By Eric D. Hilton
This seems to be a frequently asked question.
Let me try to explain them. They originate roughly in a band across Central Africa from Liberia across to Tanzania. They are split up into 3 clearly identifiable subspecies with a very unlikely fourth.
Poicephalus gulielmi gulielmi: Known in the states as Black wings this is the "nominate race". Generally is a darker green and is stockier than the other subspecies, with a larger beak Comes from Central Africa ranging from Cameroon, Angola east to south west Uganda. Can be distinguished by its dark wing feathers which could be described as practically "black" in some cases, because of only, the small green margins to its wing feathers. A large amount of red / orange on the forehead extending into the crown , also on the thighs and fore edges of the wings in large areas. the nominate seems to come in a variety of sizes but will never be as small as say a Senegal but can be the size of a timneh grey.
Poicephalus gulielmi fantiensis - Distinguishable from the other two subspecies by being smaller, lighter in color but most noticeable, the forehead, crown, thighs and edges of wings are marked in a definite orange not orange / red, as in the nominate. Sometimes fading to yellow at the crown. Some specimens have a yellow "wash" on the abdomen. The distribution of this bird is West Africa from Liberia eastwards to Ghana along the Ivory Coast.
Poicephalus gulielmi massaicus - Massaicus birds are normally larger and sleeker than the nominate and are at least the size of a timneh and in some cases larger. Tending to lack color on the head until adult plumage. In adult plumage it is much paler with less red / orange on the forehead, usually just a small band across the front of the head, not extending to the crown, and only small amounts of color on the wings and thighs. Also the backs of its wings have larger green margins so does not give the same nearly black appearance as in gulielmi. Its range is in East Africa from Southern Kenya to Northern Tanzania.
Poicephalus gulielmi permistus This is supposed to be an intermediate between Poicephalus gulielmi gulielmi and Poicephalus gulielmi massaicus. But no examples of this have been identified in the UK. Or any that I know of, anywhere else.
To sum up as a rough guide:
- Poicephalus gulielmi gulielmi (Black Wing) Is usually a large bird but some examples can be somewhat smaller. It has lots of color of red/orange to red, a large beak and the back of its wings can be described as practically black in adult plumage.
- Poicephalus gulielmi fantiensis (lessers) Is like the gulielmi but is a lot smaller bird and the color is more orange/yellow than red. I have seen smallish gulielmi's but never large fantiensis!!
- Poicephalus gulielmi massaicus (greaters) Is a different shaped bird altogether with less color, with the wings having large green margins. Usually just a small band of red above the cere of no more than 7mm.
Habitat Lives in the lowland rain forest and mountain cloud forest, dependent on the subspecies. The nominate and fantiensis in the former and the massaicus in the latter. They have also been seen to come down to the edges of the forest during the day, in search of alternative food but returning to the canopy as dusk approaches. They have been observed feeding on wild olives, the fruits of Podocarpus and Ceddrus, also the seeds from Spathodea pods. Their nests have been observed to be mostly in living Podocarpus, Hagenia abyssinica and Juniper trees.