Guineafowl

   Numida meleagris

Numida meleagris

The Guineafowl is a large (53-58 cm) bird with a round body and small head. They weigh about 1.3 kg. The body plumage is grey-black spangled with white. Like other Guineafowl, this species has an unfeathered head, in this case, decorated with a dull yellow or reddish bony knob, and red and blue patches of skin. The wings are short and rounded, and the tail is also short. This species is also known as the Helmeted Guineafowl and has been widely introduced into Europe. It is farmed domestically and used as a hunting or game bird similar to other species of pheasant and turkey. These Guineafowls live as long as 12 years in the wild.

Some small feral populations exist in Australia. The bird is native to Africa, south of the Sahara Desert.

Reproduction

It breeds in warm, fairly dry and open habitats with scattered shrubs and trees, such as savanna or farmland. It lays its large clutch of 20-30 eggs in a well-hidden lined scrape, and the females incubate the eggs for 26-28 days. The chicks are cryptically coloured and rapid wing growth enables them to flutter onto low branches barely a week after hatching.

Behaviour

This is a gregarious species, forming flocks outside the breeding season, typically of about 25 birds that also roost communally. Guineafowl are particularly well suited to consuming massive quantities of Lyme disease-carrying ticks. These birds are terrestrial and prone to run, rather than fly, when alarmed. Helmeted Guineafowl are great runners, and can readily cover 10 km and more in a day. They are, however, like most short and broad-winged birds, very agile and powerful flyers, capable of hovering and even flying backwards when necessary. They make loud harsh calls when disturbed and have well-developed spurs to use to great effect when fighting.

Diet

Their diet consists of a variety of animal and plant food; seeds, fruits, greens, snails, spiders, worms and insects, frogs, lizards, small snakes and small mammals. Guineafowl are equipped with strong claws and scratch in the soil for food much like domestic chickens.

Status

Common.

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