Turacos are colorful and attractive birds from Africa. They’re the only birds with true green and red colors and mobile toes that can rotate backward and forward!
Besides their distinctive call, these fascinating birds also have beautiful crests and red feathers conspicuous in flight. There are currently twenty-three recognized species of Turacos. In this article, we will discuss more about each Turaco species.
1. White-Crested Turaco
White-crested Turacos (also known as Tauraco leucolophus) are found in Kenya, Chad, DR Congo, Sudan, Uganda, South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic, and Cameron. They prefer riverine forests and open woodland.
You can easily recognize this species by its striking white crest, neck, nape, and chin. They have dark blue marks on their overall body plumage with green feathers on their breast.
White-crested Turacos are 15.7 inches long and can weigh up to eight ounces. Their food consists mostly of berries and fruits, but they also eat snails, flowers, and insects.
This species is common in the wild; hence, their exact number is unknown. The IUCN lists them as having a stable population.
2. Rwenzori Turaco
Rwenzori Turacos are violet-blue and green colored birds with red conspicuous in flight. They have a short glossy purplish-blue or green crest on their hind-crown, blue-black throat and chin, and dull crimson nape. This species can be as long as 17 to 18 inches and can weigh about 8.2 to 8.7 ounces.
Rwenzori Turacos move in small family groups or pairs and are mostly found in DR Congo. They prefer areas dominated by lianas and epiphytes as well as bamboo zones. They feed on mostly berries and fruits, but they can also eat large amounts of flowers and leaves.
Although Rwenzori Turacos are not globally threatened, they experience continuous habitat degradation due to prolonged civil unrest in their restricted range.
3. Purple-Crested Turaco
Purple-crested Turacos can be found in Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, and Burundi. This bird species is the National bird of Swaziland, and its crimson flight feathers are essential in the Swazi Royal family’s ceremonial regalia. They mostly live in evergreen forests, savanna, and moist woodland.
These birds have a green-colored head, purple crest, black bill, and red rings surrounding their eyes. The chest and neck are brown and green. The other body parts are purple, with red feathers conspicuous in flight.
Their females and males look alike. Purple-crested Turacos typically weigh about 200 to 290 grams and measure about 17 to 19 inches from beak to tail. Their diet mostly consists of fruits.
4. Red-Crested Turaco
The Red-crested Turaco is a striking species that can be easily recognized by its white face, yellow beak, and vivid red crest. They are often referred to as “Angolan Turacos”.
An average Red-crested Turaco weighs about 210 to 320 grams and measures about 40 to 42 cm long from beak to tail. Like several other species, its preferred habitats include forests and woodland, where it can find available fruits to eat. The bird also eats leaves, seeds, snails, flowers, termites, and occasional insects.
The Red-crested Turaco can be found in dense forests in Central Africa, including Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, DR Congo, Southern Sudan, and West Kenya.
The species is also very common among UK enthusiasts and is currently under review CWP (Cotswold Wildlife Park).
5. Bannerman’s Turaco
The Bannerman’s Turaco, also known as Turaco De Bannerman, was the last discovered Turaco species in 1923. The bird thrives in humid forests, mostly in the Southwest Cameroonian mountains. (above 1500 meters).
Its habitat was reduced by fifty percent 30 years ago; hence, many environmental conservationists and similar organizations are campaigning hard for the bird’s survival.
The average Bannerman’s Turaco typically weighs between 200 and 250 grams and measures about 40 to 45 centimeters from its beak to tail. The species sings more rapidly and higher-pitched than Green Turacos.
Their plumage changes from a dark green color to paler green on their underparts. These birds feed on berries and fruits. The IUCN has the species listed as endangered due to their decreasing numbers.
6. Ruspoli’s Turaco
The Ruspoli’s Turaco, also known as Prince Ruspoli’s, has a restricted range in tropical or subtropical dry forests of Ethiopia, around Negele, Wadera, Sokora, and Bobela. One of the rarest birds in the world, this species has a colorful plumage.
It has a moss-green colored neck, head, and breast. It also has a unique grayish-white crest, a long tail, crimson-colored bill, and grayish-green throat and chin.
This beautiful Turaco weighs about 200 to 290 grams and measures approximately 40 centimeters from beak to tail. It mostly feeds on fruits. The IUCN has listed the Ruspoli’s Turaco species as vulnerable, with their numbers decreasing due to its restricted range and infrequent sightings.
