Ross´s turaco (Musophaga rossae)

Ross’s turaco is a mainly bluish-purple African bird of the turaco family, Musophagidae. It is found in woodland, open forest and riparian habitats in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

photo credits: Ed Schipul

Red-crested Turaco (Tauraco erytholophus)

…a species of turaco that is endemic to parts of western Angola in Africa, occurring mainly in forested habitats. Like other species of turacos, red-crested turacos are primarily frugivorous (fruit eaters) in nature but they are known to feed on other types of plant matter as well. The red-crested turaco is the national bird of Angola, and has become a symbol for conservation nationally.


Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Musophagiformes-Musophagidae-Tauraco-T. erythrolophus

Image: Daniel Demczuk

There are about 28 turaco species in the Family Musophagidae, all native to equatorial Africa. Seeing one of these handsome birds in its native forest or woodland habitat takes patience, persistence, and a pretty good set of binoculars. Turacos spend almost all their time in the tree canopy, where their blue, green, or gray hues (depending on the species) keep them camouflaged as they forage for fruit, leaves, and flower buds. The blue and gray colors are the result of light refracting from structures within the feathers. In other birds, green and red are also the result of refraction or melanin—only in the turacos are red and green feathers due to actual pigments. (photo: Paul E.M.)


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.


Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Cuculiformes-Musphagidae-Musophaga-M. violacea

Images: Doug Janson and DickDaniels

Eastern Plantain-eater (Crinifer zonurus)

Also known as the Eastern grey plantain-eater, the eastern plantain-eater is a large (20 in) species of turaco (Musophagidae) which occurs in open woodland habitats in tropical eastern Africa. Eastern plantain-eaters are fairly noisy and gregarious birds, with groups feeding on a wide range of fruits (especially figs) and other vegetable matter. 


Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Cuculiformes-Musophagidae-Crinifer-C. zonurus

Image: Tom Tarrant

Even the ‘easy’ etymologies can be complicated:  there is a family of birds native to the southern regions of Africa known as the musophagidae, or banana eaters.  Word purists will tell you that proper word formation won’t mix Latin and Greek roots, but in this case, well, it’s even more complicated.  Musa is a Late Latinization of the Arabic mauz (موز), which was introduced to European sensibilities in book form with the publication of the 11th century Arabic encyclopedia The Canon of Medicine, which was translated to Latin. The -phagous suffix comes from the Greek word meaning eater of, from phagein meaning to eat, literally to have a share of food.  Turacos (such as the one pictured) are medium sized colorful birds-although they have been placed with cuckoo birds in the Cuculiformes order, recent research has lead away from this, and they may be reassigned to a different order. 

Image of a Guinea Turaco, aka Green Turaco (Tauraco persa),South Africa, by Ian Wilson.

Western Plantain-eater (Crinifer piscator)

Also known as the Grey Plantain-eater or the Western Grey Plantain-eater, the western plantain-eater is a large species of Turaco (Musophagidae) that is a resident breeder in open woodland habitats in tropical west Africa. C. piscator is very similar to the related eastern plantain-eater, but lacks the white tail bars of its relative and instead has distinct chest bars and dark wing feather shafts. Western plantain-eaters are known to feed mainly on fruit, notably figs, plantains, seeds, and occasionally other vegetable matter.


Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Musophagiformes-Musophagidae-Crinifer-C. piscator

Image: Open Cage