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New Bird on the Block — Chapter 4

November 10, 2013


This is not the face of an alien. It is a guinea fowl in mid-squawk, a photo op captured as the bird noisily tapped his beak on my front door during one of his recent visits.

Despite the racket he makes (and the damage he is inflicting on my door), the animal’s visits are always welcome. The way he looks, the sounds he makes, the hilarious way he runs – these qualities make for one loveable and endlessly entertaining bird.

Ghedi (GEH-dee) the guinea fowl landed in my suburban neighborhood three-and-a-half years ago and decided to stay. To this day, my neighbors and I have no idea how or why he turned up here. It’s possible that he escaped while being transported to or from a farm. Or he might have wandered away from his original home — possibly a nearby orchard or small farm.

But where Ghedi came from doesn’t matter. What’s important is that he is now one of Us. He’s become a neighborhood pet, an odd-looking avian creature who wanders from one yard to another and one front door to another, stopping to watch his reflection in doors, windows and the side doors of cars.

Ghedi & mirror

The sight of Ghedi roving the neighborhood has become so familiar that if I don’t see him for a day or two, my world seems slightly off-kilter. And I’ve become so accustomed to hearing the talkative bird’s array of calls, that I sometimes mistake another bird’s chirps and caws for Ghedi’s.

With his plump, egg-shaped body, polka-dotted feathers and drooping red-and-white wattles, Ghedi is a sight to behold. He is a helmeted guinea fowl, so named because of the triangular, bony “helmet” on top of the bird’s head. Because guinea fowl are native to Africa, my husband and I decided to call him Ghedi, a Somali name meaning “traveler.” But often, we refer to him simply as The Bird.

Ghedi at bowl

The Survivor

Ghedi has lived through three winters, including a particularly snowy one a few years ago. That season, my next-door neighbor Joe and his family set up a shelter for the bird in their garage, arranging a bed of hay on the floor, along with bowls for birdseed and water. They later propped a large mirror against a pole next to Ghedi’s bed so the creature could admire himself while confined indoors.

Had Ghedi not had a warm place to stay during the winter, he probably wouldn’t have survived this long. The rest of the year, he roosts overnight in a densely branched pine tree that borders my lawn and Joe’s lawn, which is now The Bird’s home base.

The fowl routinely turns in at sunset, flying up into his tree and settling down on a cluster of branches for the night. Before he falls asleep, he sings his “lullaby” – a lusty outburst of cackling that lasts several minutes.

Under other circumstances, that nightly cacophony would be irritating. But since it’s The Bird’s unique song, it’s funny and somehow, soothing.

Outfoxing the Fox

Last spring, a pair of foxes spotted Ghedi and began making unannounced visits to his home. Worried that Ghedi would become fox food, Joe kept the bird inside the garage for several days. When it appeared that the foxes had given up their quarry, Ghedi was allowed to roam again.

Soon afterward, Ghedi chased one of the foxes down the street, squawking shrilly and flapping his wings until the terrified animal ducked into the nearby woods. That was the last time I saw that fox, or any fox, dare to cross into The Bird’s territory.

Ghedi has even stood his ground against a coyote, albeit one with a bum leg. When the coyote limped out of the nearby woods, where a pack of the wild animals occasionally stays, Ghedi flew onto a fence post and screeched at the coyote until it scampered away.

But The Bird knows enough to go to higher ground when truly threatened. When another (bigger and healthier) coyote sauntered into Ghedi’s front yard last summer, the fowl soared to the top of a utility pole — easily 40 feet high — and perched there until it was safe to return home.

Ghedi close-up

The Clown

Ghedi’s antics are a steady source of amusement. There is his bee-eating stunt, for instance. Yes, live bees that have the misfortune of flying close to the bird’s beak, which snaps open and shut in milliseconds to capture the intrepid insects. This is not an unusual pastime for a guinea fowl, according to the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service:

Guinea fowl have been known to stand by a hive and eat the bees as they come out.

For this particular guinea fowl, another favorite activity is knocking on my door. During the fall and winter months, Ghedi hops up my front steps and raps his curved beak on the glass storm door — sometimes because he’s looking for a meal, but mostly, because he simply wants attention. Between the staccato taps, Ghedi whistles and squeaks softly. The fowl is a regular one-man band.

Also high in entertainment value is the sight of Ghedi sitting in a loose patch of dirt and briskly flapping his wings, creating a miniature dust storm. This is known as a “dust bath,” which Guineas regularly take to remove parasites and debris from their skin and feathers.

Then there are the times when Ghedi engages in a bird-versus-sedan race by jogging along the driver’s side of my car as I back out of my driveway. This recreational activity, while amusing, is also a little scary. I have to make sure Ghedi has moved a safe distance away before I can continue on my way.

The Bird also greets me when I come home. As I pull into the driveway, he runs full-tilt toward my front steps and yells impatiently until I fill his bowl with birdseed. He picks out the millet, leaving the rest for chipmunks, squirrels and sparrows that now see the big bird as their meal ticket.

New Digs

Just in time for winter, Ghedi is trading up to a chic new home. Joe decided it was time to give The Bird his own place, so he recently installed a small wooden shed in his back yard. With the mirror already in place, things are looking good for the fowl.

I’ve read that guineas have an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years. So with his new winter home and plenty of bugs and birdseed to keep him nourished, Ghedi may be my good buddy and neighbor for years to come.

Ghedi on lawn

© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use of this material, including original photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, with links to the original content.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2013 11:04 pm

    It’s good to have news of Ghedi. I hope he enjoys the fall as much as I do and that he has a safe and comfortable winter. Many thanks to Neighbor Joe.

  2. Maureen C. permalink
    November 12, 2013 11:12 am

    would you write another story about Ghedi? I am enchanted! Wish he lived in my neighborhood.

    • November 13, 2013 1:15 pm

      At some point I’ll probably write a Chapter 5 in the saga of Ghedi. He’s always giving me new material!

      • July 30, 2014 4:00 am

        Have you considered getting a second Guinea? A pair will be much happier, healthier, and prob live longer. Fowl are social animals too. Guineas eat ticks and bugs too.

      • July 30, 2014 11:17 am

        My neighbor, who has “adopted” this guinea fowl, has considered getting a female companion for Ghedi. I agree that he would be better off with a mate, so hopefully he’ll get one soon. Ghedi regularly eats ticks and other bugs on my property and nearby ones. (In my previous posts on Ghedi — chapters 1-3 — I wrote about this and other details.) Thanks for sharing your outlook!

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