“I used to date the lead singer of The Cranberries, but she cheated on me. Turns out she had some turkey on the side.”
― Jarod Kintz, It Occurred to Me
The staccato cackling kek, kek, kek, kek, kaaaaaa ka ka ka of the Helmeted Guinea Fowl is for me, one of the distinctive sounds of Africa, no other bird makes a sound quite like it. Admittedly it can take a little getting used to, being fairly noisy and raucous, especially at 5:30 in the morning but I love it, it sounds like home.
These gorgeous birds do have a bit of a turkey-ish look about them but they don’t belong to the same family or genus at all. They have small red and blue heads with a bony yellow knob on top and big black and white spotted bodies with large clawed feet below. They stand about 55cm tall, weighing in at approximately 1.35 kg and although they can fly short distances (mostly taking off and gliding) they walk and run most of the time. Being very nervous birds, they take off running at the slightest provocation, it’s a pretty comical sight but their silly antics are endearing and make me like them even more.
Although the guinea fowl are monogamous, no extra marital hanky-panky for them, they are a gregarious species and a common sight here in Sedgefield. Flocks of up to 25 guinea fowl can be seen ambling slowly around the quiet village streets foraging in gardens and on the pavements for grubs, seeds, fruit, ticks and greens, looking for all the world like chickens scratching in the loose soil for tasty morsels.
We have a pair, George and Gertrude, who have taken to visiting us almost every day, they fly over the garden fence to share crushed mielies and wild bird seed with the doves. Even though Madame Patchouli aka Mrs “I am not amused so don’t annoy me” can’t stand them, they are not afraid of cats so the best she can do, is mock charge them from time to time and cast filthy looks their way as demonstrated in the above image.
The dogs, Paddy & Ruby don’t bother with them at all, so for the most part they feel safe in our garden.
It’s breeding season now and judging by Gertrude’s long flirtatious eyelashes and the naughty twinkle in her eye, I’m certain we’ll be hearing the pitter-patter of tiny guinea fowl feet one of these days…
Don’t worry, be happy
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