Lady Ross's Turaco
Scientific Name: Musophaga rossae
Because the highly vocal turaco’s call sounds like “g’way”, they are often referred to as go-away birds.
Turacos are the only birds with real red and green feathers. The color you see in most birds is a reflection created by the feathers’ structure. The unique pigments in both the turacos’ red and green feathers actually contain copper.
STATUS: The Lady Ross’s turaco is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
HABITAT: These birds are found in central and southern Africa, south of the Sahara desert. They live in forests and wooded valleys and are arboreal, tending to roost high in tall trees, although they may also be found in thickets and bushes.
DIET: Lady Ross’s turacos primarily feed on fruit but will occasionally eat foliage, flowers, and buds. Particularly during the breeding season, the birds consume caterpillars, moths, beetles, snails, slugs and termites. They are useful in dispersing seeds through their droppings.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: One of 20 species of turacos, the Lady Ross’s is a medium-sized bird of about 15 to 18 inches in length. It weighs less than one pound and has a long tail for balance and broad, round wings. This beautiful bird is a glossy blue-black and violet except for crimson primaries, the large stiff feathers on the end of its wings, and a crimson crest which stands about two inches high when the bird is excited. Males and females have identical plumage but females may have a greenish, rather than yellow, beak. Turacos are semi-zygodactylous, which means that each foot has two toes facing forward and two pointing rearward, with each outer toe reversible. Partially due to their unusual feet, the birds are very agile and can run and climb through their treetop homes, although they are clumsy flyers. These turacos have a life span of approximately five to nine years and reach sexual maturity at one or two years of age.
Lady Ross’s turacos are very social birds and can be found in monogamous pairs, family groups or in flocks of up to 30 individuals. At night, however, they nest individually on a platform of twigs. They are aggressive toward other birds, including raptors.
After mating, a pair will build their nest together. The female will usually lay a clutch of two eggs which both male and female will incubate for 21 to 24 days. The chicks are fledged, meaning that they leave the nest, after about 28 days, several days before they can fly. The young, covered with a silky down, are fed regurgitated fruit pulp by both parents who keep the nest clean by eating the eggshells and the chicks’ droppings. Other flock members help the mother care for the babies after they hatch.