Phasianidae – Pheasants, Grouse, Partridges & Allies

Ferruginous Partridge Caloperdix oculeus ©Ken Behrens Website

The Phasianidae is a group of birds from the order Galliformes, in the family. They inhabit temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, from pine forests to moorland and mountainside, from 83°N (Rock Ptarmigan in northern Greenland) to 28°N (Attwater’s Prairie Chicken in Texas).

White-tailed Ptarmigan Lagopus leucura – Allan Sander

They are heavily built like other Galliformes such as chickens. They range in length from 31cm to 95cm and in weight from 0.3kg to 6.5kg. Males are bigger than females, as much as twice as heavy in the case of the Western Capercaillie, the biggest member of the family. Grouse have feathered nostrils. Their legs are feathered to the toes, and in winter the toes, too, have feathers or small scales on the sides, an adaptation for walking on snow and burrowing into it for shelter. Unlike other Galliformes, they have no spurs.

Sharp-tailed Grouse Tympanuchus phasianellus – Allan Sander

They feed mainly on vegetation such as buds, catkins, leaves, and twigs, which typically accounts for over 95% of adults’ food by weight. Thus, their diets vary greatly with the seasons. Hatchlings eat mostly insects and other invertebrates, gradually reducing their proportion of animal food to adult levels. Several of the forest-living species are notable for eating large quantities of conifer needles, which most other vertebrates refuse. To digest vegetable food, grouse have big crops and gizzards, eat grit to break up food, and have long intestines with well-developed caeca in which symbiotic bacteria digest cellulose.

 Displaying Dusky Grouse Dendragapus obscurus – Allan Sander

Forest species flock only in autumn and winter, though individuals tolerate each other when they meet. Prairie species are more social, and tundra species (ptarmigans, Lagopus) are the most social, forming flocks of up to 100 in winter. All grouse spend most of their time on the ground, though when alarmed, they may take off in a flurry and go into a long glide.

Most species stay within their breeding range all year, but make short seasonal movements; many individuals of the Ptarmigan and Willow Grouse migrate hundreds of kilometres.

In all but one species (the Willow Ptarmigan), males are polygamous. Many species have elaborate courtship displays on the ground at dawn and dusk, which in some are given in leks. The displays feature males’ brightly coloured combs and in some species, brightly coloured inflatable sacs on the sides of their necks. The males display their plumage, give vocalisations that vary widely between species, and may engage in other activities, such as drumming or fluttering their wings, rattling their tails, and making display flights. Occasionally, males fight.

Displaying Sage Grouse Centrocercus urophasianus Allan Sander

The nest is a shallow depression or scrape on the ground, often in cover, with a scanty lining of plant material. The female lays one clutch, but may replace it if the eggs are lost. She begins to lay about a week after mating and lays one egg every day or two; the clutch comprises five to 12 eggs. The eggs have the shape of hen’s eggs and are pale yellow, sparsely spotted with brown. On laying the second-last or last egg, the female starts 21 to 28 days of incubation. Chicks hatch in dense, yellow-brown down and leave the nest immediately. They soon develop feathers and can fly shortly before they are two weeks old. The female (and the male in the willow grouse) stays with them and protects them until their first autumn, when they reach their mature weights (except in the male Capercaillies). They are sexually mature the following spring, but often do not mate until later years.

Species List

The IOC currently considers there to be 183 species of grouse, partridges, snowcocks, pheasants, spurfowl, francolins, quail and allies in the family Phasianidae, which are:

Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo
Ocellated Turkey Meleagris ocellata

Ruffed Grouse Bonasa umbellus

Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia
Chinese Grouse Tetrastes sewerzowi

Siberian Grouse Falcipennis falcipennis
Spruce Grouse Falcipennis canadensis

Western Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus
Black-billed Capercaillie Tetrao urogalloides

Black Grouse Lyrurus tetrix
Caucasian Grouse Lyrurus mlokosiewiczi

Sage Grouse Centrocercus urophasianus
Gunnison Grouse Centrocercus minimus

Dusky Grouse Dendragapus obscurus
Sooty Grouse Dendragapus fuliginosus

Sharp-tailed Grouse Tympanuchus phasianellus
Lesser Prairie Chicken Tympanuchus pallidicinctus
Greater Prairie Chicken Tympanuchus cupido

White-tailed Ptarmigan Lagopus leucura
Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus muta
Willow Ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus

Snow Partridge Lerwa lerwa

Verreaux’s Monal-Partridge Tetraophasis obscurus
Szechenyi’s Monal-Partridge Tetraophasis szechenyii

Caucasian Snowcock Tetraogallus caucasicus
Caspian Snowcock Tetraogallus caspius
Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis
Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus
Altai Snowcock Tetraogallus altaicus

Rock Partridge Alectoris graeca
Chukar Partridge Alectoris chukar
Przevalski’s Partridge Alectoris magna
Philby’s Partridge Alectoris philbyi
Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa
Arabian Partridge Alectoris melanocephala

See-see Partridge Ammoperdix griseogularis
Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi

Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus
Painted Francolin Francolinus pictus
Chinese Francolin Francolinus pintadeanus
Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus
Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis

