The Helmeted Guineafowl is one of South Africa’s best known and most abundant gamebirds, occurring in a wide range of naturally open habitats, from forest edges to semi-deserts, as well as being regularly seen in farming areas. They can weigh as much as 1.8kg.
Helmeted Guineafowl are gregarious, feeding and roosting in groups normally numbering around 25, but can congregate in flocks of hundreds. Like other guineafowl they are mostly terrestrial, and will only take flight when in extreme danger or to reach their roosts. Omnivorous in their diet, Helmeted Guineafowl will feed on seeds, fruits, invertebrates of all descriptions and even small amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Nests are little more than scrapes in a well-hidden place, in which the hen incubates a clutch of 6 – 12 eggs for 28 days during the summer months. Helmeted Guineafowl can live up to 12 years in the wild.
The IUCN considers the Helmeted Guineafowl “Least Concern” thanks to its extremely wide natural distribution range (almost all of Africa south of the Sahara, except the forests of the Congo and the Somali desert) and large and apparently stable population. In South Africa they are a common sight almost everywhere, even occurring in the leafy suburbs and parks of the big cities, and is one of the few species that have actually expanded their distribution range in recent years, despite fairly substantial hunting pressure. The species has also been domesticated and widely introduced to other continents. These domesticated strains often sport quite different plumage.