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The red junglefowl is an ancestor of domestic chickens, that is, the Gallus domesticus. It is found in the wild in some regions of Southern Asia particularly in the lush green forests of India. It is a terrestrial bird with colorful plumage. They may look similar yet the birds are not the same as our regular fowl. If noticed minutely the differences can be noted! Though similar to the call of the male of a chicken, the call of a wild gallus ends abruptly on the last note. The domestic chickens are direct descendants of this bird with certain introgression from the grey junglefowl. In some cases, a yellow skin phenotype has been observed in the chicken as a result of this.
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Wild red junglefowl is a tropical bird that belongs to the order Galliformes and the family Phasianidae.
Red junglefowl belongs to the class of Aves (birds).
Red junglefowl birds live in considerable numbers in wild in places like Southern China and India. However, in places like Singapore, they have become endangered, because of red junglefowl hunting by the poachers. As these birds tend to dwell on the ground, they serve as easy targets for many unscrupulous poachers. Further, the wild red junglefowl population is dwindling because of interbreeding. The red junglefowl hybrid is obtained as a result of interbreeding with the other wild species or with domestic chickens.
The gallus red junglefowl lives in thick secondary forests, scrubs, mangroves, woodlands, and grasslands.
The Gallus gallus is found extensively across South Asia and Southeast Asia especially in the jungles of India. It is here that they are known to have belonged originally. The location of the red junglefowl range from the western Himalayas in the north of India to Southern China. These birds are also found in the Caribbean Islands in the Pacific and even in Australia. With the passage of time, they were taken across oceans by various settlers. They are also found in palm oil estates and ripe fruit plantations.
The red junglefowl domestic vs wild behavior differs greatly. The red junglefowl is shy as compared to the domestic chicken. Domestic chickens adapt well around human families. On the contrary, the wild gallus is not friendly enough with humans and prefers to reside in solitude. The wild gallus is usually found in family groups of not more than 20 birds. The family system is such that there is one dominant male along with a few females and juveniles in the same family. Sometimes a few subordinate males can also be a part of the group. The males are highly territorial and tend to defend their territory against competing males. This kind of territorial behavior is especially visible when the females are around. Males tend to reside in solitude as well. These birds are non-migratory in nature.
The average lifespan of this ancestor of the domestic chicken in captivity is 30 years and in the wild, it is around 12 to 14 years.
The male red junglefowl announces that it wishes to mate in the mating season by crowing, that is, a cock-a-doodle-doo call! However, in a group only the dominant male crows. In the breeding season, as a male bird forages for food successfully, he tries to communicate it to the female bird through cluck-like calls and different kinds of motion like bobbing and twitching of the head and neck. This kind of display is called tidbitting. Sometimes the birds are coaxed as well. As the females pick the food up from the ground or from the beak of the males, the males are content as it starts the mating ritual. The laying season for red junglefowl begins under the rays of the summer sun, in the months of spring and summer. The red junglefowl hen lays one egg per day in the breeding season. It takes 21 days for the chick to fully develop from the embryo, until then it feeds on the yolk that surrounds it. Generally, the red junglefowl lays one-two clutches every year, and each clutch has four-six eggs, on average. The chick's body receives nutrients from the umbilicus. In the first week, the heart and blood vessels are formed and they start working, followed by the head and all other organs. The sexual organs are formed later that week and sexual maturity is reached within five months. This happens faster for the male chick than the female one. In the second week, the skeletal structure is formed using the calcium from the surrounding eggshell. It can take up to twenty hours for a chick to hatch, breaking the thin shell of the egg. Slowly the chicks become fully feathered and later at around nine weeks the wings pertaining to adulthood appear. After three more weeks the mother chases the chicks out from the family and they are left to fend for themselves. It is interesting to note that the chicks may form groups by interacting with other chicks or they may join an existing group of birds and adapt to their hierarchy. No wonder these birds are of so much interest to humans. It is this social behavior that definitely contributes to the cause. An analysis of this has been carried out by researchers all over the world.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the status of the red jungle fowl falls under the Least Concern category. However, even though they fall under the Least Concern category, the population for this gallus is decreasing with their numbers concentrated only in some parts of the world. In Singapore, the G. gallus is considered endangered and is found on the Endangered list in the Red Data Book, and conservation of the species is being looked into. These birds are being protected in the national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and biosphere reserves along with other birds and animals in many places.
