Family Guineafowl (Numididae)

Least Concern

Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris)


French: Pintade de Numidie German: Helmperlhuhn Spanish: Pintada común

Phasianus meleagris


, 1758,

upper Nile, Nubia, Sudan


Races have sometimes been divided into as many as four species, but geographical variation complex, and some intergradation occurs between adjacent forms#R. Race papillosus previously referred to as damarensis, but former name has priority. More than 30 races described: traditional races marchei, callewaerti and blancoui now included in galeatus, as also are strasseni and bannermani (last two names assigned to stock introduced to Cape Verde Is); major, inermis, omoensis, macroceras, neumanni, toruensis, intermedius and uhehensis included in meleagris; ansorgei included in reichenowi; maximus, frommi, rikwae and bodalyae included in marungensis; mulondensis included in papillosus; and transvaalensis and limpopoensis included in coronatus. In E South Africa hybridization between local race coronatus and introduced domestic individuals (derived from W African subspecies galeatus) appears to exist, leading to potential outbreeding depression in wild population. Nine subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. m. sabyi E. J. O. Hartert, 1919 – NW Morocco between R Oum er Rbia and R Sebou (possibly extinct).
  • N. m. galeatus Pallas, 1767 – West African Guineafowl – W Africa E to S Chad and S to N Angola and DRCongo.
  • N. m. meleagris (Linnaeus, 1758) – Helmeted Guineafowl – E Chad E to Ethiopia, and S to N DRCongo, Uganda and N Kenya.
  • N. m. somaliensis Neumann, 1899 – E & S Ethiopia and W Somalia.
  • N. m. reichenowi Ogilvie-Grant, 1894 – Reichenow's Guineafowl – Kenya S to C Tanzania.
  • N. m. mitratus (Pallas, 1764) – Tufted Guineafowl – W & E Tanzania S to E Mozambique, and W through Zambia and Zimbabwe to NE Botswana and N South Africa; Zanzibar and Tumbatu I.
  • N. m. marungensis Schalow, 1884 – S Congo Basin S to C & E Angola, and E in Zambezi Basin to N Zambia (Luangwa Valley).
  • N. m. papillosus Reichenow, 1894 – S Angola to C Namibia and Botswana.
  • N. m. coronatus Gurney, Sr, 1868 – E South Africa in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal (where hybridization in the wild between domestic and wild birds occurs#R) and Eastern Cape, and Swaziland.
  • Introduced to many parts of world, e.g. Cape Verde Is (galeatus), Yemen (galeatus), SW Arabia, Madagascar, Rodrigues I and the Comoro Is (mitratus), Western Cape (coronatus), also West Indies, apparently (sabyi) on Barbuda and parts of Australasia.

    Descriptive notes

    53–63 cm; male 1145–1816 g, female 1135–1823 g. Head and neck mostly featherless, with bare skin blue to bluish white; characteristic horn-coloured bony... read more


    Raucous, cackling calls which vary in intensity and length of delivery, e.g. nasal, staccato... read more


    Wide variety of habitats mainly in open country, ranging from forest edge through savanna woodland... read more

    Food and feeding

    Omnivorous. Plant food generally more important overall by volume, especially non-agricultural seeds (39% by volume in E & S Africa),... read more


    Season almost always in or just after rains; mainly Sept–Jan in S Africa and mainly Feb–Mar in Namibia; Dec–Apr in Malawi... read more


    Sedentary. Home range of flock varies in size with habitat and relative density of species:... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Mace Lande: Safe; race sabyi possibly Endangered. Total population probably numbers well over 1,000,000 birds; widespread... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez, I. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 July 2019).