Bird Bios: Vulturine Guineafowl are Abundant in Africa

May 16, 2012
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Vulturine guineafowl are found throughout East Africa, and these birds are the largest and most colorful guineafowl species. Their unique plumage makes it easy to spot the birds in the dry grasslands and plains on your Kenya and Tanzania safari. The birds, which stand just over two feet tall, have large bodies similar to the shape of emus and quails, but their near-featherless heads, bold red eyes and long necks make it obvious they belong in the same class as vultures.

The most outstanding feature of these birds is certainly their coloration. They have brilliant blue, white and black feathers on their necks and breasts that give way to black and white striped and spotted feathers in their wings and tails. There is little difference in coloration between male and female vulturine guineafowl. While these birds can fly, they typically will run when they sense danger. They are also great climbers and spend much of their time nesting high in the branches of trees that dot scrub plains. These birds feast mainly on small insects, reptiles and rodents as well as seeds and certain vegetation. They use their sharp beaks and powerful claws to dig for roots and tubers and snatch passing animals.

Vulturine guineafowl travel in small groups, so when you spot one of these birds, you will likely see others in the area. These creatures are very vocal, and their chirping chatter serves to warn others of danger and to gather a flock when it is time for bed. When it comes to nesting, these guineafowl are known to lay anywhere from 13 to 28 eggs at a time in large grassy nests. It takes about three to four weeks for the eggs to hatch and females often share the responsibility of incubating the eggs. Newly hatched guineafowl mature quickly and are already flying and running around within a few weeks of birth.

There are many vulturine guineafowl in Africa, and IUCN Redlist categorizes these creatures as "Least Concern." When traveling through Kenya or Tanzania, keep an eye and an ear out for these birds. Our naturalist guides are avid birders and tell us that these are inquisitive animals, and may come close to your safari truck so you can get a good look at their beautiful plumage. Keep your cameras ready!


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