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Alex’s Birding Chirp No. 14 – Turacos and Go-away-bird


Hi everyone, hope you are all well. There are still no new additions to our bird list, however with the borders now open we will hopefully start to see some new entries.

The Turacos make up the bird family Musophagidae (literally “banana-eaters”), which includes plantain-eaters and go-away-birds. In southern Africa both turacos and go-away-birds are commonly known as loeries. All species are frugivorous, but they also eat leaves, buds, and flowers. Figs are an important part of their diet. They have rounded wings, long tails and strong legs, making them poor fliers, but good runners.

Turacos are endemic to Africa and as such we have five species in the Southern African region excluding the Go-away-bird. In our reserve we have two of these which is the Purple-crested Turaco and the Go-away-bird. The Livingstone’s Turaco is most commonly found in dune and coastal forests close-by (St. Lucia up to Mozambiqueas well as the Lebombo Mountains) making it a definite possible for our reserve. According to Roberts bird guide, in our area it will be found in Afromontane forest in the Lebombo mountains. (Well-watered areas, including ravines and south-facing slopes).

The Purple-crested Turaco is a common resident in our estate and is regularly spotted at the lodges and watering pans. They are large birds (>40cm) and usually seen in pairs or small groups. They prefer dense woodland andcoastal forest as their habitat. The Purple-crested Turacois easily identified by its purple coloured crest above a green head, a red ring around their eyes, and a black bill.Theirbody is clad in deep purple, blue, green, and olive washed with pink. It clambers acrobatically through riverine woodland and savanna thickets. In flight it explodes from the canopy with distinctive deep red panels in the wings. It produces a distinctive croaking “khoh-khoh-khoh-khoh….” that gets progressively louder before suddenly stopping. (faster, less harsh and more purer-toned than the Livingstone’s Turaco).

The Livingstone’s Turaco was named after Charles Livingstone, the brother of David Livingstone. Although similar in size and body colour to the Purple-crested Turaco, it differs in having a long-pointed white tipped green crest and head. It shares the red eye-ring but with broad white stripes above and below the eye.

Other than the Purple-crested Turaco the beak is smaller and reddish brown in colour. Their call is a harsh Korr-Korr..barking.

The image on the right was sourced from the internet.

Turaco’s nests are dove-like saucers made of twigs and sticks. They normally lay 2-3 white eggs. Both adults will take care of incubation and care of the young.


The Grey Go-away-bird, also known as Grey Lourie,or Kwêvoël, is a bold and common bird of our reserve. They are present in arid to moist, open woodlands and dry thorn savanna (especially acacia), and near surface water. A very distinctive all-grey bird >45cm that is unlikely to be confused with any other species.They have an almost uniform smoky-grey plumage with long tails and (similar to mousebirds) a wispy, back-swept crest of some 6 to 7 cm in length.The crest can be raised almost verticallywhen excited.

They regularly form groups and parties that forage in tree tops in search for fruits, flower petals, buds, leaves, nectar and invertebrates. The Grey Go-away-bird is an important seed disperser of fruit trees. They also enjoy the occasional dust bathe on the ground. Especially when disturbed, they make their presence known by their characteristically loud and nasal “kweh” or “go-way” calls,with the last syllable typically a descending drawl.

Similar to Turaco’s their flight is rather slow and laboured, however they can cover long distances.Once in the open tree tops,they display the agility which is associated with the Turaco’s as they run along tree limbs and jump from branch to branch. Their chicks hatch with vestigial claws on their wings.