Order

CHAPTER

phylum class subclass • order monotypic order suborder family

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Galliformes are medium to large in size, with a stocky body, small head, and short wings. Quails are the smallest species, weighing less than 1 ounce (20 grams) and measuring just 5 to 6 inches (12 to 15 centimeters). The wild turkey weighs 17 to 22 pounds (8 to 10 kilograms), and the domesticated turkey bred for eating can weigh up to 44 pounds (20 kilograms). The green peafowl measures up to 98 inches (250 centimeters) in length.

Galliformes have short bills that usually curve downward to assist in pecking plant material from the ground. Their feet are big and strong—so strong that they can move heavy branches or stone. Some galliform tails are one-third the size of their total body length. Both sexes are often brown or black, but the males of a few species are incredibly colorful.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Galliformes are found on every continent except Antarctica.

HABITAT

Gallinaceous birds enjoy a wide variety of habitats: forests, mountains, farmland, semideserts, and savannas (plant communities characterized by shrubs and low trees as well as grasses and herbs).

DIET

The chicken-like birds eat nuts, seeds, and parts of plants. Their large feet help them move branches and stones to discover food other animals could not access. Chicks eat insects and larvae (LAR-vee; immature stage for some insects) during their first few weeks of life.

Galliformes regularly swallow small stones to help the digestive process. The rocks help break down nuts and seed coverings as well as the tough fibers that make up green vegetation. These birds don't drink much water, but a few species visit salt licks, where they eat clay soil that gives them required minerals.

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