Purple-Crested Turaco

The Purple-Crested Turaco is a big heavy bird, about 40-46 cm (15-18”) tall. All Turacos are noisy and the Purple-Crested Turaco is one of the noisiest.

Its wonderfully colourful and glossy plumage makes it a very attractive creature to humans…and it is the National Bird of the African Kingdom of Swaziland. The markings are distinctive: a purple-coloured crest above a green head, a red ring around the eyes, and a black bill.

The neck and chest are green and brown. The rest of the body is purple, and as it flaps its wings, you see a flash of bright red on the underside tips.

Purple-Crested Turaco

Purple-Crested Turaco

However, the Purple-Crested Turaco – as well as other Turacos – does not fly well. It takes flight with a short downwards glide and then a few fast wingbeats, alternating gliding and flapping from tree to tree. Then it clambers back to the treetop with short hops and leaps, running and bounding easily along the branches.

In the wilds, this species lives in dense moist woodlands, evergreen forests, or in foliage along river banks. Nowadays though, it has adapted to suburban life in domestic gardens, especially in Durban, South Africa. It mostly eats the fruit of wild native plants, but also enjoys cultivated fruits like guava and mulberry.

The beginning of the summer rainy season stimulates the courtship activities, which include calling and chasing from tree to tree, mutual feeding and several displays. The main display is the spreading of wings to expose their enticing crimson feathers.

Although they are often seen alone, most of them live in pairs all year round. They remain in the territory they first choose. During the breeding season – usually August to February – they are strongly territorial, responding heatedly to intruders.

The nest of the Purple-Crested Turaco is built by both sexes, placed high off the ground in matted creepers, dense mistletoe or isolated thorn trees. It is a flat shallow structure – a rather flimsy cup, made with sticks and twigs – but well-concealed in the thick vegetation. The female lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for about 25 days. The chicks develop wing feathers, large enough for flight, 3-5 weeks after hatching.

And this brings us to the story of Jabulani Gumede…when he found a baby Turaco-bird which had fallen from its nest in the forest.