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6 Types of Guinea Fowls: Species, Facts and Photos

Are those turkeys? Or peacocks? This article discusses the oldest of the gallinaceous birds. Various types of guinea fowls live in different parts of the world, each with unique habitats and dietary preferences. 

Enjoy this insightful primer into these landfowls, whether you are a natural enthusiast, bird-watcher, or have a curious mind.

Related Read: Types of Birds.

Guinea Fowl Classification

Guinea fowls are African birds with dark grey or black plumage and white spots. They are from the Numididae family, part of the larger order Galliformes, alongside turkeys, peacocks, and chickens.

Guinea fowl species vary depending on their evolutionary connections and physical characteristics. They live in dense forests, dry savannahs, grasslands, and humid forests.

This family has four distinct genera: Agelastes, Acryllium, Numida, and Guttera. Each has one or two species. The sole species in Numida has been domesticated worldwide.

In this article, we will discuss all species of guinea fowl, including the domesticated breed.

6 Types of Guinea Fowl Species

1. White-breasted Guinea Fowl (Agelastes meleagrides)

The White-breasted Guinea Fowl is a unique bird in subtropical West African forests, known for its red throat pouch and lack of helmet or wattles. 

Its diet consists of insects, seeds, and small animals, and it lays 4-6 eggs in a concealed nest on the forest floor. 

Females lay eggs in a ground nest during the rainy season, and the chicks or guinea keets are well-taken care of by the guinea cock and hen. However, the bird's survival is in danger due to habitat loss and hunting threats. 

IUCN declared this type of guinea fowl as vulnerable2. Conservation efforts help protect the White-breasted Guinea Fowl and prevent its population decline.

2. Black Guinea Fowl (Agelastes niger)

The Black Guinea Fowl lives in West Central Africa. This quiet guinea fowl features a dark plumage and a small white patch of feathers on its chest. 

The bird spends time foraging on the forest floor and climbing trees to roost at night. Its diet consists of insects, small animals, seeds, and other forest vegetation. 

Unfortunately, the species is experiencing a declining population3. IUCN reports it is due to habitat degradation and hunting pressure.

3. Vulturine Guinea Fowl (Acryllium vulturinum)

Vulturine Guinea Fowl
Photo by Sankara Subramanian on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Vulturine Guinea Fowl is a notable member of the guinea fowl group due to its large size, which can reach up to 28 inches. 

Despite its name, the bird's resemblance to a vulture is superficial. While vultures are usually dull in color, the Vulturine Guinea Fowl has a striking combination of blue and black feathers, with a chestnut crest and white-striped breast and belly feathers.

This type of guinea fowl commonly lives in the savannahs and grasslands of northeastern Africa, particularly in Ethiopia and Kenya, where it forms groups of up to 25 birds. 

4. Helmeted Guinea Fowl (Numida meleagris)

Helmeted Guinea Fowl
Photo by Andre Altergott on Pexels.

The Helmeted Guinea Fowl is native to North Africa, featuring a dark plumage with white spots and a unique helmet-like crest. 

Both guinea hens and cocks have bare blue skin on their faces, and males are slightly larger with more pronounced wattles. These birds weigh up to 2.9 pounds.

While they can fly, they prefer to forage on the ground during the day and roost in trees at night. They are not picky eaters and consume insects, seeds, small animals, and ticks. Their particular fondness for ticks makes them beneficial in controlling pest populations that can carry Lyme disease1.

Aside from the nine subspecies, this type of guineafowl has been widely domesticated.

Domesticated Guinea Fowl (Numida meleagris domesticus)

Domesticated Guinea Fowl
Photo by Peepe on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 (Cropped from original).

Livestock farmers raised domesticated guinea fowls for their meat and eggs for centuries. Their meat has higher protein and less fat than chickens and turkeys. At the same time, their eggs taste richer than chicken eggs.

The Domestic Guinea Fowl originates from Africa's wild grasslands and has spread to America, Britain, and India. 

Its grey plumage with speckles, resembling a pointillist painting, provides natural camouflage in the wild. The birds have a crest on their heads, which is hard to miss, and a bare neck and head with a variable range of blue to black. 

The birds are efficient in foraging through their surroundings, making them low-maintenance birds. These noisy birds’ distinctive 'buck-wheat' calls also serve as an alarm bell that rings loud and clear at the hint of any predators.

Due to years of breeding, numerous color variations of domesticated guinea fowls emerged. Their plumage can be pearly white, lavender, blonde, coral blue, and many more hues. 

5. Plumed Guinea Fowl (Guttera plumifera)

The Plumed Guinea Fowl is a medium-sized shy bird with striking blue-black plumage and elongated feathers on its upper back. Moreover, it is native to the heart of Africa, living in Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Angola. 

The bird's head is bare with red and blue patches and has a short beak and a crown of rounded feathers. 

It usually forms pairs or small groups, spending most of its life on the ground searching for insects, seeds, fruits, and tiny invertebrates to eat. 

Moreover, this bird emits a loud and harsh call to mark its territory. It also rarely takes to the sky. During the dry season, however, the Plumed Guinea Fowl may join larger flocks.

6. Crested Guinea Fowl (Guttera pucherani)

Crested Guinea Fowl
Photo by Bernard DUPONT on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Crested Guinea Fowl lives in sub-Saharan Africa. Its black crest of elongated feathers sits atop its dark plumage and reflects a greenish-purple sheen under the right light. The bird's white eye patches contrast sharply with its dark feathers. 

Moreover, the Crested Guinea Fowl spends its day on the ground, foraging for insects, seeds, berries, and small reptiles. 

As night falls, this type of guinea fowl takes to the treetops to escape predators. Its call is a high-pitched series of sounds that alarm other creatures in the wild.

1

Duffy, D., Downer, R.,; & Brinkley, C. (1992). "The effectiveness of Helmeted Guineafowl in the control of the deer tick, the vector of Lyme disease" (PDF). The Wilson Bulletin. 104 (2): 342–345.

2

BirdLife International. (2021). Agelastes meleagrides. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T22679545A193895625.

3

BirdLife International. (2022). Agelastes niger. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2022: e.T22679551A213909884.

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by Rod Waddington on Flickr licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).
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