The beauty of a turaco is what will immediately strike you about the bird. Its raised head crest, long tail and the intelligent look in its eyes are unmatched by most pet bird species. The bird is a part of the Musophagidae (banana eater) family.
This family includes go-away birds and plantain eaters. Turacos are grouped according to their overall body colors. The green and red-crest turacos are the most popular options for pets. There are also purple, blue and grey turacos.
Turacos are fast becoming popular as pet birds because they are easy to care for and generally quiet. Moreover, the birds live for at least fifteen years and get only a few health issues when taken care of properly. Unfortunately, they are not indoor birds and are best kept in large outdoor planted aviaries.
One of the issues that people keeping turacos grapple with is the diet of these birds. Eating for most pet birds is a form of enrichment and entertainment.
The wrong diet might thus make your bird grumpy and unhealthy. Turacos are frugivorous, meaning they primarily eat fruits in the wild. The following is a guide on the feeding of a turaco in captivity.
Foods That Turacos Can Eat
Most people think that turacos will thrive on bananas since they belong to a family of birds known as plantain eaters. Even so, these birds do not eat plantains or bananas much. Below are some of the ideal foods that should make a part of a turaco’s diet.
– Fruits and Veggies
A turaco’s diet mainly comprises fruits like chopped melons, papaya, pears, squash, grapes, peaches, pawpaws, kiwis, berries and bananas. The best choice for turacos are organic fruits that have been washed thoroughly before serving to avoid transmission of diseases.
The blue and grey turacos specifically thrive on a diet primarily made of vegetables though veggies are important for all turacos. The best vegetables to include in the birds’ diets are asparagus, carrots, leafy greens, peas, sprouts, yams, peas, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower.
These should be finely chopped before giving them to your bird so that they do not choke it. Fresh vegetables are better-tasting for the bird and more nutritious than frozen ones.
– Bean and Legumes
Green beans, kidney beans and black beans are good sources of protein for a turaco. Proteins are essential in these birds to support tissue and muscle development. Tofu, peas, chickpeas and lentils are also healthy additions to their diets.
When deciding the best legumes and beans for a turaco, pay attention to their digestibility. Those that are hard to digest might upset the bird’s tummy and decrease the absorption of nutrients.
To ease digestibility irrespective of the beans or legumes you choose, do not mix more than two bean or legume types in one serving.
– Grains and Seeds
Some of the cooked grains that can benefit your pet turaco include brown rice, quinoa, and barley. Your bird might also love oatmeal. Most birds will happily live on an all-seed diet, but this is not necessarily the best option for them.
Some seeds lack essential minerals and vitamins, while others have high amounts of fat. In fact, malnutrition associated with an all-seed diet is one of the leading causes of mortality in pet birds.
The best seed options for your turaco include sunflower, safflower, peanuts, canary seeds, millet and corn. These seeds should ideally only form about a quarter of your bird’s diet and not be given to the bird daily.
– Bugs and Worms
Animal proteins are as important as plant proteins for your turaco. These can be introduced into your bird’s diet in bugs and worms. The common alternatives include beetles bugs, mealworms, earthworms, snails and slugs.
Mealworms are the most common alternatives for animal-based proteins. They are the larval forms of mealworm beetles though most people think they are worms. Other than being excellent nutrient sources, mealworms enhance the reproduction of birds in spring and winter.
You can get dried or live bugs and worms for your turaco. Live ones are expensive and hard to maintain, but birds love them. Dried ones are inexpensive, but they do not whet the birds’ appetites as effectively as the live bugs and worms.
Foods to Avoid Feeding Turacos
Though turacos are quite resilient, there are a few foods that might harm them and are best avoided. These include fruit seeds, avocado, cheese, meat, garlic, mushrooms and chocolate.
Avocado leaves contain persin to kill fungi in the plant. When ingested by a turaco, it can cause respiratory difficulty, heart damage, weakness and sometimes sudden death. Chocolate has theobromine that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, hyperactivity, seizures, tremors and death in a bird.
Fruit seeds contain cyanide that is cardiotoxic to turacos. Garlic has allicin, a compound linked to weakness and anemia in birds. Cheese can cause digestive issues in your turaco because of its lactose content and sometimes, bacteria.
Some mushrooms are toxic to birds. To avoid mistakes, negate mushrooms altogether from your turaco’s diet. Meat is high in saturated fats, calories and cholesterol that can be harmful to your bird.
How to Feed Your Turaco Birds?
Though easy to feed a turaco, a few common mistakes might affect the bird’s nutrition. To guarantee your bird is properly fed, choose one type of bird feeder that it likes and ensure the feeder is replenished.
You should also ensure there is plenty of water in the turaco’s water bottle or dish throughout.
How Much and How Often To Feed Turacos?
Turacos are medium-sized birds that reach adult heights of 47-50 cm and weigh below 0.5 kg. As such, they will not need as much food as other pet birds. You might have to experiment with the amount you feed your turaco before knowing what is best for it.
Even so, be careful not to overfeed it because the bird will not have as much exercise as it would in the wild. Overfeeding might thus cause your pet to become obese.
This, in turn, predisposes it to heart issues and premature death. Although the feed amount is low, a turaco should be fed frequently. Some pet owners feed their birds five times daily.
Can Turacos Drink Tap Water?
Yes, turacos can drink tap water. About 75% of a bird’s body comprises water. It should drink enough water daily to replace the water lost through evaporation, respiration and waste removal.
Some people opt for filtered water, believing it is the only safe options for their birds. Chlorinated tap water is, however, just as good provided it is fetched in a clean container and flowing through a clean pipe.
Can Turacos Eat Hard-Boiled Eggs?
Yes, turacos can eat hard-boiled eggs. Eggs are highly nutritious for your bird since they contain choline that enhances quick thinking and proteins that promote the development of the brain.
Furthermore, they help the liver to function well and maintain the proper circulation of its body’s essential nutrients. Turacos can eat all parts of the egg, including its shell that contains calcium to help them lay eggs with strong shells.
Can Turacos Eat Meat?
Yes, turacos can eat meat. This delivers a fair share of proteins in addition to the bugs and worms. Nonetheless, the meat should be served as a supplement rather than your bird’s staple diet.
Can Turacos Eat Dairy Products?
Yes, turacos can eat dairy products. Even so, these should be fed sparingly because of their high fat content. Moreover, the lactose in most dairy products might cause diarrhea in some birds.
With the guidelines above, feeding a pet turaco is sure to be a breeze for you. However, this will only be so if you choose a healthy bird for your pet. Since this is often a challenge, it is best to source your bird from a reputable breeder.