Not just a chicken…

Culebra is notable for many reasons, not just its pristine and photogenic beaches.  One of its more unusual features is the number of chickens seen everywhere, but not just your ordinary run-of-the-mill domestic bird.  The wild ancestor of the domestic chicken – Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) –  was introduced at some time in the past, and has over-run the island.  They are everywhere — backyards, streets, underfoot in outdoor cafes, as well as natural areas.

Red Junglefowl have a cowl of chesnut neck feathers, brilliant red comb and wattles, and long, drooping blue-black tail feathers.  Not your garden variety chicken!

Red Junglefowl roosters have a shawl of chestnut neck feathers, brilliant red comb and wattles, and long, drooping blue-black tail feathers. Not your garden variety chicken!  The hen in the photo, however, is most likely a domestic chicken, being far lighter in color than a true female junglefowl.

A Red Junglefowl rooster and his domestic hens search driveway gravel for seeds.

A Red Junglefowl rooster and his harem of domestic hens search driveway gravel for seeds.

Originally found in parts of southern Asia, Red Junglefowl were most likely domesticated about 5,000 years ago, giving rise to the many varieties of domestic chicken we see today. They still exist in the wild in parts of their range, but were introduced to many islands all over the world by early explorers, as future food resources for hungry sailors.  No doubt most of those Junglefowl genes have been swamped out by domestic chicken varieties, but the males still exhibit the striking plumage that differentiates them from just an ordinary rooster.

7 thoughts on “Not just a chicken…

  1. Hi, Sue! Just read an article on how really smart chickens are in the latest issue of Scientific American. No wonder they have survived so long and adapted so well…to their detriment, perhaps, as I eat my chicken salad…..

    • The jungle fowl roosters seem prettier than the domestic variety to me, and their behavior in the flock might be different too. Apparently, there is only one dominant breeding male, and hens can somehow purge the sperm of inferior males if not mated with the dominant bird. And that’s a nifty trick to try to manage!

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