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There are eighteen species of turacos. They are colorful, long-tailed birds, green and blue in color with crimson primary feathers that show well in flight. While the bright colors of most birds are due to refraction of light by their feather structures, those of the turacos are true pigments. Thus a red primary will, when mixed with water, dye the liquid red.
These birds manage to maintain their colors throughout the year. Most turacos are 15 to 18 inches long. The sexes look alike except for the bill color.
Hartlaub's Turaco, Tauraco hartlaubi, has a prominent, white comma before the eye. Livingstone's Turaco, Turaco livingstonii, has a simple, white line around the red eye patch and a bold green crest. The White Crested Turaco, Tauraco leucolophus.
DISTRIBUTION and HABITAT:
Turacos are found in Central and Southern Africa. They inhabit the evergreen forest and wooded valleys.
In spite of their obvious coloring, Turacos are difficult to see among foliage. In trees, they clamber about with considerable agility and are easily overlooked as they perch stationary along a branch. They live in small bands and are most obvious as they fly. They have broad, rounded wings and their flight seems labored. Like commandoes, they seem to wait for the bird ahead to land safely before the next in line sets off across open ground.
Among the trees their search for fruit is thorough and systematic. They climb and run along branches easily, using their wings and feet. The fourth toe is set at right angles to the foot and may be used forward or backward, which aids their tree-climbing activities.
Turacos eat mostly fruit, and some invertebrates.
REPRODUCTION and GROWTH:
Turacos nest in trees where they build a pigeon-like platform of twigs. They are monogamous, and both parents contribute equally to incubation, brooding and feeding.
Turacos lay two or three eggs which are white or masked with a slight cast of plain color. Incubation takes 21-24 days, and the nestling period is 10-12 days. The nestlings are covered in a fine down of varying color. Chicks are fed on predigested fruit.
Like the great climbers they are, young turacos will leave the nest long before they can fly to clamber about the tree tops. A strong wing claw helps them. Young birds take about a year to develop full adult coloration.