Guinea Fowl – Are they as daft as they look and behave or are they smart?
When you look at a guinea fowl it seems entirely out of proportion. Its head seems far to small for the body giving it an ungainly appearance.
The brain occupies only about one tenth of the volume of its head and is about the size of a pea. However this bird is a lot smarter than we give it credit for particularly if you study its behaviour.
Recently I have had an opportunity to study a flock of these interesting birds, in the Marloth Park conservancy, near the Kruger National Park, at close range and have not yet decided if they are as daft as their behaviour would indicate or if they are very smart.
The group were scratching in the bush near where I was sitting, methodically turning over every leaf, stone, small stick and blade of fallen grass. Suddenly one starts to run about the flock in no particular direction. This causes others to join in until most of the flock are on the move when the perpetrator stops and leaves the others running aimlessly about whilst it continues feeding. I was not able to work out why they do this perhaps it was just for fun or because they are daft.
During the same period I was able to so see the smart side of these spotty birds. They were foraging in longish grass where the grass seeds were still attached to the seed head. The feeding bird would take hold of one of the stems on which the seeds were attached and then run its beak up the stem dislodging the seed from the stem before pecking them up from the ground where they had fallen. This process would be repeated until all the seeds had been stripped from the seed head before the bird moved on to the next seed head. This behaviour was seen in many of the flock including the immature birds. Is this learned behaviour or is it something in the genes? Since this was the first winter it was could be a behaviour that they had learned to copy from the older birds in which case they were fairly quick to learn useful feeding techniques or it could be instinctive behaviour.
To answer my question in the heading of this article I believe that this is a smart bird that occasionally indulges in daft play antics.
Birding safaris in the area are very popular as 350 species of birds frequent this area in Africa, one of the best areas in the world. Sitting on the lodge patio at Marloth Bush Retreat many species of birds can be studied and photographed as the come to drink at the waterhole. Photographic safaris are also popular.