However, recent evidence shows that they’re not as uncommon as previously thought, though they have a very small distribution.
7. Hartlaub’s Turaco
Hartlaub’s Turacos are found in East Africa, especially around Kenyan Highlands. They thrive in evergreen montane forests (4,500 to 10,500 feet high), gardens, and suburban parks around Nairobi.
Hartlaub’s Turacos measure about 40 to 44 cm (16 to 17 inches) in length and weigh between 190 and 270 grams (6.9 to 9.5 pounds). They have an overall dark green color with brilliant red feathers conspicuous in flight. This species also has a glossy blue-black nape, rounded bushy crest, deep violet-blue tail.
Hartlaub’s Turacos typically move in family groups or pairs of about 20 individuals at their beloved fruiting trees. Their flight appears labored and weak with much gliding and flapping, and mostly for short distances only.
The birds mostly feed on berries and fruits, but they will also eat beetles, moths, caterpillars, and flowers. They’re particularly attracted to dark red or black fruits, while captive birds devour black grapes.
8. White-Cheeked Turaco
White-cheeked Turacos are found in Sudan, Ethiopia, and South East Eritrea. Their natural habitat is evergreen forests as high as 2200 to 3500 meters. They’ve also been sighted below 850 meters.
This medium-sized bird weighs between 200 and 310 grams (7.1 and 11 ounces) and measures approximately 17 inches (43 cm) long, and reaches 7.5 inches (19 cm) long with a tail.
Known for its colorful appearance and dynamic behavior, White-cheeked Turaco has a striking crested head (blue-green), with white patches on its neck side and front of its eye.
It has an overall green plumage, deep greenish-blue tail and wings, orange-red beak, and red eye rings. The species feeds on small lizards, insects, berries, and fruits. The IUCN has listed them as ‘least concern’ due to their stable population.
9. Black-Billed Turaco
Black-billed Turacos are native to the Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, and Burundi. They have a generally similar appearance with the Knysna Turaco, though with a unique black bill.
Its sub-species vary in the color of their tail feathers, wing coverts, and secondary flight feathers. The T.s.emini feathers are iridescent green, while those of the T.s.shuetti are iridescent purple.
The average Black-billed Turaco measures about 40 cm (15.7 inches) long from beak to tail and weighs between 200 and 270 grams.
This bird species is typically frugivorous, which implies it only feeds on fruits, thriving in assorted forest habitats at an elevation of about 500 to 2500 meters. The IUCN lists them as a stable population and least concern.
10. Knysna Turaco
Knysna Turacos are native to South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique. This large bird was formerly classified as a subspecies of the West African Green Turaco.
It thrives in mature evergreen forests (up to 1800 meters from sea level). An average adult Knysna Turaco weighs about 260 to 390 grams and measures approximately 40 to 42 cm long.
These unmistakable Knysna Turaco species typically have green plumage with a white tip on their rounded green chest as their distinctive feature. The attractive and colorful birds have brown eyes with red eye rings and a sharply curved bright-red beak.
They mostly feed on fruits, earthworms, and insects. The IUCN lists them as ‘least concern’ with a decreasing population.
11. Schalow’s Turaco
Schalow’s Turacos are mainly distributed in Malawi, Angola, Tanzania, North-east Zimbabwe, Zambia, northern Botswana, and the southwestern part of Kenya. Within their range, Schalow’s Turacos inhabit several humid forests and woodlands (between 600 and 2500 meters).
This species weighs between 208 and 267 grams and measures a length of approximately 41 to 44 cm from beak to tail. Their white-tipped crest (between 80 and 120 mm long) is easily identifiable—relatively the longest Turaco crest.
Their coppery-jade green color fades to iridescent blue as you move closer to their tail. They have short and round wings with red feathers for short flights. Schalow’s Turacos feed mainly on fruits, plants, and insect-based diets like chicks. They generally feed in flocks.
12. Livingstone’s Turaco
Livingstone’s Turacos are native to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Burundi. These birds inhabit coastal and montane forests within their range, with elevations as high as 2500 meters from sea level. The species is defined on cytogenic and vocal differences, separating them from other Green Turaco bird super-species.
An average adult Livingstone’s Turaco weighs around 260 to 380 grams and measures about 45 cm (18 inches) in length from beak to tail. Females have a generally smaller appearance compared to males.
