Guinea-Fowl (Numida Meleagris), Fig. 145. The guinea-fowl belongs to the pheasant family or Phasianidae. Its name is due to the circumstance that birds of this genus are common in Guinea, and its generic name is derived from the fact that the Romans called this bird the Numidian fowl. The Greeks applied the name Meleagris to this bird, not to the turkey, as Ray, Aldovrandi, and others erroneously supposed; therefore has been selected as the specific name of the common guinea-fowl.

The Common Guinea fowl.

Fig. 145. - The Common Guinea-fowl.

The common guinea-fowl has a slate-coloured plumage covered with round white spots, which the Greeks fabled to be the tears shed on the death of Meleager by his sisters, who were changed by Artemis into guinea-fowls. It is about the size of a cock, noisy and quarrelsome in disposition, hence disagreeable in the neighbourhood of dwellings. In large parks, however, where it can run about in freedom, it is by no means an unpleasant bird. Its flesh is succulent, and esteemed as food. About the end of May the female lays in hedges and brushwood from fifteen to twenty eggs of a uniform dull-reddish hue, rather smaller than those of the common hen, and good to eat. Incubation lasts twenty-five days, but the guinea-fowl is a bad sitter; therefore its eggs are usually given to barn-door hens to hatch. The food of the guinea-fowl consists of grain and other substances usually given to ordinary fowls, much natural or cultivated herbage, and largely subsists upon ground insects and their larvae, in quest of which it roams over much larger areas than domestic fowls.

In large parks, farm and other homesteads surrounded by parklike grassland with the usual accompaniment of trees in clump and belt, guinea-fowls may be tolerated. But in pleasure grounds and flower gardens they scratch where they ought not and peck into shreds the plants most fancied and desired to be kept intact, while in kitchen gardens they ruin the crops.