The helmeted guineafowl is the best known of the guineafowl bird family, Numididae, and the only member of
the genus Numida. It is native to Africa, mainly south of the Sahara, and has been widely introduced into the
West Indies, Brazil, Australia and Europe (e.g. southern France).
The helmeted 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 gray-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. Various sub-species are proposed, differences in
appearance being mostly a large variation in shape, size and colour of the casque and facial wattles.
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 ticks,
which might otherwise spread lyme disease. These birds are terrestrial, and prone to run rather than fly when
alarmed. Like most gallinaceous birds, they have a short-lived explosive flight and rely on gliding to cover
extended distances. Helmeted guineafowl are great runners, and can walk 10 km and more in a day. They make
loud harsh calls when disturbed. 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 loose soil for food much like domestic chickens, although they
seldom uproot growing plants in so doing. As with all of the numididae, they have no spurs.
Males often show aggression towards each other, and will partake in aggressive fighting which may leave other
males bloodied and otherwise injured. They will attempt to make themselves look more fearsome by raising
their wings upwards from their sides and bristling their feathers across the length of the body, and they
may also rush towards their opponent with a gaping beak. The nest is a well-hidden, generally unlined scrape
and a clutch is normally 6-12 eggs which the female incubates for 26-28 days. Nests containing larger
numbers of eggs are generally believed to be the result of more than one hen using the nest; eggs are large
and an incubating bird could not realistically cover significantly more than a normal clutch. Domestic
birds at least, are notable for producing extremely thick-shelled eggs that are reduced to fragments as the
young birds, known as keets, hatch rather than leaving two large sections and small chips from where any
keet has removed the end of the egg. It has been noted that domesticated guineafowl hens are not the best of
mothers, and will often abandon their nests. The keets are cryptically coloured and rapid wing growth
enables them to flutter onto low branches barely a week after hatching. They may live for up to 12 years in
Helmeted guinea fowl are seasonally reproducing birds. Summer is the peak breeding season in which testes
could weigh up to 1.6 gm while during winter no breeding activity takes place. Serum testosterone level is
up to 5.37 ng/ ml during breeding season.
It breeds in warm, fairly dry and open habitats with scattered shrubs and trees such as savanna or farmland.
Flocks of guineafowl have flourished in recent years in the Northern and Southern Suburbs of Cape Town,
where they seem to have adapted remarkably well. The flocks move slowly along the quieter suburban roads,
looking for food on the grassy 'pavements' and in gardens where the fence is low enough for some to enter
without feeling separated from the flock. They often roost at night on the roofs of bungalows. While
residents generally appreciate the local wildlife, it can be a nuisance, obstructing traffic and making a
lot of noise in the early morning. Their success is probably due to the large but cautious flock they can
fend off cats, do not enter gardens with dogs, and are visible enough in the quiet roads in which they live
to avoid being run over. Although many young guineafowl manage to fall down drains (and are left behind by
the flock), it is not enough to restrain their numbers. Adult birds are sometimes caught and eaten by the
Zoológico de Vallarta A. C.
Leave your comments, your opinion is important to us