Because I can poke fun of myself and my culture, I feel I can use this title with impunity. If the fowl language offends you, well, there are many other blogs out there. For those of you who appreciate my sense of humor – read on, intrepid travelers!
Yesterday’s South African adventure was to rescue a helmeted guinea fowl chick (hence the title). Well, I’m not sure that I really rescued it, but I’m going with that, because it was clearly confused and lost, and needed a bit of redirection, which I, ever-eager Patron of Lost Causes, was ready to supply.
For the record, I am still in Cape Town, hence the references to things like windows, which I don’t have in the bush. I have shadecloth. Windows, walls? Doors? Those are luxuries, my friend.
Anyway, I heard a chirping sound coming from the backyard that I was sure was a guinea fowl (they wander around all over here), but I didn’t see any, so I brushed it off. Then I saw something cruise past the window and realized it was a guinea fowl chick gone astray. Eager to get it back to the parents and family it clearly lost somewhere in the brush, my fiancé and I attempted to corner it, catch it, and re-release it with its family. As with catching any wild animal (and even some domestic ones), catching birds, even terrestrial birds, is like greasing a pig and then trying to put a bow on it. They don’t want to be caught, and understandably so. Most caught animals either end up missing limbs, or even worse, on a dinner plate. I’d run like hell too.
There are two species of guinea fowl in South Africa – helmeted and crested – and you don’t only find them in the bush. Guinea fowl traipse all over the neighborhoods in places like Johannesburg and Cape Town, whistling away like persistent pan flutes and dashing in sync from lawn to lawn like schools of fish. While their body shape is essentially the same (apple-bottomed-jean-types with all their junk in the trunk, sporting giraffe-like necks, dark plumage, and the requisite wiry bird legs), their tiny heads are totally different. The crested species looks a bit like Elvis, complete with black bouffant of feathers sprouting on top of the head. The helmeted ones resemble modern day dinosaurs, with baby-blue faces and crowns on their mantles akin to a hadrosaur (you remember them – the ones with the big, bony crest on their pates), and slight turkey-ish wattles on either side of their beak. Watching them run around evading me is what I imagine it would’ve been like to watch herds of their prehistoric predecessors evading T-Rex.
Back to yesterday’s rescue. Having heard adult guinea fowls calling from the front of the house, and hearing none at the back, I assumed this little chick somehow got seriously turned around, ended up on the wrong side of the building, and was now frantically searching for a route back to its bigger family members. However, once we caught the chick and released it to the flock out front, we went back behind the house and realized there were now three more brown fuzzballs pinging around from one bush to the next like wayward pinballs, and that we’d just introduced this other chick to a whole new family. Luckily family dynamics in the guinea fowl world mean that the new family would take this little one in, either not knowing the difference or not caring. Guinea fowl are precocial (meaning they can take care of themselves from birth), so all he really needed was safety in numbers anyway, which he now had.
The rest of our ‘rescued’ chick’s fluffy brown bundles of softly squeaking siblings might’ve noticed his absence, though, as they continued to chirp away for quite some time in the backyard, I’m assuming probably searching for their missing family member. Though I doubt they can count, I’m pretty sure they instinctively know one was gone from the ranks.
I’d like to believe that guinea fowl have short memory spans, but apparently either they don’t, or they simply can’t break routine. The babies were all back today. And there was another little one – possibly the same one, as it’s very hard to tell the difference between one cotton ball and the next at these speeds, sizes and juvenile colorations – frantically trying to break into the house again. Perhaps it’s been dared by less intrepid family members to enter human habitat. Have I come across the Mikey of the helmeted guinea fowl world?
Once again, I found myself on guinea fowl chick patrol, catching and releasing, catching and releasing. This one, though, I took a little time to snuggle with, in a pathetic attempt to calm its clearly frayed nerves. Finding I was a poor stand-in for a guinea fowl mama, I reluctantly let the little guy go, ushering him under the bushes and out of view from potential predators sailing overhead. Hopefully this time the little guy found its family before a local predator found IT. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
All rights reserved. ©2011 Jennifer Vitanzo