It is pleasing to see the large flocks of guineafowl on the Golf Estate and surrounding areas of Clarens.
A sight you will not see [except in captivity] is the VULTURINE GUINEAFOWL. It occurs only in Northeast Africa from southern Ethiopia, Kenya and into northern Tanzania, breeding in dry, open habitats with bushes and trees such as Savannah. They do not thrive in colder climates and, although they are easily raised in captivity they need shelter and even artificial heating during winter. It is the largest and most spectacular of the seven members of the guineafowl family standing between 70 to 80 cms. It has a round body and small head. Most guineafowls have bare heads but the vulturine is feathered. This feature, together with its long bare neck gives it the appearance of a vulture, hence its name. It is also known as the ‘royal guineafowl’ because of its striking appearance with its cobalt blue chest, and glossy blue and white hackles. The specimens illustrated here were photographed in the grounds of Semunya Country Club in Swaziland.
The Vulturine is a gregarious species, forming flocks of some 25 birds. They feed on seeds, roots, tubers, grubs, rodents and small invertebrates and reptiles. They are terrestrial and will rather run than fly when alarmed. They do, however, fly in order to roost in trees. It makes loud chink-chink-chink chink calls, and the sound has been likened to that of a turning wagon wheel. It is difficult to distinguish the male from the female, although the former is larger than the latter and tends to hold its head higher. Vulturine guinea-fowl can be very aggressive towards one another especially when competing for food and nesting sites. Being well adapted to dry climates they can exist for long periods without water, obtaining most of their liquid needs from the vegetation they consume.