Phasianus meleagris Linnaeus, 1758, Africa = Nubia, Upper Nile. Nine subspecies.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
French: Pintade de Numidie; German: Helmperlhuhn; Spanish: Pintade Comъn. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS 20–25 in (50–63 cm), 2.5–3.5 lb (1.15–1.6 kg) male and female. Plumage mainly blackish gray with white spots and lines. Widespread variation among the subspecies in the head adornments (filoplumes, cere, wattles, and casque).
N. m. sabyi (probably extinct): northwestern Morocco; N. m. galeata: sub-Saharan, to northern Senegal and into northern Angola; N. m. meleagris: sub-Saharan, north of equator to Sudan and western Ethiopia; N. m. somaliensis: eastern Ethiopia to Eritrea and Somalia; N. m. reichenowi: Kenya and central Tanzania; N. m. mitrata: western and eastern Tanzania to northern Mozambique; N. m. marungensis: southern Congo to Angola and western Zambia; N. m. damarensis: extreme southwestern Angola to Namibia and western Botswana; N. m. coronata: Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique and South Africa.
Open savannas, woodland and dry thorn-scrub.
Highly social and vocal; sexually dimorphic. Usually in flocks of up to 35 individuals but may form aggregations of more than 1,000 birds in feeding areas. The timing of roosting is strongly correlated to the time of sunset, with later roosting on longer days. In May 1970 on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, a flock of domesticated helmeted guineafowl took to their roost during a total eclipse of the sun at midday.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Active forager, mainly on the ground. Forages opportunistically on what is abundant. Omnivorous.
Apparently monogamous. 12–23 eggs with 24–27 day incubation time. Both parents feed and care for newly hatched chicks, known as downy keets. Breeding period varies depending on subspecies and rainfall patterns.
Widespread and common at the continental scale, but recent documentation indicates significant declines in parts of the range, probably due to habitat destruction.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Probably Africa’s (and certainly southern Africa’s) most popular terrestrial gamebird. Domesticated in Europe and introduced elsewhere.
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