wild turaco species are found only on mainland Africa - except a sub-species
of Fischer's Turaco, T.f.zanzibaricus, which
exists on the offshore island of Zanzibar. Most turaco species are found
at relatively high altitude. It has been suggested that their feather
structure indicates a tolerance of low temperatures. Observations in aviculture,
indicate a preference for conditions between 18-25 degrees celsius.
turaco species share an adaptation in toe formation. The foot has a semi-zygodactylus
arrangement, in that the outer toe of each foot can face either forwards
or backwards. When roosting, the typical arrangement is to have three
toes facing forward to increase the hold of a perch, when running along
branches the toe formation will tend towards two toes forwards and two
backwards, again increasing the grip.
and flying range
Generally, turacos are (or
are descended from) forest species, and thus spend much of their time
foraging in amongst the branches of trees. As a result of this environment
their wings are rounded and their tails long and broad. The degree of
roundness does, however, vary as those species prefering open aspect
habitats exhibit less rounding although their tails remain long and
broad. The presence of such features makes the turaco particularly agile
even when flying at speed through thick vegetation.
The evolution of a broad,
rounded flight surface does, however, restrict the flying range of the
turaco, and as a result their natural geographical movement patterns
tend to be limited. Powered upward flight is invariably confined to
a number of metres, though they can glide downward over much longer
Given their flying characteristics,
it is perhaps understandable that turacos are considered good runners,
and prefer to jump from branch to branch instead of flying.
Uniquely amongst all creatures
the turaco uses copper in the pigmentation of its feathers. The pigments
are turacin (red wing pigmentation) and turacoverdin (green pigment).
These pigments are not seen
in all of the species and are completely absent from the White-bellied Go-away Bird, and the Eastern and Western Grey Plantain-eaters.
The source of these pigments
is copper, present in organic uroporhyrin III, which is ingested, stored
and effectively excreted when feathers are discarded at moulting.
The quantative prescence
of turacin and turacoverdin links well with the habitats in which various
species inhabit. Generally, the greener the habitat, the greater the
pronounciation of these copper-based pigments.
birds in a pair share parental responsibilities during breeding. Each
takes turns to incubate their small clutch of one or two eggs. After the
eggs are hatched both parents brood and feed the offspring. Turaco chicks
are covered in a thick black or brown down and are quite advanced in their
growth by the time they hatch. The chicks tend to grow quickly, and can
leave the nest (even before they are able to fly) at about three weeks.
In captive conditions, it is possible for young birds to be fully weaned
by the same age, but the process usually takes one or two weeks longer.
with many other fruit-eating species, the turaco plays an important ecological
role in seed dispersal. Their digestion is rapid and often incomplete,
so they need to feed at frequent intervals and on comparatively large
quantities of fruit. The result of such an eating pattern is that many
plant species have their seeds dispursed.