|Helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris)|
de Sélys Longchamps, 1842
The guineafowl (//; 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 as wild birds have been introduced elsewhere.
Taxonomy and systematics
- Genus Agelastes
- Genus Numida
- Helmeted guineafowl, Numida meleagris
- Genus Guttera
- Genus Acryillium
- Vulturine guineafowl, Acryllium vulturinum
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 Wild 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. 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.
Guineafowl as Food
Guineafowl is commonly eaten in parts of Africa (notably Nigeria and Botswana), India and North America (notably in the state of Georgia). It is consumed at Christmas time in parts of Central and Northern Europe (notably in Belgium and the UK) and is consumed as an alternative in some Anglo-Saxon countries as an alternative to a Christmas turkey (or holiday turkey).
Guinea fowl meat is drier and leaner than chicken meat and has a gamey flavour. It has marginally more protein than Chicken or Turkey, roughly half the fat of chicken and slightly less calories per gram. Guineafowl eggs are substantially richer than chicken eggs. It is largely a speciality meat in Anglo-Saxon markets with limited marketing.
Head of a vulturine guineafowl
- (Madge and McGowan, p. 345–352)
- World Poultry Vol. 25 No. 10, 2009
- Guinea Fowl Production. Dr. Ross Gordon Cooper, Dr. Shahram Golzar Adabi. 2012. ISBN 9781471699948
- USDA handbook #8 and circular #549, leclercq 1985
- 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