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Helmeted Guinea Fowl

Numida meleagris

  1. Not Evaluated
  2. Data Deficient
  3. Least Concern
  4. Near Threatened
  5. Vulnerable
  6. Endangered
  7. Critically Endangered
  8. Extinct in the Wild
  9. Extinct

About Us

Woburn Safari Park is home to a large flock of Helmeted Guinea Fowl, you will certainly hear these noisy birds before you see them! Find them free roaming in the Foot Safari Area.

Distribution
Africa, West Indies and southern France
Habitat
Moist savannah, woodland, dry scrub
Height
Length 45-53 cm
Weight
1-1.6 kg
Lifespan
Up to 15 years
Threats
Helmeted Guinea Fowl are still kept domestically and are farm raised birds for their meat and eggs.

Social structure

Helmeted Guinea Fowl are active, gregarious birds that travel in flocks, typically 25 birds. During the day, the flock spend much of the day on the ground foraging, preening and taking dust baths and have even been seen heading in single file toward the nearest drinking hole. During the heat of the day these birds will rest and seek shade. They are not agile fliers but they do manage short bursts of rapid flight and will return to its communal roosting sites in the trees during the night.

Diet

Helmeted Guinea Fowl feed on a combination of seeds, roots, tubers, corn kernels, grubs, rodents, small reptiles and crawling insects (grasshoppers or termites). They also occasionally feeds on vegetation and fruits.  When feeding in corn fields, the birds feed only on the kernels of fallen or discarded cobs. Therefore, they are not regarded by farmers as pests.

Physical features

The Helmeted Guinea Fowl has a bony, helmet like structure on its head rather than a crown of feathers. They have red and blue patches of skin and could also have a slight wattle. The body plumage is grey spangled with white spots, wings are short and rounded and the tail is also short. They have strong claws used for scratching in the soil.

Breeding behaviour

During breeding season the flock temporarily disperse in monogamous pairs and small groups of non-breeders. Males can become aggressive whilst they defend their females from other males. During courtship, males display for the females and makes food offerings. Once their bond is strengthened, the pair will build a nest on the ground by scraping out a depression and lining it with materials such as various vegetation and feathers. 

A female lays between 6-12 eggs and begins to incubate the entire clutch when the last egg is laid. Only she incubates the eggs, silently hidden in the tall grasses. After 26 to 28 days the eggs hatch almost simultaneously and within 1 to 3 months, the parent birds and their young re-join the flock.

Communication

Helmeted Guinea Fowl are extremely talkative. They use many different calls but are probably best known for their loud, cackling alarm cry. A flock will try to defend itself from predators, and is often loud and aggressive enough to succeed against many predators on land and in the sky!  If necessary, a flock will scatter, running for cover until danger passes. 

Threats and conservation

Helmeted Guinea Fowl are still kept domestically and are farm raised birds for their meat and eggs. Today, wild populations are now rarely hunted and because of their abundance and extensive range they are classified as least concern. 

Fun facts

Guinea Fowl are both monomorphic and monochromatic - meaning both sexes look and act alike.

The Guinea Fowl are a family of birds in the same order as the pheasants, turkeys and other game birds.

The ancient Romans domesticated Guinea Fowl for food.