Believed to be the direct ancestor of all domestic chickens, the red junglefowl is an attractive game bird with a long history of association with humans. That association, however, is one of the greatest threats to this handsome bird – because of hybridization and domestication, this wild chicken is facing genetic extinction.
Red Junglefowl, Wild Chicken
- Bill: Small, pale, hooked
- Size: 18-29 inches long with 15-20-inch wingspan, long neck
- Colors: Red, gold, white, brown, black, orange, green
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Males have a red gold head and neck with long feathers on the upperparts. A fleshy red comb tops the head and red wattles frame the cheeks. Chest and underparts are black, and the long black tail show green iridescence and a white rump patch. Green and blue iridescence shows on the wings. Females are mottled red and brown with smaller, duller wattles and lack the long tail. Females may show minor orange or gold on the neck.
Seeds, insects, fruit
Habitat and Migration:
Though domestic chickens are found worldwide with different degrees of hybridization, true red junglefowl are native only to southeastern Asia including eastern India, southern China, Indonesia and the Philippines. These birds prefer open woodland and scrub areas, grassland, plantations and agricultural areas, and while they may roam in search of food, they do not regularly migrate.
These are gregarious, vocal birds that have shrill, cackling calls that sound similar to domestic chickens. Like their domestic cousins, they call mostly in the morning but will issue alarm calls whenever necessary.
These are shy game birds that spook easily and when threatened will run or flush into low flight. They are strong fliers, roost overnight in trees and feed on the ground, scratching in leaf litter and dirt while foraging. In the non-breeding season, they join mixed flocks with other game birds, though in the breeding season they are highly territorial and will establish a hierarchical "pecking order" among birds in the same flock.
These are monogamous birds in the wild, though hybridized birds are frequently polygamous. Interbreeding with domestic and feral birds is common. A female red junglefowl will incubate a brood of 3-7 eggs for 18-20 days, and she will care for the precocial young for up to 85 days until the young birds form their own social group.
Attracting Red Junglefowl:
These game birds will visit backyards and garden areas to forage in leaf litter and tilled soil. To attract them in the appropriate range, backyard birders can offer cracked corn and birdseed in ground tray feeders, along with a low bird bath. Good shrub cover is also essential for these wary birds.
- Grey Junglefowl (Gallus sonneratii)
- Sri Lankan Junglefowl (Gallus lafayetii)