Guinea fowl (lat. Numididae) - a family of birds from the order of chickens living in Africa and Madagascar. One of the representatives of this family, the common guinea fowl, is domesticated.
The size of guinea fowl ranges from 40 to 70 cm. They have a short, downward tail. Unlike the body, due to the dense plumage that seems roundish, the head and neck of guinea fowl are mostly not covered with feathers. All species have dark plumage, speckled with small round light spots.
By way of life, they almost do not differ from each other. They keep in herds in mountainous areas covered with dense bushes and small forest alternating with small open glades. They run fast and fly reluctantly, as the flight quickly tires them. They feed on both insects and plant food: berries, seeds, buds, leaves, etc. Pulling out young plants and germinating seeds, in some places they bring significant harm to cultivated plants.
When nesting in freedom, they are apparently divided into pairs. A hole in the ground serves as a nest. Clutch consists of 5-8 yellowish-white eggs.
People and guinea fowl
The Latin name of the family comes from the common guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) living in the Atlas Mountains, which the ancient Greeks and Romans called Numidia... Already in antiquity, the keeping of guinea fowls as pets began. Guinea fowls are easy to tame, but also run wild under suitable conditions. In the past, in this way, the guinea fowl brought to the West Indies and Jamaica became wild, multiplied and became partly the scourge of the country.
Previously, guinea fowl were considered one of the subfamilies (Latin Numidinae) of pheasant birds (English Phasianidae), in which up to 10 species were distinguished.
According to the modern classification, the family is represented by four genera and six species:
- Vulture guinea fowl (Acryllium)
- Vulture guinea fowl (Acryllium vulturinum)
- Dark guinea fowl (Agelastes)
- White-bellied dark guinea fowl (Agelastes meleagrides)
- Black dark guinea fowl (Agelastes niger)
- Crested guinea fowl (Guttera)
- Smooth-crested guinea fowl (Guttera plumifera)
- Chubatian guinea fowl (Guttera pucherani)
- Guinea fowl (Numida)
- Common guinea fowl (Numida meleagris)
Brief description of individual species
The most famous genus of the family is the guinea fowl (lat. Numida), containing one species - the common guinea fowl. It is distinguished by a more or less naked head with various outgrowths or appendages, a slightly hooked, laterally compressed beak of moderate size, short, rounded wings and a short tail covered with cover feathers.
In East Africa, a larger (up to 60 cm long) and more beautiful vulture guinea fowl (Acryllium vulturinum). The bare head, almost without outgrowths, is decorated with a collar of velvety reddish-brown feathers, stretching across the back of the head. Elongated blue neck feathers with black and white longitudinal stripes. The plumage of the chest is black, on the sides it is blue. The upper side of the body is colored like that of an ordinary guinea fowl.
In South Africa, there is a forelock guinea fowl (Guttera pucherani) with a dense tuft of feathers on the head.