I was recently out on photo safari in an area east of where I now live. As I was driving through a very small town, I encountered these birds. They looked about the size of large chickens but their shape and head decorations said that they weren’t. They acted like small turkeys because they traveled together and ate bugs and greens on the go. They didn’t sound like chickens either, maniacal scratchy-throated screams that were deafening and unpleasant.
When I retuned home, I looked these guys up (Wikipedia) and confirmed my suspicion that they were Guineafowl. Numida melargris, the Helmeted Guineafowl is an South African import. In some areas you can buy these in the grocery store as an alternative to chicken. They are so loud and annoying I can see why folks choose not to raise them.
In the image above, you can see the bony head projection and the cheek wattles that make these guys different from chickens and turkeys. Like the turkey, they have no feathers on their head and upper neck. You can also see that this fella’s beak is open as he was screeching at me while I took his picture.
In the final image, you get a side view of this ambassador from the flock who displays the spotted feathers common to this species. His head is cocked to the side like he was trying to listen to me as I talked in soothing tones; but, his beak was open so I don’t know if he heard me over his screeching.
The Helmeted Guineafowl belong to the family Numididae and are distant cousins to the chickens, turkeys, grouse, pheasants and other “chicken-like” birds. They have been part of mankind’s diet for a very long time, but I can also see why folks who get to know them get rid of them for disturbing the peace.