Saturday, 14 July 2012

Turacos 4: Violet Turaco

Last of the three turaco species we have at Bristol is perhaps the most beautifully coloured of all, the Violet Turaco Musphaga violacea. With a home range of over 2 million square kilometres north of the Gulf of Guinea, stretching from Guines in the west to Nigeria in the east, it is not currently considered threatened – in fact it is locally common in some areas. Further east all across Africa south to Botswana it is replaced by the similar, but even more impressive, Ross’ Turaco, M. rossae.

As with almost all turacoes, the Violet is a woodland bird, but it will use more open habitats than some other species and will enter farmland and parkland habitats, feeding on both wild and cultivated fruits. As with all frugivorous birds, it is an important dispersal agent in forest fruit trees, especially figs.

Outside the breeding season, Violet Turacos are quite social, moving around in noisy flocks of 10-12 individuals, probably consisting of several family parties. With the onset of the rainy season they split up into individual pairs, each vigorously defending their territory. As with other turaco species, they lay 2 eggs and the young leave the nest before they can fly, clambering and running through the branches.

This territoriality presents the main problem with keeping turacos in aviaries, especially smaller ones. If one of the pair wants to breed and the other is not in breeding condition, they can become very aggressive to each other, and injuries or even deaths can result. For this reason, larger planted aviaries, especially ones where there are visual barriers which enable the birds to get out of each others sight, usually provide more breeding success.

Although not as smart as parrots, turacos always give me the impression of being alert and curious birds, and I have seen several used in flying displays and presentations. They do not however make good companion birds, as their fruit diet makes them rather messy birds and their aviaries, especially if on the small side, require regular cleaning and hosing down. With the long overdue EU ban on import of wild caught birds, any in the UK available for sale will be captive bred birds. However, if you are contemplating keeping them, please remember the specialised diet and long lifespans I mentioned in earlier posts – going on holiday and leaving the neighbour to look after them is a bit of an imposition unless they are well-informed already. For more information on turacos, visit the International Turaco Society website at

Nest week, some new arrivals at Bristol. In the meantime, here are a couple of Youtube videos of turacos in action:

Video of Violet Turaco:

Video of handfeeding a Red-Crested Turaco Chick:

And on a lighter note, this is my 200th post on this blog. Thanks everyone for visiting over the last few years, and if you would like me to write about any other animal, drop me a line.

(Images from Wikipedia)

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