Ruffed Grouse

Associated Smithsonian Expert: Gary R. Graves, Ph.D.

Dr. Gary Graves had an early childhood fascination with birds that eventually led him to his role as curator of birds at the National Museum of Natural History.

Photo by Don Hurlburt, Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Gary Graves is a research zoologist and curator of birds at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where his research focuses on the ecology, biogeography, and evolution of birds. His early childhood fascination with birds led to graduate studies at Louisiana State University and Florida State University: "I am unapologetically curious about natural history and the ways that natural history observations catalyze important ecological and evolutionary discoveries." His dissertation work focused on speciation of birds in the Andes Mountains of Peru. He has also conducted fieldwork in Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Polynesia, Canada, and in more than half the states in the USA. His current research efforts are split between the analysis of complex data sets based on the collective resources of the World's great museums and conducting field research in Jamaica, the great forests of the eastern USA, and in the Sonoran Desert.

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This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.

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Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) puffed out and strutting
Courtesy of Rober Burton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, public domain


About Gallinaceous Birds (Order Galliformes): Defense

Gallinaceous birds (also known as game birds) spend the majority of their time on the ground, using their feet to scratch for seeds, fruit, and insects. Although their plumage tends to be mottled brown, providing camouflage, they are an attractive meal for terrestrial predators like raccoons and foxes. Their best defenses are their enlarged flight muscles, giving them the ability to take off in a hurry. Those same enlarged muscles are what make chicken breast a substantial meal for humans. But gallinaceous birds reserve flight for real emergencies, usually first running from danger on their strong legs. If running away is not enough, they burst off the ground in nearly vertical flight. When threatened, a gallinaceous bird communicates it with body language. Picture the puffed out chest and raised head of an angry chicken.