16 December 2013

Helmeted Guineafowl - Another endemic Arabian species?

Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris occurs in south-west Arabia including south-west Saudi Arabia and are regarded as being of the nominate meleagris form from north-east Africa & south-west Arabia. They differ from both sabyi & galeata by the thick pale bristles at the base of the upper mandible, only sparsely bristled nape, more pronounced red and yellow casque, blue sides of the head and wattles and finely speckled outer webs of the secondaries. The Handbook of Birds of the World states N. m. meleagris (Linnaeus, 1758) - East Chad east to Ethiopia, and south to North Zaire, Uganda and North Kenya; generally this race is assumed to have been introduced to extreme south-west Saudi Arabia and Western Yemen, but possibly also race somaliensis, or the population there represents an undescribed race given that birds are apparently smaller and darker, and were first noted as long ago as late 18th century. Dutch Birding-vogelnamen Arnoud B van den Berg, 15 August 2013 have them as an unnamed taxa Arabian Helmeted Guineafowl so maybe this could become another SW Arabian endemic species?

 The species has a very restricted range in south-west Saudi Arabia with birds only seen in the Malaki Dam Lake and Wadi Juwwah areas near Jizan. The birds are declining in numbers and it is possible they may be extinct within the next 30 years according the Mike Jennings Arabian Breeding Bird Atlas (2010).