You can easily identify this species by its white-tipped crest, which measures about 65 to 75 mm and is pointed (anteriorly) when erect. Livingstone’s Turacos feed mainly on fruits. Although they are not globally threatened, future population issues may arise due to regional deforestation.
13. Schalow’s Turaco
The Schalow’s turaco (Tauraco schalowi) is native to Zambia, central Angola, Tanzania, Malawi and Kenya. This bird lives in forested uplands of south central Africa.
The Schalow’s turaco has a similar appearance and behavior to Livingstone’s turaco, having green feathers on their head and upper body and dark iridescent blue feathers on their lower body and tail.
These birds have a long, green crest on their head, red skin around their eyes and a small red beak. Their eyes are lined with white and black feathers.
These birds are relative small, they only reach about half a pound (270 g) in weight and a length of 15-17 inches (40-45 cm).
Schalow’s turacos feed mainly on fruits and plants, but occasionally they will also eat insects. These turacos live in large flocks, and they are very social.
During reproduction period they can become very territorial and aggressive. These birds usually lay only two eggs.
14. Green Turaco
The Green Turaco, also known as Green-crested Turaco, is native to Cameroon, Guinea, Angola, Mali, Nigeria, Gabon, and several other African countries.
The bird prefers mature rainforest habitats within its range, urbanized and cultivated environments (up to 1100 meters above sea level) bordered by rivers.
The Green Turaco weighs around 10 ounces and measures up to 17 inches in length. The species is a striking bird, with a beautiful blue and green plumage, a green crest, white and red eye patches, and a thick red bill.
Their crimson flight feathers become conspicuous in flight. They mostly eat fruits, either cultivated or wild, but will also feed on vegetation, such as flowers and leaves. Due to their stable population, the IUCN lists the Green Turacos as “least concern“.
15. Fischer’s Turaco
The Fischer’s Turaco bird inhabits riverine and coastal forest and woodland in southern Somalia, Kenya, and northeastern Tanzania.
Its natural habitats include tropical or subtropical moist montane forests and moist lowland forests, and arable land within its distribution range. You will find them in dry savanna woodlands, parks, and farms—often near water.
The Fischer’s Turaco possesses a distinctive black and white-tipped red crest and blue upper parts. These birds measure approximately 15 inches long. Males are a little lighter than the females and weigh about 9.5 ounces.
Females weigh up to 10 ounces. They feed mainly on fruits and occasionally consume berries from Synsepalum brevipes, figs, leaves, buds, flowers, snails, and termites.
16. Yellow-Billed Turaco
The Yellow-billed Turacos can be found mostly in Liberia, Nigeria, Angola, Sierra Leone, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Cameroon.
They have a similar geographical distribution with the Green Turaco, though Yellow-billed Turaco birds prefer primary forests with dense growth and up to 1600 meters from sea level.
Although they are not globally threatened, this species is being monitored due to threats of constant lowland deforestation in their natural habitat.
The typical species measures between 40 to 43 cm (15.5 to 17 inches), from beak to tail. The females weigh between 216 and 234 grams (7.6 and 8.3 ounces), while the males usually weigh between 261 and 270 grams (9.2 and 9.5 grams).
They are easily identified by their absence of nasal feathering and yellow bill. The Yellow-billed Turaco’s main diet includes fruits, but they also eat arthropods, leaves, and seeds.
17. Ross’s Turaco
The Ross’s Turaco bird, also referred to as Lady Ross Turaco, is native to the riverine areas, humid forest edges, and open woodlands of Guinea, Central Cameroon, Nigeria, Burundi, Western Tanzania, and Angola.
Within its range, this species prefers dense tree canopies where they can climb. They are very territorial, and they move in small groups or pairs. Their diet includes termites, snails, young shoots, and flowers.
Ross’s Turacos weigh about 290 to 440 grams and measure between 51 to 54 cm (appropriately 20 inches)—making them the largest Turaco species, even bigger than Violet Turaco birds.
They have yellow lores, a beautiful red erectile crest, and a yellow beak that stretches to form a shield on the forehead. They also have black feet and legs and violet blue-black bodies.
18. Violet Turaco
The Violet Turaco, also known as Violaceous Turaco, resides in the tropical West African forests, especially Liberia, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
They are distinctive turacos, though sometimes conspicuous in treetops. You can find them in humid forest edges, riverine forests, and open woodlands.
