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(vertebrate zoology)
An order of birds that includes important domestic and game birds, such as turkeys, pheasants, and quails.



an order of birds. The galliforms measure from 12 cm (Japanese quail [Coturnix coturnix japonicus]) to 235 cm (great argus pheasant [Argusianus argus]) in length and weigh from 45 g (Japanese quail) to 11.5 kg (wild turkey; domesticated turkeys, up to 22.5 kg). The bill is short and strong. The legs are strong and adapted for scratching the earth or forest floor for food. The wings are broad, generally suited only for short bursts of flight. The plumage is dense; the feathers have a supplementary shaft, except in the hoatzin. The down is sparse and found only on the pterylae. The males of many gallinaceous birds are more brightly colored than the females. Some species have bare facial parts of the head, which is brightly colored or has fleshy knobs (crest, wattles, brows).

The order comprises two suborders: Opisthocomi (one species) and Galli. The latter includes 240 living and about 100 fossil species, united in six families: Megapodiidae (mound builders), Cracidae (curassows, guans, and chachalacas), Phasianidae (partridges, quails, and pheasants), Tetraonidae (grouse), Numididae (guinea fowls), and Meleagrididae (turkeys). The galliforms are widely distributed. They are found in all zones, from the tundras to tropical forests and high mountains. They are absent only in the antarctic. The distribution of individual families is limited. Gallinaceous birds are either sedentary birds or wandering birds; only the quails migrate seasonally. Most galliforms are terrestrial birds; some feed on trees. Only the hoatzin and the cracids are true arboreal birds.

The nesting period of some galliforms is preceded by courtship. Many gallinaceous birds are polygamous, and the males do not help care for the offspring. The nests are on the ground (except those of the cracids and the hoatzin). There are two to 20 or more eggs per clutch. They are incubated 14 to 30 days. The megapodes do not sit on the eggs but incubate them in sand or decaying leaves. The young are hatched with a thick covering of down and immediately leave the nest. They feed predominantly on animal food (insects, worms); the adult birds feed on plant food (seeds, buds, berries, pine needles, catkins, leaves).

All galliforms except the hoatzin are game birds and valuable objects of commercial hunting. In the USSR the willow ptarmigan, hazel hen, black grouse, pheasant, and quail are of special significance. The numbers of many galliforms are decreasing due to excessive hunting and changes in their habitat as a result of human activity. Some galliforms (pheasant, grouse, chukar partridge) are raised on farms. The red jungle fowl, turkey, and guinea fowl have been domesticated and have served as the ancestors of numerous breeds of poultry.


Ptitsy Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 4. Edited by G. P. Dement’ev and N. A. Gladkov. Moscow, 1952.
Zhizn’ zhivotnykh, vol. 5. Moscow, 1970.


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