Bush chicken or avian muse?

The humble guinea fowl is a common site in the Lowveld bush. With its short legs, rotund body and tendency to exhibit ‘bird-brained’ behaviours (especially in the presence of vehicles) it is often referred to as a bush chicken. But is this an unfortunate nickname or a fair representation of these African icons?

For icons they are, as guinea fowl have been the muse for many artists thanks to their unmistakable feather patterns that now adorn gallery walls, pottery, fabrics and countless other things.

Is a guinea fowls appeal only skin (or feather) deep?

There are eight species of guinea fowl in Africa and Madagascar, only two of these are found in South Africa. The more common helmeted guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) we have at Likweti Estate and the exotic looking crested variety (Guttera edouardi) of KwaZulu-Natal.

Nature’s foresters
They may not have a glamorous position in the food chain being a low order predator feasting on both seeds and insects, but this doesn’t make their ecological role any less important. Guinea fowl help spread the seeds of various indigenous plants that pass through their digestive tracts. In this respect they are one of nature’s foresters, helping replant our natural ecosystems. They are also top of the menu for many small and medium sized predators, including raptors, wild cats, jackals, caracals and leopards. So with guinea fowl flocking to Likweti, the predators we all love to see might not be far behind.

First line of defence
Their attractiveness to almost every predator out there means guinea fowl need to keep on their toes and being forever on the look out makes guinea fowl the perfect predator warning system. Certainly other prey species benefit from the guinea fowls presence, reacting to their alarm calls as the first line of defence and we can benefit from this too. By understanding guinea fowl behaviour and how they respond to a predator threat, you will increase you chances of spotting one of Likweti’s rare sightings.

So get to now your wild neighbours, because in our eyes Likweti’s guinea fowl are no bush chickens!

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