waterfowl, common term for members of the order Anseriformes, wild, aquatic, typically freshwater birds including ducks, geese, and screamers. In Great Britain the term is also used to designate species kept for ornamental purposes on private lakes or ponds, while in North America it is used for quarry species and is sometimes extended to refer to wading birds of the order Charadriiformes, such as plovers and sandpipers, as well as to other edible water birds. The hunting of any of these birds is known most generally as duck hunting. In Britain quarry species are referred to as wildfowl and their hunting as wildfowling. British wildfowling, formerly done with nets, is now done with shotguns, as is duck hunting in North America, but the practices differ in some respects. In North America the birds are typically shot as they approach to investigate rubber, wooden, plastic, or other decoys. The British, however, manipulate the birds by deliberately feeding them at certain places, a practice generally outlawed in North America, where hunting tends to be more strictly legislated. Waterfowl are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, orders Anseriformes and Charadriiformes.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.