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Guineafowl

Guineafowl

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The guineafowl are a family of birds in the Galliformes
Galliformes
Galliformes are an order of heavy-bodied ground-feeding domestic or game bird, containing turkey, grouse, chicken, New and Old World Quail, ptarmigan, partridge, pheasant, and the Cracidae. Common names are gamefowl or gamebirds, landfowl, gallinaceous birds or galliforms...

 order, although some authorities (for example the American Ornithologists' Union
American Ornithologists' Union
The American Ornithologists' Union is an ornithological organization in the USA. Unlike the National Audubon Society, its members are primarily professional ornithologists rather than amateur birders...

) include the guineafowl as a subfamily, Numidinae, of the family Phasianidae
Phasianidae
The Phasianidae is a family of birds which consists of the pheasants and partridges, including the junglefowl , Old World Quail, francolins, monals and peafowl. The family is a large one, and is occasionally broken up into two subfamilies, the Phasianinae, and the Perdicinae...

. The guineafowl are native to Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, but the Helmeted Guineafowl has been domesticated, and both feral and wild-type birds have been introduced
Introduced species
An introduced species — or neozoon, alien, exotic, non-indigenous, or non-native species, or simply an introduction, is a species living outside its indigenous or native distributional range, and has arrived in an ecosystem or plant community by human activity, either deliberate or accidental...

 elsewhere.

Description and ecology


This family of insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

 and seed-eating, ground-nesting birds resemble partridge
Partridge
Partridges are birds in the pheasant family, Phasianidae. They are a non-migratory Old World group.These are medium-sized birds, intermediate between the larger pheasants and the smaller quails. Partridges are native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East...

s, but with feather
Feather
Feathers are one of the epidermal growths that form the distinctive outer covering, or plumage, on birds and some non-avian theropod dinosaurs. They are considered the most complex integumentary structures found in vertebrates, and indeed a premier example of a complex evolutionary novelty. They...

less 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
Plumage
Plumage refers both to the layer of feathers that cover a bird and the pattern, colour, and arrangement of those feathers. The pattern and colours of plumage vary between species and subspecies and can also vary between different age classes, sexes, and season. Within species there can also be a...

 with dense white spots, but both members of the genus Agelastes lack the spots (as do some domestic
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

 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.

The species for which the information is known are normally monogamous, mating for life. However, occasional bigamy
Bigamy
In cultures that practice marital monogamy, bigamy is the act of entering into a marriage with one person while still legally married to another. Bigamy is a crime in most western countries, and when it occurs in this context often neither the first nor second spouse is aware of the other...

 has been recorded for the Helmeted Guineafowl . All guineafowl are social, and typically occur in small groups.

These large birds measure from 40-71 cm in length, and weigh 700-1600 g.

The Helmeted and Vulturine Guineafowl generally occur in open or semiopen habitats such as savanna or semideserts, while the remaining species of guineafowl mainly occur in forests.

The Helmeted Guineafowl has been domesticated and introduced outside its natural range, for example in southern France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 (where they are known as pintade), the West Indies, and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

Guinea fowl are sometimes used to control tick
Tick
Ticks are small arachnids in the order Ixodida, along with mites, constitute the subclass Acarina. Ticks are ectoparasites , living by hematophagy on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians...

s.

List of species in taxonomic order


This is a list of guineafowl species, presented in taxonomic order
Taxonomic order
Taxonomic sequence is a sequence followed in listing of taxa which aids ease of use and roughly reflects the evolutionary relationships among the taxa...

.
  • Genus Agelastes
    Agelastes
    Agelastes is a small genus of birds in the guineafowl family. It comprises two species:* White-breasted Guineafowl, Agelastes meleagrides* Black Guineafowl, Agelastes niger...

    • White-breasted Guineafowl
      White-breasted Guineafowl
      The White-breasted Guineafowl, Agelastes meleagrides is a medium-sized, up to 45cm long, terrestrial bird of the guineafowl family. It has a black plumage with a small, bare red head, white breast, long black tail, greenish brown bill and greyish feet...

      , Agelastes meleagrides
    • Black Guineafowl
      Black Guineafowl
      The Black Guineafowl, Agelastes niger, is a member of the guineafowl bird family. It is found in humid forests of Central Africa. It has large toes to grasp the ground, but tiny feet so it can still fly....

      , Agelastes niger
  • Genus Numida
    • Helmeted Guineafowl
      Helmeted Guineafowl
      The Helmeted Guineafowl is the best known of the guineafowl bird family, Numididae, and the only member of the genus Numida...

      , Numida meleagris
  • Genus Guttera
    Guttera
    Guttera is a small genus of birds in the guineafowl family. The two species are found in forests of sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike other guineafowl, they have a distinctive black crest.* Plumed Guineafowl, Guttera plumifera...

    • Plumed Guineafowl
      Plumed Guineafowl
      The Plumed Guineafowl is a member of the guineafowl bird family. It is found in humid primary forest in Central Africa. It resembles some subspecies of the Crested Guineafowl, but has a straighter and higher crest, and a relatively long wattle on either side of the bill...

      , Guttera plumifera
    • Crested Guineafowl
      Crested Guineafowl
      The Crested Guineafowl is a member of the Numididae, the guineafowl bird family. It is found in open forest, woodland and forest-savanna mosaics in sub-Saharan Africa. It has a total length of approximately 50 cm and weighs . The plumage is overall blackish with dense white spots...

      , Guttera pucherani
      • Kenya Crested Guineafowl, Guttera (pucherani) pucherani
      • Crested Guineafowl, Guttera (pucherani) edouardi
  • Genus Acryillium
    • Vulturine Guineafowl
      Vulturine Guineafowl
      The Vulturine Guineafowl is the largest extant guineafowl species.Systematically, Acryllium are only distantly related to other guineafowl genera. Their closest living relative, the White Breasted Guineafowl, Agelastes meleagrides inhabit primary forests in Central Africa. bird family,...

      , Acryllium vulturinum

Domesticated guineafowl



Guineafowl have a long history of domestication, mainly involving the Helmeted Guineafowl; in the UK they were usually known as "gleanies". The young (called "keets") are very small at birth. The keets are kept in a brooder box inside the house until about six weeks of age, before being moved into a proper coop or enclosure. They eat lice, worms, ants, spiders, weedseeds, and ticks while on range, or they can also eat chicken layer crumbles (one kind of commercial bird feed) while housed in a coop. The cooked flesh of guineafowl resembles chicken in texture, with a flavour somewhere between chicken and turkey.

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