Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris
Helmeted Guineafowl are very large, 25" (61cm) birds, with a blue bare-skinned face & neck, with wattles behind the bill, surmounted by a tan-coloured bony casque on its crown. The bill is horn-coloured. They have black plumage, with spots of white that become vermiculated on the wings. The blank-looking eyes are brown, when seen in good light. Legs and long-toed feet are black.
There are two main sub-species of Helmeted Guineafowl in Kenya. The species in the north, (Numida meleagris meleagris
) has a white-barred collar beneath the black hindneck and blue (not red) wattles. The species in the south (Numida meleagris reichenowi
) does not have the collar and its wattles are red. Habits
Helmeted Guineafowl are gregarious birds, seen in flocks of around 25 individuals. Often seen in the open, but never far from trees, in which they roost and fly to, taking refuge from their many predators, including the Serval Cat
and African Hawk Eagle. Although they prefer to run, rather than fly and partially raise their wings over their backs when running.
They make nests on the ground, scraping the earth in a well-hidden place, often under a bush. They lay up to 12 eggs, usually one per day, which are incubated for around 28 days by the female. Once hatched, the male tends the chicks, showing them where to find food and at 1 week old, after rapid wing-growth, they can fly to roost and are fairly independent. Diet
Helmeted Guineafowl are omnivorous, eating both animal and plant food; seeds, fruits, tubers and insects. They have long, strong claws and scratch in loose soil and dung, particularly that of Elephant
, looking for food. Resident
Helmeted Guineafowl are seen in Kenya, in a line from the east of the Ethiopian border, in all areas to the west of Shaba NR leading down to the estuary of Tana River. Generally found in savannas, bush and woodlands. Extra Helmeted Guineafowl Facts
Helmeted Guineafowl are as popular a food today as they were during Roman and ancient Greeks times, but not generally eaten in Kenya. They were re-introduced into Europe from Guinea (where presumably they got their name) by Portugese navigators in 16th century. Photographs
Photographed at Kenya's Masai Mara, Nairobi NP and Olare Orok Conservancy.