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Guinea Fowl

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Guinea Fowl

For the guineafowl butterflies, see Hamanumida.
Guineafowl
Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Numididae
de Sélys Longchamps, 1842
Genera

The guineafowl (/ˈɡɪnifl/; sometimes called guineahen) are a family of birds in the Galliformes order, although some authorities (for example the American Ornithologists' Union) include the guineafowl as a subfamily, Numidinae, of the family Phasianidae. The guineafowl are native to Africa, but the Helmeted Guineafowl has been domesticated, and both feral and wild-type birds have been introduced elsewhere.

Taxonomy and systematics

This is a list of guineafowl species, presented in taxonomic order.

Description

This family of insect and seed-eating, ground-nesting birds resemble partridges, but with featherless heads, though both members of the genus Guttera have a distinctive black crest, and the Vulturine Guineafowl has a downy brown patch on the nape. Most species of guineafowl have a dark grey or blackish plumage with dense white spots, but both members of the genus Agelastes lack the spots (as do some domestic variants of the Helmeted Guineafowl). While several species are relatively well known, the Plumed Guineafowl and the two members of the genus Agelastes remain relatively poorly known. These large birds measure from 40–71 cm (16–28 inches) in length, and weigh 700–1600 (grams) or 1.5-3.5 (pounds)

Behaviour and ecology

The species for which the information is known are normally monogamous, mating for life; however, occasional exceptions have been recorded for the Helmeted Guineafowl.[1] All guineafowl are social, and typically live in small groups.

Distribution and habitat

Guineafowl species are found across sub-Saharan Africa, some almost in the entire range, others more localised, such as the Plumed Guineafowl in west-central Africa and the Vulturine Guineafowl in north-east Africa . They live in semi-open habitats such as savanna or semideserts, while some, such as the Black Guineafowl, mainly inhabit forests.

The Helmeted Guineafowl has been domesticated and introduced outside its natural range, for example in southern France (where they are known as pintade), the West Indies, the United States and India, where it is raised as food.

Domesticated guineafowl

Guineafowl have a long history of domestication, mainly involving the Helmeted Guineafowl; in the UK they were usually known as "gleanies". The young (called "keets") are very small at birth. The keets are kept in a brooder box inside the house until about six weeks of age, before being moved into a proper coop or enclosure. They eat lice, worms, ants, spiders, weedseeds, and ticks while on range, or they can also eat chicken layer crumbles (one kind of commercial bird feed) while housed in a coop. The cooked flesh of guineafowl resembles chicken in texture, with a flavour somewhere between chicken and turkey. Its flesh has also been compared to that of pheasant, only juicier. The guinea is also considered dark meat, thus making its carcass the foundation to rich and flavorful stocks.[2] Guinea fowl are sometimes used to control ticks.[3]

References

Further reading

  • Madge and McGowan, Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse. ISBN 0-7136-3966-0
  • Martínez, I. (1994). "Family Numididae (Guineafowl)", p. 554–570 in; del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 2. New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-15-6

External links

  • Smallholder Directory
  • Guineafowl videos on the Internet Bird Collection
  • SPPA article on Guinea Fowl Early Birds: Guinea Fowl by Dennis Headley
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