Sunday, September 11, 2011

Only in Africa- the Turacos

Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata) at Mabira Forest Reserve
in Uganda

I saw my first turaco one week after arriving in Rwanda. I was hiking toward the back of ASYV property, descending from the top of our hill. Michele had just left for breakfast. And then a crazy looking turkey-like bird landed in a tree. I nearly ran after Michele to bring her back; it would be two full months before she would see a turaco. 

Purple-crested Turaco (Tauraco porphyreolophus) in a fruiting tree, near
Kibungo, Eastern Province, Rwanda

Turacos are unique birds. They are big, ranging in length from 40-75 centimeters (about 1.25-2.5 feet). They are generally brightly colored, have long tails, and glide from tree to tree. They eat fruits, such as small berries, with their thick, down-curved bills. There are 23 species in the turaco family (Musophagidae); all are found only in Africa.

Many turacos have bright reds on their wings that are only visible in flight.
This is the purple-crested turaco gliding through a valley.

Michele and I have seen eleven of the turaco species: great blue turaco, Ross’s turaco, Rwenzori turaco, white-crested turaco, purple-crested turaco, Hartlaub’s turaco, Schalow’s turaco, black-billed turaco, white-bellied go-away bird, bare-faced go-away bird, and the eastern grey plantain-eater. We have seen all the turacos that occur in Rwanda and Uganda, and all but three in Tanzania. We went looking for Fischer’s turaco in the forests of the East Usambara Mountains in Tanzania, but we never caught a glimpse.

These Ross's Turacos (Musophaga rossae) actually chased away the
purple-crested turacos from the fruiting trees near Kibungo, Eastern
Province, Rwanda. 

An upclose view of Ross's Turaco, seen here in Parike W'Agahozo at
Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. Ross's Turaco is the only turaco species
I have observed at ASYV.

Most of the turacos proved difficult to photograph with our point-and-shoot camera, especially since they glide into trees and are often obscured by the leaves. However, we managed a few decent shots of seven species.
Schalow's Turaco (Tauraco schalowi) in the highland forests of
Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. Note the red and white
around the eye. This species has a tall feathery crest that is unfortunately
not so visible in the picture. I am surprised the picture came out at all!

Birdwatchers and birders are generally interested in all types of birds, some dull and totally uninteresting to the non-birder. Some birds, however, transcend into wildlife spectacles. Birds like flamingoes, parrots, and turacos are birds that anyone can enjoy. One of our non-birder colleagues visited Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda and said watching the great blue turaco in flight was one of the highlights of her trip. Well done, turaco, you put on a good show!

Bare-faced Go-away-bird (Corythaixoides personatus) in Tarangire
National Park, Tanzania.

White-bellied Go-away-bird (Criniferoides leucogaster) east of
Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Eastern Grey Plantain-eater (Crinifer zonurus) near Mabamba Swamp,

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