Geographical Range Western, northeastern and southern Africa
Habitat Open country, including forest edges, savanna woodlands, thorn-scrublands and cultivated areas.
Scientific Name Numida meleagris
Conservation Status Common

This odd-looking bird has a plump body, small head, short legs and long toes. The skin on its mostly featherless face and neck is bright blue, with red wattles hanging from its throat and cheeks. On top of its head sits a bony projection known as a casque, which gives the bird its characteristic “helmeted” appearance. The rest of its body is covered with blackish-grey feathers dotted with white spots.

Helmeted guineafowl occupy a wide variety of habitats but they seem to prefer open country and shrub grasslands. Except during breeding season, they live in large flocks of up to 200 birds. Sometimes the members of the flock will mount a communal defense against predators.

Guineafowl spend the day feeding on the ground, primarily in the early morning and late afternoon/early evening. They eat a variety of foods, from seeds, bulbs, berries and flowers to grasshoppers, termites, snails and other small invertebrates. (In cultivated areas, their preference for fallen grains can make them unpopular with farmers, though the birds also eat destructive crop pests and weeds in the bargain.) As night approaches, the flock leaves the ground to roost in trees until morning.

Helmeted guineafowl are not agile fliers but they do manage short bursts of rapid flight. When they sense danger, they usually flee by running away quickly, often plunging into the shelter of thick vegetation.

This species usually breeds in or just after the rainy season(s). A female normally lays six to 12 eggs over a period of several days, and sits on them in a nest that is little more than a slight depression in the ground. Though the male doesn’t help incubate the eggs, he stands guard nearby and later helps the female care for the chicks.

Helmeted guineafowl are not currently threatened in the wild. In fact, their meat and eggs are so popular that in many parts of the world that the birds are farmed on an industrial scale.