gĭn´ē, common name for any of the seven species of gallinaceous birds of the family Numididae, native to Africa and Madagascar. The helmeted guinea fowl, Numida meleagris, from which the domesticated strains are descended, is typical of the family, with its bare head and neck, sleek body, smooth dark feathers dotted with white, and short tail. It is named for its bony casque. Guinea fowls are raised, mainly for their gamey flesh, in many parts of the world. Of the three domestic varieties (the pearl, the white, and the lavender), the purplish-gray colored pearl is the most common. The largest member of the family is the 24-in. (60-cm) vulturine guinea fowl, Acryllium vulturinum, found in tropical E Africa. Guinea fowls are extremely good runners and use this method, rather than flying, to escape predators. Guinea fowls are known to have been domesticated by the ancient Greeks and Romans. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Galliformes, family Numididae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology