Birding

6 Fowl That Are Not To Be Forgotten

Turkeys and chickens tend to get all of the attention. Spread the love and learn about six other fowl.

It’s getting close to Thanksgiving, a time to celebrate the Wild Turkey, a bird that once almost disappeared due to overhunting. Galliform, or game birds, have played a very important role for humans long before and beyond this holiday tradition—the chicken was selectively bred at least 4,000 years ago from indigenous Asian jungle fowl, and per capita consumption of chicken in the U.S. in 2014 was almost 85 pounds. But turkeys and chickens aren’t the only ones worth talking about—North America has a number of gallinaceous birds indigenous to its shores.

Here are some of our favorites:

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhites. Photo: Stephen Pollard/Audubon Photography Awards

The Northern Bobwhite is the only native quail in the eastern portion of the U.S.. This delightful bird sleeps in groups of 10 or 12 on the ground, each with its tail pointing toward the center of the circle and its head facing outward.

California Quail

California Quail. Photo: Joseph Rossi/Audubon Photography Awards

The state bird of California, these guys are found up and down the Pacific coast. Their distinctive topknot may look like a single feather, but it’s really six overlapping feathers. 

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse. Photo: James Stafford/Audubon Photography Awards

These ground-dwelling birds can digest toxic plants that other birds can't. Their populations cycle in accordance to that of the snowshoe hare: when the hares aren’t around, predators focus on grouse, suppressing their numbers. The Ruffed Grouse was so popular as a game bird that it became the object of North America’s earliest game-management efforts: in 1708, New York declared that Ruffed Grouse could not be hunted during certain times of the year.

Willow Ptarmigan

Willow Ptarmigan. Photo: Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith/Flickr Creative Commons

The Willow Ptarmigan is the official state bird of Alaska, and is also the largest of North America’s three ptarmigan species. In winter the bird is all white, and feathers on its feet serve as built-in snowshoes.

Dusky Grouse 

Dusky Grouse. Photo: Mark Williams/Audubon Photography Awards

...and Sooty Grouse

Sooty Grouse. Photo: Barrett Pierce/Audubon Photography Awards

Once considered a single species Blue Grouse, these two western birds are now split into two species due to differences in their breeding habitats and slight appearance distinctions. These birds are third-largest grouse in North America; only the two sage-grouse are larger.