Helmeted Guineafowl, Tarentaal, Numida meleagris
The Helmeted Guineafowl is a large bird 53 to 58 centimeters with a round body and a small head weighing about 1.3 kilograms. Their plumage is gray-black spangled with white. It has no feathers on its head. They are decorated with a dull yellow or reddish bony knob, bare skin with red, blue, or black hues. The wings are short and rounded, and the tail is short. Various sub-species are proposed, differences in appearance being mostly a variation in shape, size, and color of the casque and facial wattles.
This is a gregarious species, forming flocks of about 25 birds outside the breeding season that also roost communally. Guineafowl is particularly well-suited to consuming massive quantities of ticks, which might otherwise spread Lyme disease. They 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 can walk 10 km and more in a day.
Their diet consists of a variety of animal and plant food. During the non-breeding season, they consume corns, tubers, seeds, agricultural weeds, and various crop spillage. During the breeding season, more than 80% of their diet consists of beetles. Guineafowl is equipped with strong claws and scratches in loose soil for food, like domestic chickens, although they seldom uproot growing plants in so doing. They may live for up to 12 years in the wild.
Males often show aggression towards each other and will partake in aggressive fighting. 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. They may also rush towards their opponent with a gaping beak.
The nest is well-hidden in long grass or under a bush. They lay 6 to 19 light yellowing-brown eggs. Only the female incubates for 26 to 28 days. It has been noted that domesticated Guineafowl hens are not the best mothers and will often abandon their nests. They are seasonal breeders.
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” ~Frank Lloyd Write
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