game birds, a term used variously for all birds of the order Galliformes (gallinaceous, or chickenlike, birds), for certain quarry species within this order, and for a variety of quarry birds of several other orders. In Britain game bird refers particularly to partridge, grouse, and quail. In North America the term may include various gallinaceous birds such as quail and turkey, aquatic quarry birds such as duck and geese, and shorebirds such as woodcock, snipe, and plover. Game birds are hunted extensively, especially in the English-speaking world, and a number of dogs, including pointers, setters, and retrievers, have been specially bred for this purpose. Laws designating game birds and licensing their hunting were originally enacted in England to protect the privileges of nobility. Today, many countries enact licensing laws (see game laws), but these are generally for the protection of the animals rather than the hunters.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.