What Are the Different Types of Poultry?

By Wendel Clark

When most people think of poultry, they typically only think of chicken or maybe turkey. However, there are dozens of varieties of poultry, ranging from squab to goose, to duck and more. All of the different types of poultry can be organized into four categories: landfowl, waterfowl, game and others.

Chickens on farm
credit: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
Chicken is a type of landfowl.

Domestic Landfowl

Portrait of male turkey in courtship display
credit: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
Turkeys are domestic landfowl.

Domestic landfowl are domesticated birds that belong to the scientific order of Galliformes. The most common variety of domestic landfowl is the chicken, which has been bred into several varieties both for its meat and eggs. The turkey is a large domestic landfowl that is common in the cuisine of the Anglo-Saxon world, particularly as a holiday meal for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Other types of domestic landfowl include the small guineafowl from Africa, domesticated pheasant and rhea. These types of poultry have light meat with a characteristically mild taste, making it well suited to being seasoned with herbs and spices.

Domestic Waterfowl

Duck swimming
credit: Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
Ducks are domestic waterfowl.

Domestic waterfowl include the domesticated version of waterborne birds. Duck is one of the most common varieties of domestic waterfowl, and is found in cuisines from around the world. The French dish, duck a l'orange, combines the strong flavors of duck with the sweet flavors or orange, while the Chinese dish, Peking duck is an elaborate multi-course meal made of duck including soup and mushu pancakes. Goose is another commonly used type of domestic waterfowl and is typically served in a fashion similar to roast chicken or turkey. Both duck and goose are used for the controversial product, foie gras. Mute swans are a variety of domestic waterfowl, and though they are edible, they are rarely eaten in modern times.

Game Birds

Pheasant in field
credit: NA/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
Wild pheasant

Game birds are undomesticated varieties of fowl that are hunted for food. Many game birds are wild versions of their domestic counterparts such as wild turkey, wild duck, wild goose and wild pheasant. Game birds typically have a more intense flavor than domesticated fowl. Most have more bitter flavor elements and wild waterfowl often have fish-like flavor elements due to their diets.

Other Poultry

Pair of ostrich on African savannah
credit: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
Ostrich offer lean red meat.

There are a few varieties of poultry that do not fall into the above categories. These include doves and pigeon—referred to as squab when eaten—and larger birds, such as the emu and ostrich. Ostrich and emu are varieties of poultry that offer lean red meat with a taste more characteristic of beef than of other poultry varieties.