At the time we were living in a gated village near Somerset West and the bird life in this area was wonderful. There were many guinea fowl and one got used to their constant calls all day long. In the spring the nursemaids would suddenly appear with hatchlings that would be taken on their daily rounds amid much calling and overseeing. When these little birds were a few weeks old, they had to get up into a large old tree each evening to roost. The little ones couldn’t really fly and would run up the trunk while frantically flapping their little wings. The older birds would be calling out instructions all the time.
[quote]There was one old guinea fowl in particular – the matriarch? – that ruled the roost and called out loud and clear numerous times a day, especially early mornings and evenings. [/quote]
One got used to this constant chatter that went on all day long and started up again each morning as the birds all left their roosting place in the old tree.
One morning there was an eerie silence that I couldn’t quite place. The guinea fowl were silent – no calling, no chatter, just a heavy silence. When I went for my walk I found the old matriarch lying in the driveway. She would never call out again. As I watched, guinea fowl came to her side and stood beside her for some minutes before moving on. The groups of birds still made their rounds that day, but there was no sound. Even the chirping of the little ones was muted.
The old bird was removed and buried, but it took some weeks before the sounds of the guinea fowl became more pronounced and life seemed to return to normal. I didn’t stay long enough to witness the calls of a ‘new’ leader of the pack, but one would presume that this would have occurred.