Numida meleagrishelmeted guineafowl

Geographic Range

Helmeted guinea fowl are distributed across most of Sub-Sahara Africa. They range as far west as Senegal and eastward to Eritrea at the north edge of their range, and southward to South Africa as the furthest southern range. (Mayntz, 2009)


Helmeted guinea fowl are found in exposed areas that have some trees for them to roost upon at night. These include grasslands, savannas, cultivated areas and scrub lands. These birds occur frequently around areas with water, primarily freshwater rivers or watering holes. These birds dislike dense forests, deserts and marshes. (Ayeni, 1983a; IUCN, 2016; Mayntz, 2009; Ratcliffe and Crowe, 2001)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

Helmeted guinea fowl are ground birds that have a body shaped similar to a chicken and a grouse. They have a boney "helmet", known as a casque. The casque lies on top of the crown of the birds and both males and females have them. Male casques are usually larger than the casques of females. The bill is curved with red, fleshy skin further back on the lore. They have eyes that appear black but are dark brown. Their wattles are sky blue to dark blue with red at the tips. Females have smaller wattles compared to males. The sides of their heads at the ear-covert down to the middle of the neck are bare and are a sky blue to dark blue color. The lower section of the neck has down-like feathers that are brownish-grey in color. The body, wings and thighs are covered in black to dark grey feathers with uniformed speckles of white. Each feather can have up to a dozen or more speckles on them. The legs and feet are dark grey. Juveniles are similar to the adults with the exceptions of less developed wattles and casques. Their faces are paler than the adults, the speckles are less visible and their overall coloration is grayish brown. The chicks, known as keets, have longitudinal black stripes on their heads that are brown and are brownish grey in their body feathers. There are nine subspecies of helmeted guinea fowl in Africa. Differences vary from head colorations, casques, speckle arrangement, neck feathers and other little details that are minute. (Frost, 2013; Mayntz, 2009; Myers, et al., 2018)

  • Range mass
    1134 to 1842 g
    39.96 to 64.92 oz
  • Range length
    51 to 64 mm
    2.01 to 2.52 in
  • Range wingspan
    150 to 180 cm
    59.06 to 70.87 in


Helmeted Guinea Fowl mate seasonally after winter, changing from mixed flocks to paired birds. Males are known to be polygynous with females but will end up monogamous during the incubation period of the eggs. Males will chase and fight other male Helmeted Guinea Fowl to deter them from approaching their partner. Males and females will stay together for five weeks and are inseparable. They communicate with each other continuously, roost together at night and preen each other during this time. (, 2017; Elbin, et al., 1986; Frost, 2013; Mayntz, 2009)

Helmeted guinea fowl mate in the spring, changing from mixed flocks to paired birds. Males are known to be polygynous with females but will end up monogamous during the incubation period of the eggs. Males will chase and fight other males to deter them from approaching their partner. Males and females will stay together for five weeks and are inseparable. They communicate with each other continuously, roost together at night and preen each other during this time.

Helmeted guinea fowl females dig scrapes in dense vegetation areas with twigs and leaves within the nest. The female will lay around six to fifteen eggs within the depression and incubate them for up to thirty days. The male protects the female from other Helmeted guinea fowl and predators that might find the nest and feed the female. The eggs are a cream-brown coloration, shaped similar the pears, with a length of 53 mm and width of 40 mm. After thirty days, the eggs hatch and “keets”, term for chicks, are born. The keets forage with the parents once hatched as both parents defend them from dangers. Keets become fledged in four weeks. The keets stay with the parent group for at least fifty to seventy five days before becoming independent. Keets become sexually mature after a year. (, 2017; Elbin, et al., 1986; Frost, 2013; Mayntz, 2009)

  • Breeding interval
    Helmeted Guinea Fowl breed once a year.
  • Breeding season
    Spring to Summer.
  • Range eggs per season
    6 to 15
  • Average eggs per season
  • Range time to hatching
    26 to 30 days
  • Range fledging age
    28 to 30 days
  • Average fledging age
    28 days
  • Range time to independence
    50 to 75 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

Female Helmeted guinea fowl brood the keets during the night while male roosts. Males will brood the keets during the day as the female forages during the first two weeks since hatching. (Elbin, et al., 1986)

  • Parental Investment
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


Helmeted guinea fowl live up to ten to twenty years in the wild. There is no literature on life expectancy on domestic birds. (, 2017)