Latham’s Francolin Peliperdix lathami
Coqui Francolin Peliperdix coqui
White-throated Francolin Peliperdix albogularis
Schlegel’s Francolin Peliperdix schlegelii

Ring-necked Francolin Scleroptila streptophora
Grey-winged Francolin Scleroptila afra
Red-winged Francolin Scleroptila levaillantii
Finsch’s Francolin Scleroptila finschi
Shelley’s Francolin Scleroptila shelleyi
Moorland Francolin Scleroptila psilolaema
Orange River Francolin Scleroptila gutturalis

Crested Francolin Dendroperdix sephaena

Scaly Francolin Pternistis squamatus
Ahanta Francolin Pternistis ahantensis
Grey-striped Francolin Pternistis griseostriatus
Hildebrandt’s Francolin Pternistis hildebrandti
Double-spurred Francolin Pternistis bicalcaratus
Heuglin’s Francolin Pternistis icterorhynchus
Clapperton’s Francolin Pternistis clappertoni
Harwood’s Francolin Pternistis harwoodi
Swierstra’s Francolin Pternistis swierstrai
Mount Cameroon Francolin Pternistis camerunensis
Handsome Francolin Pternistis nobilis
Jackson’s Francolin Pternistis jacksoni
Chestnut-naped Francolin Pternistis castaneicollis
Djibouti Francolin Pternistis ochropectus
Erckel’s Francolin Pternistis erckelii
Hartlaub’s Spurfowl Pternistis hartlaubi
Red-billed Spurfowl Pternistis adspersus
Cape Spurfowl Pternistis capensis
Natal Spurfowl Pternistis natalensis
Yellow-necked Spurfowl Pternistis leucoscepus
Grey-breasted Spurfowl Pternistis rufopictus
Red-necked Spurfowl Pternistis afer
Swainson’s Spurfowl Pternistis swainsonii

Grey Partridge Perdix perdix
Daurian Partridge Perdix dauurica
Tibetan Partridge Perdix hodgsoniae

Long-billed Partridge Rhizothera longirostris
Hose’s Partridge Rhizothera dulitensis

Madagascan Partridge Margaroperdix madagarensis

Black Partridge Melanoperdix niger

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix
Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica
Rain Quail Coturnix coromandelica
Harlequin Quail Coturnix delegorguei
Stubble Quail Coturnix pectoralis
New Zealand Quail Coturnix novaezelandiae
Brown Quail Coturnix ypsilophora

King Quail Excalfactoria chinensis
Blue Quail Excalfactoria adansonii

Snow Mountain Quail Anurophasis monorthonyx

Jungle Bush Quail Perdicula asiatica
Rock Bush Quail Perdicula argoondah
Painted Bush Quail Perdicula erythrorhyncha
Manipur Bush Quail Perdicula manipurensis

Himalayan Quail Ophrysia superciliosa

Udzungwa Forest Partridge Xenoperdix udzungwensis
Rubeho Forest Partridge Xenoperdix obscuratus

Hill Partridge Arborophila torqueola
Rufous-throated Partridge Arborophila rufogularis
White-cheeked Partridge Arborophila atrogularis
Taiwan Partridge Arborophila crudigularis
Chestnut-breasted Partridge Arborophila mandellii
Bar-backed Partridge Arborophila brunneopectus
Sichuan Partridge Arborophila rufipectus
White-necklaced Partridge Arborophila gingica
Orange-necked Partridge Arborophila davidi
Chestnut-headed Partridge Arborophila cambodiana
Siamese Partridge Arborophila diversa
Malaysian Partridge Arborophila campbelli
Roll’s Partridge Arborophila rolli
Sumatran Partridge Arborophila sumatrana
Grey-breasted Partridge Arborophila orientalis
Chestnut-bellied Partridge Arborophila javanica
Red-billed Partridge Arborophila rubrirostris
Red-breasted Partridge Arborophila hyperythra
Hainan Partridge Arborophila ardens
Chestnut-necklaced Partridge Arborophila charltonii
Green-legged Partridge Arborophila chloropus

Ferruginous Partridge Caloperdix oculeus

Crimson-headed Partridge Haematortyx sanguiniceps

Crested Partridge Rollulus rouloul

Mountain Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola fytchii
Chinese Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola thoracicus
Taiwan Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola sonorivox

Red Spurfowl Galloperdix spadicea
Painted Spurfowl Galloperdix lunulata
Sri Lanka Spurfowl Galloperdix bicalcarata

Blood Pheasant Ithaginis cruentus

Western Tragopan Tragopan melanocephalus
Satyr Tragopan Tragopan satyra
Blyth’s Tragopan Tragopan blythii
Temminck’s Tragopan Tragopan temminckii
Cabot’s Tragopan Tragopan caboti

Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha

Himalayan Monal Lophophorus impejanus
Sclater’s Monal Lophophorus sclateri
Chinese Monal Lophophorus lhuysii

Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus
Grey Junglefowl Gallus sonneratii
Sri Lanka Junglefowl Gallus lafayettii
Green Junglefowl Gallus varius

