Turaco

Last updated: October 19, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© iStock.com/kwictor

Their name means “banana-eater,” but they rarely ever eat bananas.

Turaco Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Musophagiformes
Family
Musophagidae
Genus
Corythaeola, Crinifer, Tauraco, Musophaga, Gallirex

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Turaco Conservation Status

Turaco Locations

Turaco Locations

Turaco Facts

Prey
They eat fruit, plant matter, and some insects
Main Prey
Fruit, such as parasol and waterberry
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Social
Fun Fact
Their name means “banana-eater,” but they rarely ever eat bananas.
Estimated Population Size
Unknown
Biggest Threat
habitat loss, hybridization, trade, and hunting.
Most Distinctive Feature
Bright plumage
Distinctive Feature
Loud alarm calls
Wingspan
8 inches
Incubation Period
16 to 31 days
Age Of Fledgling
4 to 6 weeks old
Habitat
tropical and evergreen forests, woodlands, and savannas
Predators
Eagles and chimpanzees
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Favorite Food
Fruit
Type
Bird
Common Name
Turaco
Special Features
Outer toes that bend forward and backward
Number Of Species
23
Location
Sub-Saharan Africa
Average Clutch Size
-2
Nesting Location
Platform made of twigs, placed high in trees

Turaco Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Purple
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
up to 37 years
Weight
Up to one pound
Length
16 to 30 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
One year

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Summary

The turaco is a bird family endemic to Africa. You can find them in lush forests and savannas throughout the continent below the Sahara Desert. These birds are excellent on their feet; you can often find them walking and running on branches and over twigs. Unfortunately, several species are experiencing a population decline due to habitat loss. Discover everything there is to know about this bird family, including where they live, what they eat, and how they behave.

5 Amazing Turaco Facts

  • Brightly colored turacos live in tropical forests, while the grown and gray species inhabit savannas.
  • Their name means “banana-eater,” but they rarely ever eat bananas.
  • They are not strong fliers, but their outer toes bend backward and forward, allowing them to run, walk, and leap through their habitats.
  • They are social birds, choosing to live in pairs, family groups, and large flocks.
  • Some species have a piercing alarm call that sounds like “go away.”

Where to Find the Turaco

Turacos live in Sub-saharan Africa in 50 countries, including Angola, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Madagascar, Congo, and many more. They are endemic to Africa and live in areas below the Sahara Desert. Africans call them Louries, and they have a wide range across the continent. The more colorful green and iridescent birds inhabit dense evergreen and tropical forests, where they live in trees. The gray and brown species, called “go-away birds,” live in open woodlands and savannas. Look for them perched in trees, waking or running on the forest floor, or grouped around fruit trees.

Scientific Name

Turacos (Musophagidae), or “banana-eaters,” include plantain-eaters and “go-away birds.” They are ranked to the full order, Musophagiformes, and are one of the few bird families endemic to Africa. 

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There are 23 species:

  • Great blue turaco
  • Western plantain-eater
  • Eastern plantain-eater
  • White-bellied go-away-bird
  • Grey go-away-bird
  • Bare-faced go-away-bird
  • Purple-crested turaco
  • Rwenzori turaco
  • White-cheeked turaco
  • Ruspoli’s turaco
  • Bannerman’s turaco
  • White-crested turaco
  • Red-crested turaco
  • Guinea turaco
  • Knysna turaco
  • Livingstone’s turaco
  • Fischer’s turaco
  • Black-billed turaco
  • Schalow’s turaco
  • Hartlaub’s turaco
  • Yellow-billed turaco
  • Violet turaco
  • Ross’s turaco

Size, Appearance, & Behavior

Turacos come in a variety of colors from blue, green and purple with red on their feathers.
Turacos come in a variety of colors from blue, green and purple with red on their feathers.

©Charlotte Bleijenberg/Shutterstock.com

Turacos are medium-sized birds with long tails, short, round wings, and short bills. Their length varies between 16 and 30 inches; they can weigh up to one pound and have a wingspan of around eight inches. They are not strong fliers, but they are excellent on their feet. They have outer toes than can bend forward and backward, allowing them to walk, run, and leap on twigs and branches. 

The forest inhabiting birds has bright, colorful plumage in blue, green, and purple, with red in their feathers. Those living in grasslands are primarily gray and brown. Most species are very social, often living in pairs or family groups. Some may even stay in flocks with up to 30 individuals. These birds are noisy, and the “go-away birds” are known for their loud alarm calls that sound similar to “go away.”

Diet

Most are omnivores who eat plant matter and insects.

What Does the Turaco Eat?

Turacos mainly eat fruit from trees in the wild or human-grown. Their favorites are parasol and waterberry, but they will also eat other plant materials like shoots, buds, leaves, flowers, and other foliage. Some species will consume moths, beetles, caterpillars, snails, slugs, and termites. Some birds forage in small flocks at fruit trees, while others spend time hunting for insects on the ground. Despite their name meaning “banana-eater,” they hardly ever eat bananas.

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

The IUCN lists 23 species as LC or “least concern.” Due to their extensive range and relatively large population, they don’t meet the thresholds for “threatened” status. Three species are considered “near threatened:” Ruspoli’s turaco, Fischer’s turaco, and black cuckoo-dove. Their main threats include habitat loss, hybridization, trade, and hunting. The Bannerman’s turaco is the only species listed as “endangered.” This bird has a minimal range, is severely fragmented, and is experiencing rapid habitat loss from human use.

What Eats the Turaco?

Turacos have many predators in their forest habitats, but eagles and chimpanzees are the most common. However, the most dangerous predators are humans. People hunted these birds for centuries for food and tribal wear. When threatened, these birds will give an alarm call and aggressively defend their territories.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

Forest species begin breeding during the rainy season, but those from the savannas can breed year-round. Most species form monogamous pair bonds and mate for life. Their nest is a platform made of twigs, placed high in trees. Females lay two to three eggs, and both sexes participate in the incubation process, lasting anywhere from 16 to 31 days, depending on the species. Chicks are at a relatively advanced stage right after hatching, and both parents take turns feeding them. Most young fledge the nest between four and six weeks old. They become sexually mature after one year and can live around 15 to 20 years in the wild and up to 37 years in captivity.

Population

The global population is unknown, but over half of the species appear to have stable numbers. 12 out of the 27 have decreasing numbers, and several species are approaching dangerous thresholds. The main reason for their population decline is habitat loss and degradation.

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

Turaco FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where are turacos found?

Turacos live in Sub-saharan Africa in 50 countries, including Angola, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Madagascar, Congo, and many more. They are endemic to Africa and live in areas below the Sahara Desert.

How many turacos are there?

There are 23 turaco species, all of which are endemic to Africa.

How long do turaco eggs take to hatch?

The incubation process lasts anywhere from 16 to 31 days.

What do turacos eat?

Most turacos are omnivores who eat plant matter, nectar, and insects. They like fruit, such as parasol and waterberry, and plants like shoots, buds, and leaves.

Are turacos noisy?

Some species called “go-away birds” are known for their loud alarm calls.

What threatens the turaco?

Their main threats include habitat loss, hybridization, trade, and hunting.

What color is a turaco?

The forest inhabiting turacos has bright, colorful plumage in blue, green, and purple, with red in their feathers. Those living in grasslands are primarily gray and brown.

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Sources
  1. Rochell PlasseWilliam ''Trey" Todd, Available here: https://watchbird-ojs-tamu.tdl.org/watchbird/index.php/watchbird/article/view/843
  2. IUCN Website, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/search?query=turaco&searchType=species
  3. (1970)

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