Helmeted guinea fowl flocks roost in trees for protection at night. During the day, they are always on the ground foraging for food in flocks of varying size. Some flocks can consist of a single male and female to large flocks with up to 100 birds. Flocks have territories that they wander around and do get into fights with other flocks but there is not enough literature on determining sizes of the territories. During winter, flocks are largest and during the mating season, mated pairs disperse to incubate their eggs. As they forage on the ground, they consistently vocalize and search for danger, using their eye site to detect movement and hearing to pinpoint danger. When faced with danger, they use their alarm calls to warn other birds and surrounding fauna. They typically run from danger but can fly as a last resort in a steep upward angle. Helmeted Guinea Fowl have a social hierarchy when in larger flocks as the birds continuously chase and fight each other to determine status. Juveniles show submissive behavior to older birds if they since danger. Helmeted guinea fowl use dust baths to clean their plumage daily. (, 2017; Elbin, et al., 1986; Evans, 2017; Frost, 2013; Mayntz, 2009; Niekerk, 1985; Ratcliffe and Crowe, 2001)

Home Range

Flocks have territories that they wonder around and do get into fights with other flocks but there is not enough literature on determining sizes of the territories. (Ratcliffe and Crowe, 2001)

Communication and Perception

Helmeted guinea fowl have harsh, dry calls that can carry vast distances. Males make a single "chek" sound, while females make two notes that are repetitive going "buck-wheat". Their calls increase in volume and tempo when they are excited, aggravated or if they since danger. The alarm call is a very loud, harsh, repeating rattling "kek-kek-kek-kek-krrrrrrrrr". (Frost, 2013; Mayntz, 2009)

Food Habits

Helmeted guinea fowl are omnivorous. In the wild, their plant diet include grass seeds, grain, seedlings, leaves, bulbs, roots, fruit and flower heads. Sources of protein in their diet consist of snails, beetles, insect larvae, ticks, various invertebrates, frogs, small lizards and small mice. They also ingest small pebbles for their gizzards. Their methods to obtain their food sources include digging and running with their legs, plucking, flicking and jabbing with their beak and jumping to reach out to food.

In domestic stock, they are fed primarily commercial chicken diets, cereal grains, garden and kitchen wastes, maize, sorghum and millet. Compared to chickens, helmeted guinea fowl require higher protein intake and this has been problematic due to debate on their requirements in a domestic setting. This has led to problems in their growth and egg production in many areas of the world. (Ayeni, 1983b; Frost, 2013; Mayntz, 2009; Moreki and Radikara, 2013)

  • Animal Foods
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • terrestrial worms
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • flowers


Helmeted guinea fowl are preyed upon by a variety of animals along with their eggs. Known predators include leopards (Panthera pardus), servals (Leptailurus serval), wildcats (Felis sivestris), dogs (Canis lupus. familiaris), wolves (Canis lupus), large reptiles that include crocodiles (Crocodylinae) and snakes (Serpentes) and Martial Eagles (Polemaetus bellicosus).

Helmeted guinea fowl are gamebirds in Africa and are hunted for their meat and for sport. They are considered a smart bird and give hunters a challenge when hunting them. Domestic Helmeted guinea fowl are raised to be processed into poultry and as an egg laying fowl. (, 2017; Evans, 2017; Moreki and Radikara, 2013; Overholt, 2011; Smithsonian Channel, 2014; Smithsonian Channel, 2016)

Ecosystem Roles

Helmeted Guinea Fowl house many parasites including Heterakis gallinarum, Ascaridia galli, Capillaria caudinflata, Raillietinatetragona, Raillietina echinobothrida, Eimeria species, Leucocytozoan species, Plasmodium species, Aegyptianella pullorum, Argas persicus, and a genus of Lice, Damalinia. (Ayeni, et al., 1983)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Heterakis gallinarum
  • Ascaridia galli
  • Capillaria caudinflata
  • tapeworms (Raillietinatetragona)
  • Raillietina echinobothrida
  • Eimeria species
  • Leucocytozoan species
  • Plasmodium species
  • Aegyptianella pullorum
  • Argas persicus
  • lice (Damalinia)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Helmeted guinea fowl have been hunted for thousands of years in Africa and are hunted today as a popular game bird. These birds have been domesticated for their meat, eggs and feathers and are a growing in popularity in various countries for these resources and as an exotic farm animal. Many Zoos house these unique birds for education and aviaries house them for their exotic look. They are also a bird many tourist and Birders want to see on Safari in Africa. These birds are used as tick and insect control in agricultural fields and have been known to consume infected Deer ticks with Lyme disease. (, 2017; Duffy, et al., 1992; Evans, 2017; Frost, 2013; Mayntz, 2009; Moreki and Radikara, 2013)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • ecotourism
  • research and education
  • produces fertilizer
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Helmeted guinea fowl are known to damage crops, especially emerging seedlings. They are also a noisy bird and can cause headaches and migraines to people around them. They are a difficult bird to raise, since they are newer to a world market. Many farmers have lost money due to not understanding how to raise these birds properly. (Duffy, et al., 1992; Frost, 2013; Moreki and Radikara, 2013)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Helmeted Guinea Fowl are listed as least concerned according to the IUCN Red List. (IUCN, 2016)


