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Nearly all of the gallinaceous birds that are native to North America are included in two taxonomic groups, the grouse-like species of the subfamily Tetraoninae, and the quail-like species of the subfamily Odontophorinae. The former represent a temperate and subarctic group of about sixteen species which collectively have a widespread distribution in the Northern Hemisphere, and over half of which are found in North America. The latter group is a strictly Western Hemisphere assemblage that collectively includes about thirty species, almost half of which occur north of the Mexico-Guatemala border. Most of the remaining quails are tropical forest birds of northern and western South America about which very little is known. Thus, evidence suggests that North America was originally doubly colonized by early gallinaceous stock; from the south by basically tropical-forest-adapted birds that have evolved into the present array of quail species, and from the north by relatively arctic-adapted forms that have given rise to the present species of ptarmigans and grouse. Convergent evolution of these two separate but related stocks has since allowed much of North America to become inhabited by birds having similar ecological adaptations and in some cases overlapping distributions.
Within each of the two ancestral groups, evolutionary radiation has developed an interesting spectrum of anatomical variations, ecological adaptations, and behavioral specializations. These latter two aspects—adaptational niche variations associated with habitat differences, and behavioral variations associated with maximal reproductive efficiencies under varied climates, habitats and contacts with associated species—are the primary subjects of this book. Anatomical and physiological considerations will be given some attention in the early chapters, but the primary focus will be on the living bird in its natural environment.
This complete work is 654 pages, including 140 color and black-and-white plates. The PDF file of the whole book is 48 megabytes. All chapters and species descriptions are also posted here separately, for faster downloading of specific portions.