For many years now, I have watched him. He hangs out on Rocky River Road, near the Newell Place development.
On days when I am fortunate enough to see him, I’m fascinated.
In the past few weeks I’ve studied him a bit more. I feel as though I have a new friend, although he is oblivious to my existence. He struts around my neighborhood with a confident stride.
He seems to be a loner. I’ve never seen him with any family members. He covers a lot of ground but often stops to check out his surroundings along the way.
Since I got a new “squirrel-proof” birdfeeder with wild bird food, my friend visits more often. Recently, I watched him literally move a squirrel away from hanging out under the birdfeeder. I knew then that we’d be friends for life.
After that heart-warming sight, I attempted to reach out and have a formal meeting. My new friend would have no part of that. After all, he is a loner.
He likes to peck for food under birdfeeders. He pecks and scratches, looks around, then pecks and scratches some more. Then he wanders off to his next adventure.
I grew up in a city environment, so this is not something I’m familiar with.
Last week, it surprised me to see that he could actually fly up about 14 inches to get a drink from the birdbath.
By now you know my friend is not human. He is a guinea fowl.
After all these years of watching him, I finally did a little research, after an editor identified the bird from a photo.
One of my Newell Place neighbors has named our feathered friend Willie. We are always amazed how this creature moves about with such confidence and ease.
Although Willie seems indifferent to humans, it seemed as though he posed for me as I took his picture.
Another neighbor told me he thinks Willie is a wild guinea fowl who takes care of himself. He said Willie even uses automobile hubcaps to check himself out from time to time. I had hoped Willie had a nice home some place in the University area. I guess I’ll never really know.
What I learned from a bit of online research was that a guinea fowl is sometimes called a guinea hen. Some are called crowned or helmeted. They are native to Africa, but the helmeted guinea fowl has been domesticated, and both feral and wild-type birds have been introduced elsewhere.
Like domestic chickens, the young feed themselves as soon as they are hatched. Guinea fowl eat insects and are sometimes used to control ticks. The Guinea Fowl International website has a wealth of information. It provides a breeders list, which includes several cities in North Carolina.
On June 9, Willie briskly trotted over for breakfast. This time he stayed a few hours. It was the first time I heard him make loud noises. It was a mixture of turkeylike gobbling, peeping, gurgling and cooing. I didn’t know whether Willie was trying to communicate with other birds or just taking an opportunity to express himself.
Whatever the case, Willie has a friend in me. We have an unspoken friendship. I wish he could understand the words to James Taylor’s song “You’ve Got a Friend.”
If you have any information about Willie, please share it. Or if you have your own guinea fowl story, I’d love to hear that, too, and share it with University City News readers.