October 12, 2019
By Erica Rymer, Events and Marketing Specialist
If you have stopped by your Akron Zoo lately, you have probably seen the Landon and Cynthia Knight Pride of Africa, filled with recognizable animals from the African savanna such as storks, gazelles, and African lions. However, there is one animal in Pride of Africa that may be new to many of us: the eastern crested guineafowl.
Guineafowl are medium sized birds found primarily in open forests, woodlands and savannas in sub-Saharan Africa. There are several subspecies of guineafowl, though the exact number of classifications is still debated by scientists. Eastern crested guineafowl are found along the eastern coast of Africa in Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia. Crested guineafowl are mostly black with white spots throughout their plumage. On top of their head is a black “crest,” or tuft, which varies in size and shape between subspecies. The eastern crested guineafowl has a blue head and neck with a red face with a straight, mohawk-like crest.
Guineafowl form strong, monogamous mating relationships, which often give way to behaviors such as courtship feeding, where the male will run several yards to give his mate a delicious snack he found. When guineafowl mate, they hide their nests in brush or tall grasses to protect them from predators. The female will lay a clutch of four or five eggs at a time. Locally, guineafowl are sometimes raised as livestock, in the same way farmers in the United States might raise chickens.
Your Akron Zoo is currently home to one male and two female eastern crested guineafowl. Despite the fact that all three came from the Zoo New England earlier this year, the females arrived first because the male is skilled at dodging keepers and was not able to be approached. Guineafowl are susceptible to predation, so keepers have been training them to return to the barn each night. By feeding meals in the barn and using a shaker during meals as positive reinforcement, keepers hope to train the guineafowl that the sound of the shaker means it is time to come inside for a snack. In this way, they will be able to call the guineafowl into the barn each night for their protection
Like all of the animals in the Pride of Africa mixed species habitat, our guineafowl have a breeding recommendation from their Species Survival Plan (SSP). This means guests can look forward to the possibility of baby guineafowl, storks and gazelles! Keepers are optomistic about chicks since the female guineafowl already follow the male wherever he goes.
At this time, guineafowl are classified as “least concern” on the IUCN Red List. Your Akron Zoo hopes that this species continues to thrive, both at the zoo and in their natural habitat. Be sure to visit our new residents, and keep an eye out for news about the SSPs and future chicks!