Hildebrandt’s Spurfowl

The striking Hildebrandt’s Spurfowl Pternistis hildebrandti is a species of bird in the family Phasianidae that includes grouse, pheasants and partridges. The combination of its intricate plumage and shy nature makes it a popular bird to see for birders visiting the African continent.

Hildebrandt’s Spurfowl

It is endemic to east Africa and is found in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia. It is most easily seen Ngorongoro in Tanzania, Nakuru in Kenya, and Nyika and Liwonde in Malawi. The species is named for German explorer Johann Maria Hildebrandt (1847 to 1881), who collected the first specimens in Kenya. A phylogenetic study by Mandiwana-Neudani et al published in 2019 found that the Hildebrandt’s Spurfowl is actually “sister” to the Natal Spurfowl of southern Africa.

The male Hildebrandt’s Spurfowl’s throat, neck and underparts are whitish with dramatic black flecks and spots, most distinct on the lower breast and flanks, with a dark grey-brown crown, nape and supercilia, rufous-grey ear coverts, a red bill with black culmen, brown eyes and red legs. The female has very distinctive rufous-buff underparts, lacks the white streaking on her mantle and is considerably smaller than the male. They reach about 41 cm (16 in) and weigh between 430 and 650 grams.

It favours open habitats with scattered cover close to thickets, rocky hillsides, bracken, bushy grassland and also at the edges of forests; mainly between 2,000 and 2,500 m above sea level.

The spurfowls are primarily terrestrial birds of the Old World that feed mainly on vegetable matter, bulbs, tubers and seeds, but also on insects and their larvae. They forage in pairs or small coveys.

Their call is a raucous penetrating crowing kek kek kek kerak, mainly given at dawn and dusk. Once one individual starts calling, several others normally follow.

Luckily the Hildebrant’s Spurfowl is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List and is not currently considered to be in need of conservation attention.

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