Kalij Pheasant Lophura leucomelanos
Silver Pheasant Lophura nycthemera
Edwards’s Pheasant Lophura edwardsi
Swinhoe’s Pheasant Lophura swinhoii
Hoogerwerf’s Pheasant Lophura hoogerwerfi
Salvadori’s Pheasant Lophura inornata
Crestless Fireback Lophura erythrophthalma
Crested Fireback Lophura ignita
Siamese Fireback Lophura diardi
Bulwer’s Pheasant Lophura bulweri

White Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon
Tibetan Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon harmani
Brown Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon mantchuricum
Blue Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon auritum

Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii

Elliot’s Pheasant Syrmaticus ellioti
Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant Syrmaticus humiae
Mikado Pheasant Syrmaticus mikado
Copper Pheasant Syrmaticus soemmerringii
Reeves’s Pheasant Syrmaticus reevesii

Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
Green Pheasant Phasianus versicolor

Golden Pheasant Chrysolophus pictus
Lady Amherst’s Pheasant Chrysolophus amherstiae

Bronze-tailed Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron chalcurum
Mountain Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron inopinatum
Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron germaini
Grey Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron bicalcaratum
Hainan Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron katsumatae
Malayan Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron malacense
Bornean Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron schleiermacheri
Palawan Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron napoleonis

Crested Argus Rheinardia ocellata

Great Argus Argusianus argus

Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus
Green Peafowl Pavo muticus

Congo Peafowl Afropavo congensis

Species Links
  • Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix

    IUCN Species Status
  • Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix

    Species Account
    The black grouse or blackgame or blackcock (Tetrao tetrix) is a large game bird in the grouse family. It is a sedentary species, breeding across northern Eurasia in moorland and bog areas near to woodland, mostly boreal. The black grouse is closely related to the Caucasian grouse.
  • Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix

    RSPB Species Account
    Species profile with image and UK status and distribution…
  • Common Quail Coturnix coturnix

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Common Quail Coturnix coturnix

    Species Account
    The common quail (Coturnix coturnix) is a small ground-nesting game bird in the pheasant family Phasianidae. Coturnix is the Latin for this species.
  • Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus

    IUCN Species Status
  • Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus

    Species Account
    The Djibouti francolin (Pternistis ochropectus) is one of over forty species of francolins, a group of birds in the Phasianidae family. It is critically endangered and found only in Djibouti, a nation in the Horn of Africa.
  • Djibouti Francolin Pternistis ochropectus

    Species Account
    Species profile and conservation status etc…
  • Palawan Peacock-pheasant Polyplectron napoleonis

    IUCN Species Status
  • Palawan Peacock-pheasant Polyplectron napoleonis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Palawan Peacock-pheasant Polyplectron napoleonis

    Species Account
    The Palawan peacock-pheasant (Polyplectron napoleonis) is a medium-sized (up to 50 cm long) bird in the family Phasianidae.
  • Willow Ptarmigan (Willow Grouse) Lagopus lagopus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Willow Ptarmigan (Willow Grouse) Lagopus lagopus

    Species Account
    The willow ptarmigan (/ˈtɑːr mᵻ ɡən/) (Lagopus lagopus) is a bird in the grouse subfamily Tetraoninae of the pheasant family Phasianidae.
  • Willow Ptarmigan (Willow Grouse) Lagopus lagopus

    Cornell Species Account
    A typical bird of the arctic tundra, the Willow Ptarmigan is the largest and most numerous of the three ptarmigan species.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 183

Useful Reading
  • Extraordinary Pheasants

    | By Stephen Green-Armytage | Harry N Abrams | 2002 | Hardback | 111 pages, colour photos | ISBN: 9780810910072 Buy this book from
  • Grouse of the World

    | By Roald Potapov & Richard Sale | New Holland Publishers | 2013 | Hardback | 408 pages, colour photos, 93 colour & b/w illustrations, 19 colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781780092508 Buy this book from
  • Pheasants, Partridges & Grouse

    | (A Guide to the Pheasants, Partridges, Quails, Grouse, Guineafowl, Buttonquails and Sandgrouse of the World | by Steve Madge & Phil McGowan | Christopher Helm | 2002 | Hardback | 488 pages, 72 colour plates, 257 maps | ISBN: 9780713639667 Buy this book from
  • Ruffed Grouse - Woodland Drummer

    | By Michael Furtman | Stackpole Books | 2004 | Paperback | 143 pages, 68 colour photos, 1 map | ISBN: 9780811731225 Buy this book from
  • Svalbard Rock Ptarmigan

    | (A status report) | by S Unander et al | Norsk Polar Institute | 2005 | Paperback |" 20 pages, Colour photos, figures | ISBN: 9788276662252 Buy this book from
  • The Grouse

    | (Artists' Impressions) | by S Gudgeon, K Sykes & B Hoskyns | Quiller Publishing | 2007 | Hardback | 148 pages, illustrations | ISBN: 9781846890192 Buy this book from
Other Links
  • Faisanes del Mundo

    Spanish site about Pheasants…

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