Lee Richardson Zoo

Lady Ross’s Turaco

Order:  Cuculiformes - cuckoos and turacos

Family:  Musophagidae - turacos

Scientific Name: Musophaga rossae


DescriptionA pigeon sized bird standing 20 to 21 inches tall and weighs nearly one pound.  A two inch prominent crimson crest on the top of the head is unique to this family.  Its face lacks feathers so the yellow skin and bill are easily visible.  Eyes are brown.  The body, tail, and breast are a violet dark blue.  The underwings are a brilliant red; while the belly, thighs, legs, and feet are black.  Sexes appear alike for the exception of the female’s greenish beak.

Home Range:  Central and Southern Africa.  Specifically, found in Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic.  


Habitat Type:  Prefer to nest in evergreen and riparian  forests.  Rarely found in deep vegetation, favoring more open areas.  Found from sea level to 8,200 feet.


Reproduction:  Males may breed from 1 to 22 years of age, while females may breed from 2 to 28 years of age.  Turacos form long-term partnerships.  Timing of the breeding season depends on the region they are found.  Both parents contribute to nest construction, which may be placed 6.5 to 52.5 feet high.  Females lay one to three off-white eggs at two day intervals.  After a 24 to 26 day incubation, in which both parents participate, chicks are hatched and fledge 4 to 7 weeks later.  Chicks are fed by regurgitation from both parents.  Juveniles may stay close to adults for several weeks after fledging.  Lady Ross turacos nest solitarily although they regularly flock in numbers of 30 or more.  


Diet in the Wild:  Mainly a frugivore, although invertebrates (snails, termites) add to the diet.


Diet in the Zoo:  Mixture of sliced apples, carrots, oranges, grapes, and romaine lettuce with water soaked monkey biscuit, parrot sized pellets, and LRZ’s bird seed mix.  Fed twice a day.


General Information:  These relatives of the Cuckoo are sometimes informally called “plantain eaters” even though they rarely eat plantains.  Turacos in general are called “go away birds” since some members of this group have a call that sounds similar to “g’way”.  They are popular in animal collections as they are eye-catching birds and are easy to care for.  In captivity, nesting platforms are often provided.  This is because turacos often build flimsy nests.  The monitoring of breeding pairs is very important as aggression often develops between mates.  The Lady Ross turaco is unable to fly long distances.  Instead, they are well adapted to jumping and clamoring about on tree branches.  This is accomplished by a semi-zygotdactylous fourth toe that can be rotated backwards or forwards.  Turacos are the only birds that have true pigment (copper) contained within their feathers.  In fact, if a red feather from the Lady Ross is stirred into a glass of water, it will slightly tint the water.  The red primaries are often used to adorn ceremonial headdresses of the Masai in Southwestern Kenya.  Lady Ross turacos are considered a pest in their native lands, as they eat cultivated fruit like guavas and loquats.  They are messy eaters.  For this reason, they contribute to seed dispersal.  Fruit seeds also pass through their digestive system intact, further contributing to seed dispersal.


Conservation Status:  Common, although the habitat they inhabit is vulnerable to agricultural production.  Habitat destruction remains their greatest threat.


Predators:  Nests have been raided by blue monkeys and snakes.



Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 4.  1997.  J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal.  Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.  pp. 504-505


Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 9.  1972.  B. Grzimek.  Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York.  pp. 304-305.


National Finch and Softbill Society