Helmeted Guineafowl

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Birds

iHelmeted Guineafowl

Conservation status

Least Concern (LC)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Numididae
Genus: Numida
Linnaeus, 1766
Species: N. meleagris
Binomial name
Numida meleagris
Linnaeus, 1758

The Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) is the best known of the guineafowl bird family, Numididae, and the only member of the genus Numida. It breeds in Africa, mainly south of the Sahara, and has been widely introduced into the West Indies and southern France.

It breeds in warm, fairly dry and open habitats with scattered shrubs and trees such as savanna or farmland. It lays its large clutch of 20-30 eggs in a well-hidden lined scrape, and the females incubate the eggs for 26-28 days. These guineafowl live as long as 12 years in the wild.

The Helmeted Guineafowl is a large (53-58 cm) bird with a round body and small head. They weigh about 1.3 kg. The body plumage is gray-black spangled with white. Like other guineafowl, this species has an unfeathered head, in this case decorated with a dull yellow or reddish bony knob, and red and blue patches of skin. The wings are short and rounded, and the tail is also short.

This is a gregarious species, forming flocks outside the breeding season typically of about 25 birds. Its diet consists of seeds and small invertebrates. GuineaFowl are particularly well suited to consuming massive quantities of lyme disease carrying ticks. This guineafowl is terrestrial, and are more prone to run rather than fly when alarmed. They are, however, very agile and powerful flyers. Helmeted Guineafowl are great runners, and can run 5 km in a day. It makes loud harsh calls when disturbed. Their diet consists of a variety of animal and plant food; seeds, berries, greens, small snails, spiders, and insects.

In the early days of the European colonisation of North America, the native Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) was confused with this species. This led to the English name of the American bird, since Turkey and Guinea were equally far-off and exotic places. The word meleagris, Greek for guineafowl, is also shared in the scientific names of the two species, although for the guineafowl it is the species name, whereas for the turkey, it is the name of the genus and (in an altered state) the family.


Helmeted Guineafowl is often domesticated, and it is this species that is sold in Western supermarkets.

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