White Cheeked Turaco

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Tauraco leucotis

DIETFruits and berries, insects, small lizards

RANGEWestern Eritrea, Ethiopia, and southeastern Sudan

HABITATHumid montane forests in Africa

White Cheeked Turaco

Like most turaco species, the white-cheeked turaco has a crested head. They have a rounded, blue-black crest with hair like feathering which is elongated and black. White-cheeked turacos also have red eye rings that stand out.  A bright orange-red bill has a sharply down curved tip. White-cheeked turacos get their name from the defined, white crescent that blazes down their necks.  Their face, neck, throat, mantle and breast are green in color and the rest of their body is dark and blueish-grey. The underside of their wings have a red coloration that is only shown when the wings are opened.

The turacos’ legs are grayish-black.  They have an outer toe that is normally at a right angle but is able to be switched backwards or forwards. Claws are short and sharply curved.

The white cheeked turaco is not a large bird. It is only about 15 inched long including its tail. The tail makes up 40-50% of its body length. The turaco’s wingspan can range from 6.5-7.5 inches.

Habitat and Range: White-cheeked turacos prefer humid montane forests in Africa.  They also like trees and bushes along rivers.  They have been found dwelling in highlands from western Eritrea, Ethiopia, and southeastern Sudan from the Rift Valley to the Gulf of Aden.

Diet in the Wild: Feed on a variety of fruits and berries, preferring juniper and fig trees.  They also eat insects for protein and have been known to eat small lizards.

Diet in the Zoo: Softbill pellet food and mixed fruits.

Predators: Unknown

Life Cycle and Social Structure: Turacos are monogamous. During courtship, the male will feed the female and they will build their nest together. Both mother and father will sit on the eggs to provide the other with time to find food.

The female will lay about 2-3 eggs per clutch. Once the eggs have hatched, other flock members will help the mother care for the chicks.  The chicks will be able to fly at 4 weeks of age but will not leave the nest until they are at least 6 weeks old.  Some young may decide to remain with the flock.

Life Span:  10-12 years in captivity

Interesting Facts:

  • Turacos are the only birds to possess true red and green pigmentation. Most birds color is reflections produced by the feather structure. The turaco’s red pigment and green pigments contain copper.  In fact, if you stirred a glass or water with a red turaco feather, the water would turn pink.
  • Hatchling turacos have tiny claws on the ends of their wings that allow them to cling to twigs near the nest. They shed these claws about the time they fledge.
  • When a flock of turacos moves from tree to tree they do so in single file so the flock is less noticeable.

Conservation Message: Agricultural expansion, overgrazing, uncontrolled bushfires and firewood collection are the main causes of habitat destruction. Plantations of exotic tree species have also expanded in recent years, which, together with habitat degradation, have helped facilitate the expansion of the forest-preferring white-cheeked turaco into the range of the more woodland-inhabiting Prince Ruspoli’s turaco (T. ropolii). Due to the two ranges becoming interconnected, there are beginning to be reports of hybridization. The hybridization is affecting the species by diluting its genetic integrity and reducing the number of pure-bred individuals remaining. Even though the white checked turaco is listed as least concern, meaning that its populations are currently stable, should habitat destruction continue, this species could see a decline in numbers.

What You Can Do: when purchasing products that come from the rainforest make sure that they are sustainably produced. Do your homework on your favorite products by visiting the manufacturer’s website and reading about their practices and policies. Purchasing sustainable products will help ensure that the turaco’s habitat remains suitable for this beautiful bird to survive.

Bibliography
http://seaworld.org/
http://www.torontozoo.com/
http://www.post-gazette.com/
http://www.aviary.org/
http://www.stlzoo.org/