The order of birds called Order Galliformes are characterized by plump bodies, short broad wings and small heads. Most galliform species provide good tasting meat, which has made many of them attractive to hunters for food, as well as for sport hunting. The chicken is a domesticated form of a galliform jungle fowl from Asia. The pheasant, grouse, quail and partridge are all galliforms sought by hunters as game birds, while peafowl (peacocks and peahens) are galliforms that are generally protected for their exquisite beauty.
Turkeys are indigenous only in North and Central America. Meleagris gallapora is the common turkey native to the United States and Mexico. The Agriocharis ocellata, the ocellated turkey is native to only the lowland rain forests in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Indians in Mexico first domesticated the common turkey which the Spanish explorers brought back to Europe in the 1500s. Turkeys are forest birds and the largest galliforms. Male turkeys average about 17 pounds (8 kilograms) and females average approximately 81/2 pounds (4 kilograms). Males attract females by strutting around with other males in mating areas called “leks,” while fanning their tail feathers, performing noisy low flaps of their wings, swelling up their wattles and excitedly calling out its “gobble gobble gobble!”
Seventeen species of grouse inhabit the evergreen forests, moors, plains and mountainsides of the Northern Hemisphere. Grouse are one of the largest food sources for predators, and the size of their populations often affect the size of the populations of some species of birds of prey. Most species of grouse are very territorial, some males bonding to a single female in a territory and other species mating with as much as 75% of the entire female grouse population in a territory. Like turkeys, male grouse perform spectacular mating dances, puffing their chests, spreading the feathers around their necks and drumming their wings loudly to attract their females.
The Ring-necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus, like the chicken, is a galliform that is native to Asia and was introduced to Europe by explorers. Males are spectacularly adorned with colorful feathers and a variety of plumes, which they display elaborately in courtship. Ring-necked pheasants were originally sought as an ornamental bird, but became popular game birds in Europe when the shotgun was invented. Pheasants were introduced by Europeans to the United States in the 19th Century. Pheasants feed on grains found in woodlands and marshes, but are especially attracted to the grains grown in farmland fields. When the ground is covered with snow, ring-necked pheasants sometimes scavenge garbage in cities and towns. Pheasant populations also depend on grain put out in the winter by sportsmen attempting to maintain the pheasant population for hunting. Male pheasants fight among themselves, crowing loudly, to win the amorous attention of the females in their spring mating ritual. The winners of these fights accumulate a harem of many pheasant hens with which to mate.
New World Quail species are plump little monogamous birds whose males and females both sport distinctive forward pointing crests. Most quail are grass-dwelling birds, but there are subspecies of tree quail that inhabit the mountain woodlands of the United States, the forests of Mexico and the Central America scrublands.