearing around the Oligo-/Miocene boundary, roughly 25–20 Mya. It is not well known whether the living genera of the other, older, galliform families originated around the same time or earlier, though at least in the New World quails, pre-Neogene forms seem to belong to genera that became entirely extinct later on.

A number of Paleogene to mid-Neogene fossils are quite certainly Galliformes, but their exact relationships in the order cannot be determined:

  • †Galliformes gen. et sp. indet. (Oligocene) – formerly in Gallinuloides; phasianid?[6]
  • Palaealectoris (Agate Fossil Beds Early Miocene of Sioux County, USA) – tetraonine?

List of major taxa

For a long time, the pheasants, partridges, and relatives were indiscriminately lumped in the Phasianidae, variously including or excluding turkeys, grouse, New World quails, and guineafowl, and divided into two subfamilies – the Phasianinae (pheasant-like forms) and the Perdicinae (partridge-like forms). This crude arrangement was long considered to be in serious need of revision, but even with modern DNA sequence analyses and cladistic methods, the phylogeny of the Phasianidae has resisted complete resolution.[7]

A tentative list of the higher-level galliform taxa, listed in evolutionary sequence, is:[7]

  • Archaeophasianus Lambrecht 1933 (Oligocene? – Late Miocene)
  • Argillipes Harrison & Walker 1977
  • Austinornis Clarke 2004 [Pedioecetes Baird 1858] (Austin Chalk Late Cretaceous of Fort McKinney, USA)
  • Chambiortyx Mourer-Chauviré et al. 2013
  • Coturnipes Harrison & Walker 1977
  • Cyrtonyx tedfordi (Barstow Late Miocene of Barstow, USA)
  • Linquornis Yeh 1980 (middle Miocene)
  • Namaortyx Mourer-Chauviré, Pickford & 2011
  • Palaeorallus alienus Kuročkin 1968 nomen dubium
  • Sobniogallus Tomek et al. 2014
  • Tristraguloolithus Zelenitsky, Hills & Curri 1996 [ootaxa- cracid?]
  • Procrax Tordoff & Macdonald 1957 (middle Eocene? – Early Oligocene)
  • Paleophasianus Wetmore 1940
  • Taoperdix Milne-Edwards 1869 (Late Oligocene)
  • Family † Paraortygidae Mourer-Chauviré 1992
    • Pirortyx Brodkorb 1964
    • Scopelortyx Mourer-Chauviré, Pickford & Senut 2015
    • Paraortyx Gaillard 1908 sensu Brodkorb 1964
  • Family †Quercymegapodiidae Mourer-Chauviré 1992
    • Taubacrex de Alvarenga 1988
    • Ameripodius de Alvarenga 1995
    • Quercymegapodius Mourer-Chauviré 1992
  • Family Megapodiidae – mound-builders and scrubfowl, or megapodes
    • Mwalau Worthy et al. 2015 (Lini's megapode)
    • Ngawupodius & Ivison 1999
    • Brushturkey group
      • Talegalla Lesson 1828
      • Leipoa Gould 1840 [Progura de Vis 1889; Chosornis de Vis 1889; Palaeopelargus de Vis 1892] (Malleefowls)
      • Alectura Gray 1831 [ Catheturus Swainson 1837] (Australian Brushturkeys)
      • Aepypodius Oustalet 1880
    • Scrubfowl group
  • Family Cracidae – chachalacas, guans and curassows
    • Archaealectrornis Crowe & Short 1992 (Oligocene)
    • Boreortalis Brodkorb 1954
    • Palaeonossax Wetmore 1956 (Brule Late Oligocene of South Dakota, USA)
    • Penelopinae Bonaparte 1851 (Guans)
    • Cracinae Rafinesque 1815
      • Ortalis Merrem 1786 [ Ganix Rafinesque 1815] { Ortalidini Donegan 2012} (Chachalacas)
      • Oreophasis Gray 1844 { Oreophasini Bonaparte 1853} (Horned Guans)
      • Cracini Rafinesque 1815 (Currasows)
        • Nothocrax Burmeister 1856 (Nocturnal Curassows)
        • Pauxi Temminck 1813 [ Ourax Cuvier 1817; Lophocerus Swainson 1837 non Hemprich & Ehrenberg 1833; Urax Reichenbach 1850]
        • Mitu Lesson 1831 (razor-billed curassows)
        • Crax Linnaeus 1758
  • Suborder Phasiani
    • Family † Gallinuloididae – tentatively placed here
      • Gallinuloides Eastman 1900 [ Palaeobonasa Shufeldt 1915]
      • Paraortygoides Mayr 2000
    • Family Numididae – guineafowl
      • Guttera Wagler 1832
      • Numida Linnaeus 1764 [ Querelea Reichenbach 1852] (Helmeted Guineafowls)
      • Acryllium Gray 1840 (Vulturine Guineafowls)
      • Agelastes Bonaparte 1850
    • Family Odontophoridae – New World quail
    • Family Phasianidaepheasants, partridges and relatives
      • Alectoris” pliocaena Tugarinov 1940b
      • Bantamyx Kuročkin 1982
      • Diangallus Hou 1985
      • “Gallus” beremendensis Jánossy 1976b
      • “Gallus” europaeus Harrison 1978
      • Lophogallus Zelenkov & Kuročkin 2010
      • Megalocoturnix Sánchez Marco 2009
      • Miophasianus Brodkorb 1952 [ Miophasianus Lambrecht 1933 nomen nudum ; Miogallus Lambrecht 1933 ]
      • Palaeocryptonyx Depéret 1892 [ Chauvireria Boev 1997; Pliogallus Tugarinov 1940b non Gaillard 1939; Lambrechtia Janossy 1974 ]
      • Palaeortyx Milne-Edwards 1869 [ Palaeoperdix Milne-Edwards 1869]
      • Plioperdix Kretzoi 1955 [ Pliogallus Tugarinov 1940 nec Gaillard 1939]
      • Rustaviornis Burchak-Abramovich & Meladze 1972
      • Schaubortyx Brodkorb 1964
      • Shandongornis Yeh 1997
      • Shanxiornis Wang et al. 2006
      • Tologuica Zelenkov & Kuročkin 2009
      • Subfamily Meleagridinae
      • Subfamily Perdicinae Horsfield 1821
      • Subfamily Phasianinae – true pheasants
      • Subfamily Tetraoninae – grouse

