The Great Blue Turaco: a powerful bird in the African Etno-Ornithology

The Great Blue Turaco, Corythaeola cristata (Cuculiformes - Musophagidae), is a large bird, in fact is the largest member of the Musophagidae family, reaching 70-75 cm in length. They have a pleasant expression, and are also beautiful, combining in their plumage colors such as turquoise-blue, yellow, greenish-yellow, chestnut, and grayish, They have a conspicuous blue-black raised crest on forecrown and crown, and a large convex bill bright yellow with red tip.

Found in equatorial W Africa, from Guinea to Nigeria, and from the Congo Basin to Kenya and Tanzania, the Great Blue Turaco is one of those bird species that have or have had a traditional use in Africa, and have been studied in the field of Ethno-Ornithology

In the Congo, the Mbuti hunter-gatherers believe that the Great Blue Turacos are dangerously powerful birds, mediators between the spirit world and human society. It is believed that the Great Blue Turaco may cause deaf to the newborn, if its parents eat the bird during the pregnancy.  And also said to be closely associated with okapis (a giraffid artiodactyl mammal native to the Ituri Rainforest), informing the okapis of danger by crying loudly on the treetop over the okapis.

References: [1] - [2] - [3] - [4]

Photo credit: ©Bara Chouinard | Locality: captive - US, Florida (2011)

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Pheasant Coucal (Centropus phasianinus)

…a species of cuckoo (Cuculidae) which occurs in eastern and northern Australia and Papua New Guinea, where it inhabits subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical/tropical mangrove forests.  Pheasant coucals are large (50-70 cm (20 to 28 in)) and are adapted for feeding on the ground, leading to their shape being reminiscent of a pheasant. Pheasant coucals are predominately carnivorous, feeding on small reptiles and amphibians, bird eggs/young, small mammals, and a range of insects. 


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Images: Greg Schechter and James Niland

Smooth-billed Ani  (Anu-preto, Garrapatero pico liso, Ani à bec lisse)

A bunch of the very gregarious, and noisy Smooth-billed Anis, Crotophaga ani (Cuculiformes - Cuculidae), perched and taking a sun bath. One member of the group often sits on a high perch and watches for danger while the rest forage or rest.

The Smooth-billed Anis are neotropical birds that inhabit savannas in the Caribbean and South America, reaching the United States only in southern Florida.

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: ©Ailton Cãndido de Almeida

Locality: Cosmópolis, Sao Paulo, Brazil

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Crested Coua (Coua cristata)

…a species of coua (a type of cuckoo) that is endemic to Madagascar. Where they typically inhabit savannas and brushlands. Their diet consists mainly of fruits, berries, seeds, insects, other invertebrates and small reptiles.

Like some other birds crested coua chicks have target-like markings inside their mouths. These markings are believed to be used by their parents to identify their chicks or assist in feeding.


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Image: Olaf Oliviero Riemer and Julie Larsen Maher

Western Grey Plantain-eater - Crinifer piscator

The Western Grey Plantain-eater, scientifically named Crinifer piscator (Cuculiformes - Musophagidae), is a West African species whose call is one of the most familiar of this area.

Like all turacos, this one is strongly territorial. They can be seen in family groups for long time. The group may travel large distances to find abundant food source such as a particularly favoured fruiting tree. 

They are monogamous with strong pair-bonds. These birds display effusive greetings bowing their heads and spread their tail fan. Rituals also include mutual exchange of food and loud calls when they perch in the treetops.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Isidro Vila Verde | Locality: Abuko Reserve, Sara Job Kunda, Western, The Gambia (2007)

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Violet Turaco (Musophaga violacea)

Sometimes known as the “violaceous plantain eater” the violet turaco is a species of turaco (Musophagidae), that occurs in west Africa, ranging from Senegal through Nigeria, with an isolated population in Chad and the Central African Republic. Violet turacos are social birds, travelling in large flocks in tropical savannas, wetlands, woodlands and forests. Like other turacos, violet turacos feed mainly on fruits, with an affinity for figs, they will also feed on invertebrates, leaves, buds, and flowers.


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Images: Doug Janson and DickDaniels


Striped Cuckoo - Tapera naevia

Striped cuckoos are neotropical birds scientifically named Tapera naevia (Cuculiformes - Cuculidae), distinguished by a shaggy crest and black streaks along the back. They are found from southern Mexico to southwestern Ecuador, as well as in northern Argentina and southeastern Brazil.

These average sized cuckoos (30 cm in length) are obligate brood parasites, they do not build nests or incubate eggs, and neither males nor females provide parental care to offspring.

Adult females lay their eggs in the nest of another bird species. They lay their eggs just after dawn, and usually choose host species with covered or dome shaped nests. The host species is “tricked” into caring extensively for young that are not its own. Striped cuckoos have more than 20 documented host species. After hatching, young Tapera naevia nestlings remain in the nest for approximately 18 to 20 days, after which they fledge.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credits: [Top: ©Mario Martins | Locality: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2012] - [Bottom: ©Juan Ochoa | Locality: Colombia, 2012]

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Blue Coua (Coua caerulea)

…a charismatic species of cuckoo (Cuculidae) which is endemic to the island of Madagascar, where it occurs on the north-western and eastern parts of the island. Blue couas typically inhabit subtopical or tropical dry/lowland forests as well as tropical mangrove and montane forests. Like other cuckoo species, blue coua feed mainly on insects but are known to take fruits and small reptiles. 


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Image: Olaf Oliviero Riemer