A bird named Hank

Wild guinea fowl befriends apartment complex

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Hank, the wild guinea fowl, frequently visits the residents of Crestview Apartments, located at 202 N. 2nd Ave. He does not live on the premises, but comes and goes as he pleases. A beggar for food, he has been known to peck on people’s doors.

Hank the bird gives a whole new meaning to the term “frequent flyer.”

A wild guinea fowl, the creature spends much of his time wandering the grounds of Crestview Apartments, located at 202 N. 2nd Ave.

“Once he started coming, he was here all the time. He goes to everyone’s window and says ‘hi,'” said apartment manager Carol Deahl.

Hank has visited the apartment complex off and on for several years, sometimes going long periods without visiting, other times dropping in on a daily basis. Residents of the 40-unit complex look forward to encountering him. Indeed, the fowl has become something of a celebrity.

“When he screams you can hear it. If you don’t feed him, he pecks at your door,” said Kim Dayton, who does maintenance and housekeeping work for the building.

The guinea fowl is a native of Africa, but has been domesticated around the world. A ground-nesting bird, it spends much of its time scratching at the ground, gathering food. They are also strong fliers. This species of bird is an omnivore whose diet consists of insects, seeds, berries and small mammals and reptiles.

“It is a non-native species, so he is probably an escapee from someone’s farm and has been able to survive so far,” said Mike Stegmann, director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. “Encounters with this type of bird are like that of a barnyard chicken. I see no cause for caution if encountered by someone.”

Because of the frequency in which Hank visits the apartment building, some residents have expressed interest in putting up some type of shelter for the bird to sleep in when he’s on the premises. However, according to the City of Marshalltown’s code pertaining to poultry or domestic fowl: “The keeping or maintaining of poultry or domestic fowl in an area of the city, which is zoned residential is prohibited … The keeping or maintaining of poultry or domestic fowl enclosures within ten (10′) feet of any side lot line or rear lot line or within fifty (50′) feet from any street line is prohibited.”

Michelle Spohnheimer, who serves as director of the city’s Housing & Community Development office, offered insight into this code.

“Nothing has been formally presented to us [by the apartment management] about the bird,” she said. “The policy is in place for people who intentionally keep these birds, because there’s been problems in the past, but we are willing to talk to people on a case-by-case basis.”

Residents said Hank is rarely if ever seen accompanied by any other birds, and appears to live full-time somewhere else within the city block.

“He’s quite the character. I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about him. He’s just cool,” Deahl said.


Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com