Lee Richardson Zoo
City of Garden CityAZA LogoFOLRZ LogoKansas Association of Conservation and Environmental Educators

Guinea Turaco

AKA Gold Coast Turaco, Green Turaco

Order: Cuculiformes - cuckoos and turacos

Family: Musophagidae -turacos

Scientific Name: Tauraco corythaix persa

 

Guinea TuracoDescriptionTuracos are medium-sized, stocky birds with long tails and short, rounded wings.   They have strong, downward-curving beaks, and strong feet adapted for moving along tree branches.  Two toes on each foot point forward, one points backward, and the fourth toe can be used in either direction.  Their plumage is very glossy, and they have bold black and white markings around the eyes. The Guinea turaco has green plumage on the head, neck, and breast, and a tall green crest that can be tipped with red or purple.  There is a ring of bright red skin around each eye.  The back, rump, and tail are black with purple gloss, and the underparts are dull black.  There is a large, crimson-red patch on each wing, which is usually visible only during flight.  Males and females look alike.  They are 16-17 inches from the tip of their beak to the end of their tail.

 

RangeHome Range: Coastal West Africa, from Senegal
to Angola

 

Habitat Type:  Prefers older secondary-growth
forests, especially forest edges along rivers
or near cultivation.

 

Reproduction:  Turacos begin breeding at the start of the rainy season.  Courtship includes many rituals such as calling, chasing each other from tree to tree, mutual feeding, raising the crest, flashing markings on the head, bowing, and spreading their wings to show the crimson patches.  Each pair of guinea turacos builds a rough platform nest of sticks and twigs.  They prefer to build their nests 5-15 feet above the ground, in thick foliage in an isolated tree or bush.  They lay 2 creamy-white, almost perfectly round eggs in each clutch.  Incubation lasts 21-23 days, and both partners incubate.  The chicks hatch with a thick coat of down.  By their fourth week, the chicks become very active, and can climb in the branches surrounding the nest.  They fledge at 5-6 weeks, but continue to be dependent on their parents until they are about 15 weeks old.

 

Diet in the Wild:  Wide variety of wild and cultivated fruits; also flowers and flower buds

 

Diet in the Zoo:  Chopped fruit, small bird maintenance feed

 

General Information:  Turacos have two copper pigments in their feathers that have not been found in any other animal.  Turacin produces a deep red color, and is found most often in flight feathers in the wings, and turacoverdin produces the bright green of the head, neck, and breast.  Turacos have been valued by native people for their brightly-colored feathers.  In South Africa, turaco feathers are said to have been the symbol of the Zulu king – no one else was allowed to wear the feathers.  Turacos are wary of humans and prefer to spend most of their time in the treetops, visiting the ground only to drink or bathe.  Their small wings make them weak fliers, but they can move easily along tree branches by running or hopping.  All of the turacos are very vocal, and their loud, resonant calls are one of the most characteristic sounds of the African rainforests.  The guinea turaco calls with a loud “kaw-kaw-kaw”, starting slow, becoming louder and faster, and then dying away.  Two different pitches are heard from this species, and it is thought that females make the higher-pitched calls.  Once one bird begins calling, others are usually quick to join the chorus.  Like other turacos, guinea turacos begin calling noisily at dawn, and start feeding shortly afterwards.  They spend most of the day feeding, with periods of preening and resting in between.  After rainstorms, they take time to dry out, resting with wings and tail feathers spread apart.  They begin moving to their roosting sites in late evening – this is another occasion for prolonged, noisy choruses until all birds have settled in the treetops.  All turacos are territorial.  Each pair or family has a core area where they spend most of their time, and peripheral areas that they defend against other turacos.  They frequently raid other birds’ territories for food, but are always chased out if they are unlucky enough to meet the residents.  Turacos sometimes travel long distances to feed in a favorite tree.  They approach the tree silently, possibly to avoid giving away its location.  Where guinea turacos are found in the same range with yellow-billed turacos, the two species are aggressive competitors, both feeding in fruiting trees.  They are important dispersers of seeds for indigenous trees.


Although their exact lineage may still be under debate, the Guinea turaco’s scientific name is Tauraco corythaix persa.  This superspecies name indicates that there is a relationship between the Knysna turaco (Turaco corythaix) and theGreen turaco(Turaco persa).

 

Conservation Status:  Guinea turacos are fairly common in their range, but no population estimates have been made.  Some populations are threatened by capture for meat, feathers, or trade of live birds.  They are listed on CITES Appendix II.

 

PredatorsNative mammals, birds of prey, and sometimes snakes; hunted in some parts of their range for their meat and feathers

 

Resources

A Field Guide to the Birds of West Africa.  1984.  W. Serle, G.J. Morel, W. Hartwig.  Collins, London.  p. 103.

Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 4.  1997.  J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal.  Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.  pp. 480-497, 499.