Turaco

Turacos and relatives
Temporal range:
Oligocene - Holocene, 24–0 Ma
Tauraco persa (captive - Birds of Eden).jpg
Guinea turaco (Tauraco persa) at Birds of Eden aviary, South Africa
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Clade:Otidimorphae
Order:Musophagiformes
Seebohm, 1890
Family:Musophagidae
Lesson, 1828
Genera
Synonyms
  • Apopempsidae Brodkorb, 1971b
  • Veflintornithidae Kašin, 1976

The turacos make up the bird family Musophagidae (literally "banana-eaters"), which includes plantain-eaters and go-away-birds. In southern Africa both turacos and go-away-birds are commonly known as loeries. They are semi-zygodactylous – the fourth (outer) toe can be switched back and forth. The second and third toes, which always point forward, are conjoined in some species. Musophagids often have prominent crests and long tails; the turacos are noted for peculiar and unique pigments giving them their bright green and red feathers.

Traditionally, this group has been allied with the cuckoos in the order Cuculiformes, but the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy raises this group to a full order Musophagiformes. They have been proposed to link the hoatzin to the other living birds,[1] but this was later disputed.[2] Recent genetic analysis have strongly supported the order ranking of Musophagiformes.[3][4][5]

Musophagids are medium-sized arboreal birds endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, where they live in forests, woodland and savanna. Their flight is weak, but they run quickly through the tree canopy. They feed mostly on fruits and to a lesser extent on leaves, buds, and flowers, occasionally taking small insects, snails, and slugs. As their name suggests, turacos enjoy bananas and can become so tame as to be hand-fed. They are also partial to grapes and pawpaw (papaya).

They are gregarious birds that do not migrate but move in family groups of up to 10. Many species are noisy, with the go-away-birds being especially noted for their piercing alarm calls, which alert other fauna to the presence of predators or hunters; their common name is onomatopoeia of this. Musophagids build large stick nests in trees, and lay 2 or 3 eggs. The young are born with thick down and open, or nearly-open, eyes.[6]

Morphology

Female white-bellied go-away-bird, Corythaixoides leucogaster

Most turacos are medium-sized birds – an exception being the large great blue turaco – with long tails and short, rounded wings. They range in length from 40 to 75 cm (16–30 in). Their flight is weak, but they are strong climbers and are able to move nimbly on branches and through vegetation. Juveniles have claws on the wings that help them climb.[7][8][9] They have a unique foot arrangement, where the fourth toe can be brought around to the back of the foot where it almost touches the first toe, or brought around so that it is near the second and third. In spite of this flexibility the toe is actually usually held at right angles to the axis of the foot.[10]

The plumage of go-away-birds and plantain-eaters is mainly grey and white. The turacos on the other hand are brightly coloured birds, usually blue, green or purple. The green colour in turacos comes from turacoverdin, the only true green pigment in birds known to date. Other "greens" in bird colors result from a yellow pigment such as some carotenoid, combined with the prismatic physical structure of the feather itself which scatters the light in a particular way and giving a blue colour. Turaco wings contain the red pigment turacin, unlike in other birds where red colour is due to carotenoids. Both pigments are derived from porphyrins and only known from the Musophagidae at present, but especially the little-researched turacoverdin might have relatives in other birds. The incidence of turacoverdin in relation to habitat is of interest to scientists, being present in forest species but absent in savanna and acacia living species.[10]

Little is known about the longevity of wild turacos, but in captivity they are proving to be exceptionally long-lived, easily living to 30 in captivity. A bird in the Cotswold Wildlife Park collection approached its 37th year.[11]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Musophagidae
العربية: آكلات الموز
asturianu: Musophagidae
azərbaycanca: Turakokimilər
български: Туракови
brezhoneg: Tourako
català: Turacs
Cebuano: Musophagidae
čeština: Turakové
dansk: Turakoer
Deutsch: Turakos
español: Musophagidae
Esperanto: Musofagedoj
euskara: Turako
فارسی: موزخوار
français: Musophagidae
galego: Musofáxidos
한국어: 부채머리과
italiano: Musophagidae
עברית: טוראקיים
Kiswahili: Shorobo
кырык мары: Турако
lietuvių: Turakiniai
Nederlands: Toerako's
norsk: Turakoer
norsk nynorsk: Turakoar
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Bananxoʻrlar
پنجابی: ٹراکو
پښتو: ټوراکو
polski: Turakowate
português: Musophagiformes
română: Musophagidae
русский: Тураковые
slovenčina: Turakotvaré
suomi: Turakot
svenska: Turakor
Türkçe: Turako
українська: Туракові
Tiếng Việt: Turaco
Winaray: Musophagidae
中文: 蕉鵑