Types of Fowl Birds

Written by Niccoy Walker
Published: January 25, 2023
© Sb616 / Creative Commons / Original
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The word “fowl” was once used to describe any bird species, but today the term is more specific. It describes birds in the Galliformes and Anseriformes orders, which include waterfowl, gamefowl, and landfowl. Fowl are typically domesticated and raised for producing meat, eggs, and feathers. Discover nine types of fowl birds and learn about their appearance, diet, and habitats.

Chickens

Domestic chickens are one of the most widespread domesticated animals in the world, numbering almost 24 billion. Chickens are often seen on farms and homesteads where they’re bred for meat and eggs.

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The domestic chicken is a species of junglefowl from Southeast Asia, with ancestry dating back six million years ago. Chickens are often seen on farms and homesteads where they’re bred for meat and eggs. However, some are kept as pets. They are one of the most widespread domesticated animals in the world, numbering almost 24 billion. They are gregarious birds, living in flocks and communally incubating their eggs. While most chickens live in captivity, these birds prefer areas with open canopies and underlying shrubs. They are omnivores and their usual diet consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, and table scraps.

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Ducks

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Ducks can serve many purposes on the farm whether it is providing eggs or meat or even helping with pest control. Many species in warmer locations are permanent residents in their water habitats, but some in the northern hemisphere will migrate for the winter.

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“Duck” is a generic term for many species of waterfowl belonging to the same family as swans and geese, except they are smaller and shorter-necked. They are primarily aquatic birds and are found in both freshwater and saltwater. Ducks are domesticated and wild and live on every continent except Antarctica. Many species in warmer locations are permanent residents in their water habitats, but some in the northern hemisphere will migrate for the winter. These birds have a wide-ranging diet, such as aquatic plants, grasses, insects, fish, amphibians, worms, and mollusks.

Geese

Canadian geese, Canada goose
Geese are found in captivity and the wild, often forming permanent pairs. These birds typically live in areas around water, such as ponds, marshes, and lakes.

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A goose can refer to several waterfowl species (snow goose, Canada goose, etc.) in the Anatidae family. These birds can be found in captivity and the wild, often forming permanent pairs. They are territorial during the nesting season and create V-shaped formations when migrating. They do not always migrate but will move in response to food and water supply. These birds typically live in areas around water, such as ponds, marshes, and lakes. But you can also find them on golf courses, school grounds, and other urban and suburban areas.

Turkeys

Wild turkey
Domesticated turkeys live their lives on farms, but wild turkeys inhabit forests, mountains, woods, swamps, and grasslands.

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Turkeys are large ground-dwelling birds native to North America. They are among the largest birds in their range and feature a fleshy wattle that hangs from the top of their beaks. They belong to the Galliformes order and are close relatives to the grouse. The indigenous peoples of North America bred wild turkeys, and the earliest recorded fossils were 20 million years old. Domesticated turkeys live their lives on farms, but wild turkeys inhabit forests, mountains, woods, swamps, and grasslands. These birds eat fruits, nuts, plant matter, seeds, and insects. 

Swans

Two whooper swans swimming in the lake in Finland
Swans live in temperate environments, inhabiting ponds, lakes, slow-moving rivers, and marshes. You are more likely to find them in the wild than in captivity.

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Swans are another group of waterfowl closely related to ducks and geese. There are six living swan species and many more that are extinct. These birds are popular for their elegant stature and preference for mating for life, only taking up with another if their long-term mate dies. Swans live in temperate environments, typically avoiding the tropics. You are more likely to find these birds in the wild than in captivity, where they inhabit ponds, lakes, slow-moving rivers, and marshes. They mainly consume aquatic vegetation but also eat mollusks, fish, frogs, and worms.

Guineafowls

Birds that eat ticks: Guineafowl
Guineafowl typically spend their days in captivity traveling behind herd animals, eating pest species, like ticks, locusts, and other invertebrates.

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Guineafowl is endemic to Africa and is among the oldest in the Galliformes order. They have been introduced to most other parts of the world as domestic fowl birds. In the United States, you will find these birds on farms and homesteads, where they are processed for their meat and eggs. They are firmer and leaner than chicken meat but have a stronger gamey flavor. These ground-nesting birds eat insects and seeds and are typically monogamous. They typically spend their days in captivity traveling behind herd animals, eating pest species, like ticks, locusts, and other invertebrates. Guineafowls in the wild are strong fliers, sustaining themselves in the air for considerable distances when fleeing predators. In their Sub-Saharan African environment, they live in savannas, semi-deserts, and forests.

Quails

Blue-headed quail-dove or blue-headed partridge-dove - Starnoenas cyanocephala walking on ground. Photo from Cueva de los Peces Cuba.
You can find quail in the wild, but people also keep them in captivity and raise them for meat and eggs.

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The quail is a medium-sized bird in the Galliformes order, and you can identify them by their mottled plumage and top knots on their heads. You can find quail in the wild, but people also keep them in captivity and raise them for meat and eggs. Those in the wild inhabit woodlands, croplands, grasslands, and farmlands. Many are bred to live on game farms where people can hunt them. To increase their wild population, many farms and homesteads breed them to release them into their natural habitats. These birds are omnivores and consume grains, seeds, berries, vegetation, and insects. They are opportunistic eaters in the wild but will eat store-bought feed in captivity.

Partridges

Gray partridge walking on sand
Farmers raise partridges in captivity to use for meat or they release them onto hunting grounds where others can hunt them for their meat.

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The partridge is another ground-dwelling medium-sized bird in the Galliformes order, smaller than a pheasant but larger than a quail. They have a wide native distribution in Europe, Asia, and Africa, with some species being introduced to the Americas. They live in forests or agricultural land in the wild. But species in the United States are primarily used as game birds. Farmers raise them in captivity to use for meat or they release them onto hunting grounds where others can hunt them for their meat. They are lean meat with a strong, aromatic, and mild game flavor. But some like to keep these birds around for lawn maintenance because they are quick to gobble up unwanted garden weeds, like dandelions and their seeds.

Peafowls

Most people refer to male and female peafowl as “peacocks.” You may know them for their brightly patterned feathers that fan out and quiver.

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Peafowl is a term used to describe three species in the Phasianidae family and male peafowls are known as peacocks. However, most people refer to male and female peafowl as “peacocks.” You may know them for their brightly patterned feathers that fan out and quiver. Males display their ornately adorned feathers to show their physical fitness and to attract females. They are not the most common birds on a farm, but these species live in captivity and also in the wild. While you can eat peacocks, many keep them for pest control and guards. These birds scream when they see intruders. In the wild, they prefer open lowland forests and agricultural fields. 

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

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