Matthew Portner (author), Northern Michigan University, Alec Lindsay (editor), Northern Michigan University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


having coloration that serves a protective function for the animal, usually used to refer to animals with colors that warn predators of their toxicity. For example: animals with bright red or yellow coloration are often toxic or distasteful.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cooperative breeder

helpers provide assistance in raising young that are not their own


active at dawn and dusk

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


having more than one female as a mate at one time

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


"Helmeted Guineafowl" (On-line). Accessed February 21, 2018 at, 2017. "Guinea Fowl" (On-line). Accessed March 22, 2018 at

Adeola, A., S. Ommeh, R. Murphy, S. Wu, M. Peng, Y. Zhang. 2015. Mitochondrial DNA variation of Nigerian domestic helmeted guinea fowl. Animal Genetics, Volume 46 / Issue 5: 576-579.

Ayeni, J. 1983. The Biology and utilization of helmeted guinea-fowl (Numida meleagria galeata Pallas) in Nigeria. II. Food of helmeted guinea-fowl in Kainji Lake Basin area of Nigeria, Volume 21 / Issue 1: 1-10.

Ayeni, J. 1983. Studies of Grey Breasted Helmet Guineafowl (Numida meleagris galeata Pallas) in Nigeria. World's Poutry Science Journal, Volume 39 / Issue 2: 143-151.

Ayeni, J., O. Dipeolu, A. Okaeme. 1983. Parasitic infections of the grey-breasted helmet guinea-fowl (Numida meleagris galeata) in Nigeria. Veterinary Parasitology, Volume 12/ Issue 1: "59-63". Accessed April 09, 2018 at

Duffy, D., R. Downer, C. Brinkley. 1992. The Effectiveness of Helmeted Guineafowl in the Control of the Deer Tick, the Vector of Lyme Disease. The Wilson Bulletin, Volume 104 / Issue 2: 342-345.

Elbin, S., T. Crowe, H. Graves. 1986. Reproductive behavior of Helmeted Guinea Fowl (Numida meleagria): Mating system and parental care. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 16 / Issue 2: 179- 197.

Evans, W. 2017. "Guinea fowl - oh that cleverest of African birds!" (On-line). African Hunting Gazette. Accessed March 22, 2018 at

Frost, P. 2013. "Helmeted guineafowl" (On-line). New Zealand Birds Online. Accessed February 21, 2018 at

Gatesy, S. 1999. Guineafowl hind limb function. I: Cineradiographic analysis and speed effects. Journal of Morphology, Volume 240 / Issue 2: 115-125.

IUCN, 2016. "Numida meleagris" (On-line). Accessed February 21, 2018 at

Mayntz, M. 2009. "Helmeted Guineafowl" (On-line). The Spruce. Accessed February 21, 2018 at

Moreki, J., M. Radikara. 2013. Challenges to Commercialization of Guinea Fowl in Africa. International Journal of Science and Research, Volume 2 / Issue 11: "436-440". Accessed January 30, 2018 at file:///C:/Users/mportner/Zotero/storage/TWXGIUNZ/Challenges_to_Commercialization_of_Guine.pdf.

Myers, R., C. Espinosa, T. Parr, G. Hammond, T. Dewey. 2018. "ADW: Numida meleagris: CLASSIFICATION" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 26, 2018 at

Niekerk, J. 2002. Notes on habitat use by helmeted guineafowl in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve, South Africa : short communications. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, Volume 32 / Issue 2: 166-168.

Niekerk, J. 1985. Submissive display in young helmeted guineafowl. South African Journal of Zoology, Volume 20 / Issue 1: 38-38.

Overholt, M. 2011. "Polemaetus bellicosus martial eagle" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 22, 2018 at

Ratcliffe, C., T. Crowe. 2001. Habitat utilisation and home range size of helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris) in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. Biological Conservation, Volume 98 / Issue 3: 333-345.

Smithsonian Channel, 2016. "Leopard vs. Guinea Fowl" (On-line video). YouTube. Accessed March 22, 2018 at

Smithsonian Channel, 2014. "Serval Vs. Guinea Fowl" (On-line video). YouTube. Accessed March 22, 2018 at