One of the few animals I saw on a regular basis while in Sierra Leone was the Great Blue Turaco. The first time I was told by Papanie that the giant blue bird that flew overhead was a turaco I was shocked. The turaco I had worked with in Dallas had barely been half that size! But the more I saw them the more resemblance I saw to Marty, my Dallas-dwelling turaco. So in honor of the Great Blue Turaco and the amazing wildlife of Sierra Leone, lets have them be the next focus for an Odd Animal Profile.
Corythaeola cristata. I don’t normally include the scientific names in my O.A.P.s but Corythaeola crostata rolls off of the tongue with such grace. It is a name that couldn’t belong to any other animal than this giant, blue bird.
The Great Blue Turaco is the largest of the turaco’s and sports iconic turquoise-blue feathers, a black crest and a bright red and yellow bill. This bird lives in the tall trees of the rain forests, but I saw them posted on the sparse palms in the middle of agricultural fields as well as deep in the bush. It can weigh up to 2.7 pounds (1230 g) and can get almost 30 inches long (75 cm).
These birds eat mostly fruits and leaves and tend to forage in small family groups. It is interesting to see birds that live in family groups when it is an unaccustomed site. The groups I saw ranged from 2-8 members, which is a far cry from the solitary birds of prey or plethora of pigeons that one might see out on a walk in America.
These birds excel and jumping and climbing through the upper branches of trees as they are not very good fliers. If they need to take flight it is normally to glide from one tree to another.
They have the fairly odd habit of nesting in branches that hang over water. This seems an oddly specific choice for a nest site, but it probably keeps them out of the way of the primate species who might not want to risk falling in the water for a turaco omelet.
In Sierra Leone this bird is often hunted for it’s meat and it is threatened in several other countries in Equatorial West Africa due to deforestation, though it is still fairly widespread.