Violet Turacos are large birds—they can weigh up to 12.7 ounces and be as long as 19.5 inches (45 cm), including their long tail.
The species has a glossy violet plumage except for its thick red bill, chestnut crown, and yellow forehead. It also has crimson flight feathers conspicuous in flight.
Violet Turacos feed on fruits and some seeds. The IUCN lists this species as ‘least concern’ with a stable population.
19. Great Blue Turaco
The Great Blue Turaco is the largest of the Turaco species, averaging about 70 to 75 cm long and weighing about 820 to 1130 grams. They feed mainly on fruits, but they can also consume leaves, buds, and flowers.
These attractive and colorful birds have a bright-blue plumage mark with yellow and blue tail feathers. They have a long tail, a sturdy body, and short wings.
Great Blue Turaco birds have an expansive range, including Togo, South Cameroon, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea-Bissau.
The Great Blue Turaco inhabits gallery forests and montane rain forests up to 2700 meters from sea level within its distribution range. The IUCN has them listed as least concern with a stable population.
20. Bare-Faced Go-away-bird
Bare-faced Go-away birds are large, noisy, and restless. This Turaco species is found in western Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia, Burundi, and South-West Uganda.
The species prefers to inhabit fairly open forests within its distribution range, frequenting treetops along river courses. The IUCN lists them as ‘least concern’.
You can easily distinguish them from White-bellied Go-away species by their bare black face. An adult bird can reach a length of about 20 inches and weigh about 210 to 300 grams.
Both sexes of this species are gray-colored, though the females have a green beak. The species has a distinctive long crest and tail and black feet and legs—including the male’s bill. Their main diet consists of berries.
21. Grey Go-Away-Bird
Grey Go-away birds are also called Grey Plantain-eaters or Grey Louries. They are native to South Africa but can also be found in Congo, Angola, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania.
The species prefer savannah woodlands, suburban gardens, farms, and parks—often close to water in their distribution range.
Grey Go-away birds have a grey colored overall plumage, strikingly pink gape, and black beak. When excited, their crest is raised. While these birds are very agile in moving around tree crowns, they are clumsy fliers.
Their main diet includes fruits, berries, leaves, buds, flowers, snails, and termites. The species weighs up to 10.6 ounces and measures about 19.4 inches in length. The IUCN lists them as ‘least concern’.
22. White-Bellied Go-Away Bird
White-bellied Go-away birds are weak flying and non-migratory. They can run and climb vines and trees like squirrels. They often move individually, in small groups, or in pairs.
These African birds are native to South and Central Africa, specifically Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. They thrive in well-wooded and dry acacia savanna areas.
This medium to large Go-away bird is about 14 to 30 inches long and weighs about 8 ounces to 2 pounds. They have an overall gray plumage, a white bar on the tail and wing, and a white belly.
Females and males look alike except for their bill—it’s green in females and black in males. Like other Go-away species, this Turaco feeds several kinds of fruits, including berries.
23. Eastern Plantain-Eater
Eastern Plantain-eaters are a large Turaco species that can be found in East African open woodlands, including South Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and more.
The bird weighs 17 to 26 ounces and measures about 50 cm (19.5 inches) in length, including its long tail. Like the Violet Turaco, Eastern Plantain-eaters are noisy, common, and conspicuous birds, though with less brilliant colors.
They have an overall gray plumage spotted with brown. They have a brown erectile crest, neck, breast, and head streaked with silver. They have white underparts streaked with brown.
Both males and females are identical, but younger ones have black wooly heads. Their diet mainly consists of fruits, especially figs.
24. Western Plantain-Eater
The Western Plantain-eater, also known as Grey Plantain-eater, is another large Turaco species restricted to tropical West Africa, especially Congo, Cameroon, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, and more. Within its range, the bird frequents open habitats, savannah, woodlands, and parks, up to 1300 meters from sea level.
An average adult Western Plantain-eater measures about 50 cm (19.5 inches) from beak to tail and weighs between 200 and 300 grams.
These birds are conspicuous and noisy, like the Violet Turaco, though they lack their brilliant colors. They have an overall gray plumage spotted with brown. They have whitish underparts streaked with brown.
Their diet mainly consists of fruits, but they also consume seeds, vegetables, and leaves.
Turacos are attractive and fascinating birds. They are mostly found in the tropical forests of Africa, and they mainly eat fruits. There’s so much to live about these colorful creatures.