Vulturine Guineafowl from East Africa
March 03, 2021
Vulturine Guineafowl present a striking exception. The first ever conducted on the species – suggests that the birds can keep track of who is in their own group as well as who is in other groups.
The vulturine guineafowl or Acryllium vulturinum is the largest extant species of guineafowl. Systematically, it is only distantly related to other guineafowl genera. Its closest living relative, the white breasted guineafowl, inhabit primary forests in Central Africa. It is a member of the bird family Numididae, and is the only member of the genus Acryllium. It is a resident breeder in northeast Africa, from southern Ethiopia through Kenya and just into northern Tanzania.
- Common Name: Vulturine guineafowl
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Galliformes [pheasants, partridges, turkeys, quail, and guineafowl]
- Family: Numididae
- Genus Species: Acryllium (small peak) vultrinum (vulture-like)
The Vulturine Guineafowl got its name from its appearance. The bare skin of head and neck makes it very similar to vultures. But in spite of this bald head, this guineafowl shows a beautiful plumage.
Size: 50.8 to 52.8 cm (20 to 24 in.) in length
Weight: 1 to 1.6 kg (2.2 to 3.5 lbs.)
Diet: These birds will feed on seeds, roots, tubers, grubs, rodents, small reptiles and insects. They will occasionally feed on vegetation and fruits.
Incubation: 28 days; the chicks are precocial and have gold and brown-striped down plumage
Clutch Size: 3 to 18 eggs
Fledging Duration: 10 weeks
Sexual Maturity: 2 years
Life Span: 15 years
Range: This species has an extremely large range and can be found in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania.
Habitat: Dry desert areas with tall grass, patches of scrub, thorn bushes, and a few trees. These birds seem to prefer high perches for nocturnal roosting.
Population: The total population is large and scientists believe there are at least 10,000 mature individuals. The population is stable and is not severely fragmented.
Ecology and Conservation
These birds can survive long periods without water and tend to acquire the majority of their water requirements from the vegetation that they consume.
These birds may suffer locally from hunting pressure. They have numerous predators such as raptors, monkeys, and several small mammals which hunt the eggs and the chicks, and may even kill the adults.
- the vulturine guineafowl is often referred to as the “royal guineafowl” because it tends to have the most striking appearance.
- they are named for their bald head and neck, which resembles a vulture.
- these birds are both monomorphic and monochromatic. This means that both sexes have a very similar form and coloration. In other words, it can be difficult to distinguish the sexes.
- captive hens have produced up to 40 eggs in just one season (3 clutches).
- the eggshells of this species are extremely thick and difficult to break. Chicks hatch by “breaking out” instead of chipping away at the shell.
- these birds are excellent runners and rarely fly, with exception of reaching nocturnal roosting perches.
- the chicks are well-developed when they hatch and can fly within a few days.
- these birds roost high in trees at night. Their calls, when disturbed or excited, can be heard over long distances.
- nests may contain eggs from more than one hen and they may share incubation duties.
- these birds can be quite aggressive towards one another and have been known to fatally injure their own kind if competition for food or prime roosting areas comes into question. Even the chicks have been known to attack one another.
- males tend to be very aggressive towards the hens most of the time. One effective way to distinguish the sexes is by observing each individual’s body posture. The males tend to carry their heads high and attempt to look as big as possible. Females, on the other hand, tend to adopt a submissive posture.