FOWLS AND PHEASANTS – Phasianidae

FOWLS AND PHEASANTS

FOWLS AND PHEASANTS FACTS

Fowls and pheasants measure 6 to 48 inches (15 to 125 centimeters) and weigh 1.5 to 24.2 pounds (0.7 to 11 kilograms). All species have a heavy, round body. Legs and neck are short, head and tail are small (except in a few long-tailed species), and facial ornamentation varies. Coloration of skin and plumage (feathers) also varies, but males are almost always the more colorful sex.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Fowls and pheasants are found throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australasia.

FOWLS AND PHEASANTS HABITAT

Habitats vary widely for these birds. Some live in mountain regions, others in subtropical forests and rainforests. Still others prefer the grasslands.

FOWLS AND PHEASANTS DIET

Fowls and pheasants eat vegetation, buds, pine needles, roots, bulbs, seeds, fruits, invertebrates (animals without backbones) such as ants and termites, and berries. Baby snowcocks eat legumes (peas, beans, and lentils).

BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION

Regardless of species, the daily routine of these birds is basically the same. They roost (rest) in trees during the night and descend at dawn for some serious feeding time. After eating for a few hours, they head for cover. The end of the day brings about another feeding frenzy, after which birds call to one another as they prepare to roost for the night.

Because these birds are largely land dwellers, most species don’t migrate (travel seasonally from one region to another) much. Species that live in the open grasslands are more social than their forest cousins, possibly to defend themselves against predators. Those social species can be found in flocks of twenty to one hundred individual birds.

Nests are shallow scrapes in the ground, lined with little vegetation and hidden by grasses or rocks. Clutch sizes can be as high as twenty eggs or as few as one. Incubation (keeping warm until hatching) is done by the female, and chicks leave the nest as soon as they hatch. First flight is taken in seven to ten days. Females are ready to mate at one year of age, but males tend to wait until their full adult colors have developed, usually in their second season.

Predators include foxes, ravens, badgers, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, hawks, owls, cats, dogs, and other medium-sized meat-eaters.

FOWLS AND PHEASANTS AND PEOPLE

Phasianidae is arguably the most important bird family to the human population because they are hunted in the wild and raised domestically for their meat and feathers.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Seventy-three species (41 percent of all species) are included on the 2003 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.