Musophagiformes – Turacos

Name translates to ‘banana eater’ although their diets contain many fruits and no bananas

This is an order consisting of the vibrant turacos, plantain eaters, and the distinctive go-away birds, are exclusive to the varied landscapes of sub-Saharan Africa. These birds, ranging from medium to large, are adorned with an array of vivid colors that make them stand out in their natural habitats. The turacos, in particular, boast an arresting spectrum of reds, greens, and blues, embellished with striking crests and elongated tails that add to their dramatic appearance. In contrast, the savanna inhabitants, such as the go-away birds, present a more subdued plumage, adapting to their less dense and more open environments.

What sets the turacos apart is their unique coloration, derived from two copper-based pigments—turacin and turacoverdin—that are not found in any other animals. These pigments provide the rich, opulent red and green hues that are synonymous with these birds. Interestingly, the red pigment, turacin, is water-soluble, and it can be seen washing out in the rain, a phenomenon that does not detract from the birds’ overall vibrancy.

Musophagiformes are primarily arboreal, spending most of their time in the trees. Their strong legs and feet are well adapted for climbing and grasping branches, allowing them to navigate through the foliage swiftly. Despite this, they are relatively poor fliers, often gliding or flying only short distances between trees, so they are seldom seen on the ground.

However, the existence of these unique birds is threatened. Habitat destruction due to deforestation and land conversion for agriculture is one of the most significant threats they face. The illegal pet trade has also impacted some species due to their striking appearance.