Galliformes are an order of plump-bodied, ground-feeding birds. They have small heads, strong feet and often have short bills and short wings. They are chicken-like birds. The adult males have sharp spur on the back of each leg as a weapon. This order contains turkeys, grouses, chickens, quail, ptarmigans, partridges, pheasants and the cracidae.
They range in size from as small as 12.5cm (5in) to large ones about 120cm (47in). The smallest one is the Asian Blue Quail. It is about 12.5cm (5in) long and weighs between 28-40g (1-1.4oz). The largest galliforme is the North American Wild Turkey which weighs as much 14kg (30.5lbs) and may be bigger than 120cm (47in) in length! The largest wing span of any galliforme bird is the Green Peafowl. It can reach over 183cm (6 feet) in length, this includes its long tail.
This group has more than 250 living species. They are found on every part of every continent except for extremely dry deserts and extremely cold places like the Arctic and Antarctica. They are very rare on islands unless humans brought them to the islands. A few species of Galliformes have been domesticated by humans.
They played an important role as seed dispersers and predators. They are often reared as game birds by humans. Humans also depend on them for meat and eggs. All of them are good runners. They cannot fly far like a hawk. They can only fly a few hundred feet just to flee from danger. They walk and run instead. They live between 5 to 8 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity. They love forests and meadows. The males are more colourful than the females. Most of them prefer to stay put in one place.
The female Galliforme lays 3 to 16 eggs per year. She builds her nest on the ground or on low low lying trees. They eat fruits, seeds, leaves, shoots, flowers, tubers, roots, insects, snails, worms, lizards, snakes, small rodents and eggs. They do swallow small stones regularly to help them to digest food properly.
Galliformes which stay on the grassland have long, thin necks, long legs and large wide wings. For example, the Wild Turkey and Crested Fireback Pheasant. Herbivorous and slightly omnivorous galliformes tend to be plump and have short thick bills. They are ground feeding birds. They love to eat heather shoots. The young ones will eat insects too.
They survive well in the cold. When it is cold, they will be less active to save their body heat. They will also rest under the snow and create a warm condition which conserves heat.