The Hartlaub Tauraco

4th July 2010

Distribution: Endemic to east Africa, specifically the Kenyan Highlands, extending into Tanzania and Uganda.


Status: Although fairly common in Kenya, the northern Tanzanian population has been seriously impacted by years of indiscriminate trapping and export, resulting in high mortality and diminishing populations in several areas.


Habitat: Its preferred habitat includes evergreen montane forests between 1400-3250m, as well as frequenting well-timbered suburban parks and well treed gardens around Nairobi and other central Kenyan towns.


General habits: These Turacos are typically in pairs or family groups, congregating in groups of up to 20 individuals at favored fruiting trees. In many areas pairs defend a core territory year round, and each day work a well-defined feeding route within territorial boundaries. Flight appears weak and labored with much flapping and gliding, and generally for only short distances.


Feeding habits: The Hartlaub's Turaco mostly feeds on fruits, plant matter, and berries, but will also consume flowers, leaves, buds, caterpillars, moths, arthropods and beetles. It appears to be particularly attracted to black or dark red fruits, and captive birds readily accept black grapes.


Breeding habits: Courtship displays by the male are noisy and involve much fanning and jerking of the tail, raising and lowering of the crest, and half opening of the wings to display crimson flight feathers. Once the pair bond is established, the pair engages in frequent bill rubbing, and the male offers food to the female at frequent intervals.

Nest: The nest is a shallow platform of loosely interlaced twigs, some 2.5-8 m above ground, and generally among thick tree foliage.


Eggs: The Hartlaub’s Turaco lays two rounded dull white eggs. Both sexes incubate for 22–23 days.


Young: . Newly hatched chicks are covered in black down, and for the first few days are fed on regurgitated caterpillars and fruit pulp. At 17–18 days the nestlings are able to climb all over the nest tree, rarely being in the nest itself, and are able to make their first flight at around 28 days. Juveniles are similar to adults but duller and with less red in primaries.


Description: The Hartlaub's Turaco measures roughly 40-44 cm from beak to tail, and weighs around 195-275g. It has a rounded bushy crest and nape glossy blue-black. Chin, cheeks, neck, mantle, throat and breast are dark green. Its lower back, folded wings, and tail are deep violet blue. The thighs and belly are dull blackish washed with green.


Orbital ring and bare skin behind the eye are red. It has an unmistakable white « comma » before the eye and brilliant red primary feathers in the wings that are particularly visible in flight.


Did you know: This turaco is a popular cage bird and large numbers of them can be found in zoos and aviaries in Europe, North America, Mexico, and the Far East. Its lower cost than other species in the past made it popular with aviculturists, but breeding results have been relatively poor. Of all the turacos maintained in captivity, the Hartlaub's Turaco is the best known for its male aggression to females (and occasionally vice-versa), making it an challenging species to keep.


The Hartlaub's Turaco is also known as Blue-crested plantain-eater or Black-crested turaco. It is called Touraco de Hartlaub [French], Seidenturako [German], Turaco de Hartlaub [Spanish]; Hartlaubs Turako [Danish].