The relationships of many pheasants and partridges are still very badly resolved and much confounded by adaptive radiation (in the former) and convergent evolution (in the latter).[8] Thus, the bulk of the Phasianidae can alternatively be treated as a single subfamily Phasianinae. The grouse, turkeys, true pheasants, etc., would then become tribes of this subfamily, similar to how the Coturnicinae are commonly split into a quail and a spurfowl tribe.[9]

The partridge of Europe is not closely related to other partridge-like Galliformes is already indicated by its sexually dimorphic coloration and more than 14 rectrices, traits it shares with the other advanced phasianids. However, among these its relationships are obscure; it is entirely unclear whether it is closer to the turkeys or to certain short-tailed pheasants like Ithaginis, Lophophorus, Pucrasia, and Tragopan.[10]

Other Languages
Acèh: Manok
Afrikaans: Hoendervoëls
العربية: دجاجيات
asturianu: Galliformes
azərbaycanca: Toyuqkimilər
Bân-lâm-gú: Ke-hêng-bo̍k
беларуская: Курападобныя
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Курападобныя
български: Кокошоподобни
bosanski: Galliformes
brezhoneg: Galliformes
català: Gal·liformes
čeština: Hrabaví
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davvisámegiella: Vuoncceslottit
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eesti: Kanalised
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latviešu: Vistveidīgie
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Nordfriisk: Hanenfögler
norsk nynorsk: Hønsefuglar
occitan: Galliformes
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Tovuqsimonlar
polski: Grzebiące
português: Galliformes
română: Galiforme
русиньскый: Куроподобны
русский: Курообразные
Simple English: Galliformes
slovenčina: Kurotvaré
slovenščina: Kure
српски / srpski: Кокоши
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Kokoške
suomi: Kanalinnut
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татарча/tatarça: Тавыксыманнар
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粵語: 雞形目
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Lingua Franca Nova: Galiformo