The Gallus gallus is a beautiful bird with brown, orange, gold, red, dark maroon plumage with a hint of metallic gray and green. Some olive and white feathers are also visible. The distinguishing feature of this gallus is its grayish feet and two white ear-shaped patches on either side of the head. The eclipse plumage is an interesting fact about this bird. In the female bird, it is not particularly visible but she does molt. However, in the male one, the eclipse showcases a long black feather across the middle of his back and as slender reddish-orange plumes on his remaining hide. This plumage becomes visible in the months of June to October. There are 14 tail feathers in the male of this species. The wingspan varies from 15-20 in (38-51 cm). The tail feathers of the males of this gallus have a white patch and there is a red comb on their heads. The female bird has a smaller comb and wattles than the male. The physical features of the female are better adapted for camouflage than that of the males. The red and the Ceylon junglefowl are closely related.
A chick of the red junglefowl is definitely cute! However, an adult red junglefowl can be described as curious, skittish, or feral rather than being called cute.
In the world of the red junglefowl, there is a distinct pecking order. The males of the red junglefowl peck in a different way than the females. The complexity of the calls is noticeable amongst these birds. The alarm calls for the different kinds of predators vary. The red junglefowl cackle is different for the red junglefowl predators on the ground and for the predators in the air. Calls are also used by dominant males to warn the potential competitors in the area. They use it to establish themselves firmly in their respective territories. Subordinate males of the species are required to bow down in front of the dominant male who stands tall. What interesting ways of communication exist amongst these birds!
The red junglefowl size varies with their sex. The male red junglefowl at 30 in (76cm) is bigger as compared to the female red junglefowl i.e. 17 in (43.1 cm). The birds also differ in size from their subspecies of the domestic chicken. The wild breed is smaller in size which is perfect for camouflaging in their natural habitat!
The red junglefowl unlike the domestic chicken can fly for short distances. The gallus prefers to roost in the branches of a tree to avoid predators on the ground. The red junglefowl can run at a moderate speed if the need arises.
The red junglefowl weight varies with the sex of the birds. The feral males weigh around 3.25 lb (1.5 kg) whereas the feral females weigh around 2.25 lb (1 kg).
Usually, a young male red junglefowl is called a cock or cockerel and the adult female red junglefowl is called a hen.
Usually a baby red junglefowl, that is, G. gallus, is called a chick.
The red junglefowl diet includes grains, leaves, tubers, roots, bamboo, small insects, snakes, snails, arthropods, and various other vertebrates and invertebrates like small lizards. They are usually attracted to places with ripe fruits and grains. They have a tendency to forage on the ground, however, sometimes they do forage in trees for ripe fruit. The adult red junglefowl, Gallus gallus prefers plant-based food to arthropods and insects but the chicks munch on worms, insects, and sometimes plant-based food.
The red junglefowl can turn aggressive when attacked or provoked. Cockfights can turn aggressive in the mating season. Also, the young males who are more aggressive tend to mate more and with the maximum number of females.
The red junglefowl, Gallus gallus, is rather feral, however, domestication of the species has been carried out by humans. The wild gallus prefers to be left alone and is very skittish in nature.
In Hawaii, the red junglefowl bird is termed as moa, and the Polynesian royalty used to wear cloaks made of red junglefowl feathers.
The eggs of this species are pale, cream, or light brown in color.
In the wild, these birds may follow monogamy. However, when interbreeding they are often polygamous.
The females of this wild ancestor of the domestic chicken lay one to two clutches of eggs annually. The red junglefowl female habitat comprises nests at elevated heights or in covered areas in the ground surrounded by grasses and twigs. The hen alone looks after the chicks and the eggs.
Some humans prefer their chickens wild and rear them in their backyard.
On a regular basis, these feral chickens bathe in the dust to maintain the oil balance in their feathers. The dust falls off automatically after absorbing the oil.
The domestication of these birds took place roughly around 8,000 years ago. Some researchers are of the view that it might have happened even earlier. Others believe that they have been domesticated around 3200 BC. Domestication was carried out mainly for meat and red junglefowl eggs. They were also used in cock-fighting and in religious ceremonies.
The red junglefowl native to Hawaii is the first introduced bird in the US State. Hundreds of years ago the Polynesian settlers introduced the South Asian red junglefowl in Hawaii. Since then they have been valued for their meat and eggs across the area.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our scarlet macaw facts and metallic starling facts pages.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable red junglefowl coloring pages.
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