Touracos

The touracos represent an unusual group of softbills in several ways. Their perching grip is distinctive, as they are able to swap their grip from having three toes in front of the perch and one behind to a 2:2 configuration. This probably enables these relatively large softbills to maintain their grip as they clamber over sometimes slender branches.

Another oddity is the colour pigment present in their flight feathers, which is unique throughout the animal kingdom. It is a copper-based pigment, called turacin. Many touracos are predominantly green in colour overall, although the go-away birds (Crinifer species), named after the sounds of their calls, are grey.  

Housing

Spacious housing is essential for these relatively large, active birds. Furthermore, their flight should be well-planted, incorporating dense shrubs if possible. Although relatively hardy, it is important that touracos can be confined in a warm shelter during the winter months, to protect them from any risk of frostbite.

Feeding preferences

Vegetarian by nature, touracos often prefer to feed on a range of chopped greenstuff and berries however, rather than fruit. It can be difficult to persuade them to eat loose softbill food, and soaked low iron pellets are a better feeding option.    

Breeding

Pairs will use a nesting platform as a support for their nest, which can be a hanging basket or a seed tray, as sold by garden shops, fixed securely in place in a secluded part of the aviary, preferably in the covered area of the flight rather than out in the open. Cock birds can become very aggressive towards their intended mates, especially in the run-up to the egg-laying period, and may even have to be separated for a brief period, to prevent the risk of serious injury. 

Sociability

Can be housed with other larger, non-aggressive softbills, especially those of similar size such as fruit pigeons (Ducula species). Touracos should not be housed in groups together however, but in individual pairs. 

Health watch

Dirty perches will leave touracos at risk from chronic foot infections, often described as bumblefoot. This causes swellings on the underside of the feet, which are difficult to treat.  Keep the perches clean, changing them as necessary.

  • Good to start with: Hartlaub’s touraco (Tauraco hartlaubi)
  • Clutch size: 2-3 eggs.
  • Incubation and fledging periods: About 23 and 28 days respectively.

Enthusiast’s guide

Turacos : A Natural History of the Musophagidae by Joseph M. Forshaw and William T. Cooper. Published by Nokomis.