Game Birds.

I like to discuss these birds together because they help to reveal some interesting points about habitats and predator avoidance.

Key Features

  • Some like the Takahe in New Zealand and the Tinamous in South and Middle America are only found in specific regions of the world.
  • Others like the Pheasants are widespread in Old World, particularly Africa and Asia. Like ground cover, camouflage avoids danger.
  • Shy, secretive, favouring forest floors. Walk or run if danger threatens, flight usually a last resort.


The Takahe (right) was photographed on Tiritiri Matangi Island, New Zealand where it feeds on grass tussocks.


It has no predators and has become flightless. The frontal shield is reminiscent of the Swamphens to which it is closely related. It is listed in family Rallidae.


Also listed in family Rallidae are two Nativehens.


The Tasmanian Nativehen (left) is known as a secondary grazer because it feeds on grass shoots which lie close to the ground due to the action of other grazers. Like the Takahe it has very little to fear from predators.

Pheasants and related birds.

The Red-legged Partridge (right) photographed in the UK, serves to illustrate the typical body form of most of these birds.


Not surprisingly, because they probably originated in Asia these birds, listed in family Phasianidae (179 species), are quite widespread throughout the Old World region. Asia has 48%, Africa 26% and Europe 17%.

Australia surprisingly has only three species of Quail – other birds which are present are the result of introductions.

The New World region has only 7% of the Phasianidae species and they are completely absent from South America! Surprising at first - but it’s the Gondwanaland effect again, as you will see if you read on.

Francolins and Spurfowl.


Within family Phasianidae the Francolins and Spurfowl (41 species) of Africa and Asia are reminiscent of the Megapodes and could well be the counterparts of the Tinamous (see below). They both occupy a wide range of habitats at various elevations. Hildebrandt's Francolin (left) was photographed at Tsavo West in Kenya.


These birds in family Tinamidae like the same habitat as the Pheasants but they got to South America first! They were amongst the earliest of our modern birds, evolving in Gondwanaland when this land mass broke up.


A range of species (49) have established a variety of niches ranging from open grassland to dense forest and at elevations ranging from 500 to 4000 metres. These birds are clumsy fliers and only cover short distances, which perhaps explains their isolation in South America. I photographed the Great Tinamou (right) on a birding trip to Costa Rica.

New World Quail

These birds are only found in the Americas.


The California Quail and Gambel’s Quail (left) favour thickets, desert scrublands and canyons where they forage on the ground for leaves, shoots and fallen fruit. They like brushy habitats and run for cover when danger threatens.They were both fairly easy to see in Arizona.


The Greater Roadrunner (right), although a member of the Cuckoo family, is so similar to the two Quail mentioned above that I feel I have to include it here. They were photographed in the same habitat.

Concluding Remarks.

These birds are listed in 3 families Timamidae, Phasianidae, Odontophoridae with 3 further species in Rallidae and 1 in Cuculidae. Together they account for about 2.6% of the word's species.