HELMETED GUINEAFOWL

The Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) is an iconic grassland bird that has endeared itself to residents and tourists alike. Curios abound showing off their clearly identifiable black or grey plumage with vivid white spots: tiny clay figurines, cloths, mugs, brooches and table mats.

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Everyone seems to feel an affinity for these birds with characteristically bald faces and necks covered with blue skin. The wattles are red and they have a triangular horn-shaped casque or ‘helmet’ on their crown.

Flocks of them were present on my father’s farm. He didn’t use insecticide when growing cotton, arguing that the guineafowl did the job for him as they ranged through the cotton lands, picking off the pests as they went. They make for good eating too and have been hunted for sport. My father, however, would only shoot one now and then – strictly for the pot – as he wished to encourage their presence on the farm.

They forage on the ground, although fly up when disturbed. As evening approached I would sometimes see them roosting in the lower branches of trees on the farm. Their chuckling cackle remains one of my favourite sounds in the wild. I was delighted to hear that sound when we moved to the Eastern Cape and loved seeing them out in the open when we walked through the veld on the hill opposite our home. Alas, the area has become pitted with houses and the guineafowl have either been hunted out or chased away by dogs, people or the traffic.

Catching sight of them in the veld still lifts my spirits and transports me back to my growing up years, so far in time and distance from where I am now.

Here a small flock of Helmeted Guineafowl can be seen pecking in the grass in front of the Ngulube Waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park.

19 thoughts on “HELMETED GUINEAFOWL

  1. Hier in ons dorp, waar omtrent alles toegebou is, is ‘n hele trop tarentale. Hulle bly in die parkie naby ‘n dam. Dis so lekker om hulle te hoor skree. Dankie vir die mooi artikel, Anne.

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    • I think they are very attractive birds. They have inspired countless artefacts – note the metal one in the garden featured in the first photograph.

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  2. So interesting that your father let the guineafowl keep the the cotton pest free. They are delightful birds, full of character and always lovely to see.
    The dryness at the Ngulube waterhole is a bit of a shock to see in your photo as I have only seen it in a season when there had been at least superficial rains.

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