Corythaix concolor Smith, 1833, inland of Port Natal (Durban), South Africa. Four subspecies.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
English: Gray lourie; French: Touraco concolore; German: Graularmvogel; Spanish: Turaco Unicolor.
18–20 in (46–51 cm); 7.1–12.0 oz (202–340 g). Adult has entire head and body warm smoky gray, being palest around the eyes, and darkest on the chin, throat, tail, and primary coverts. In most forms there is a suffusion of olive green on the breast, though this is hardly noticeable in the field. Crown feathers are long and partly decomposed, forming a slightly shaggy crest that varies in length, and which can be raised or depressed at will, but when flattened, projects well beyond the back of the head. Juveniles similar to adults but with shorter crest and a buffy tinge to the overall appearance.
Locally common throughout the northern parts of South Africa from Zululand and the eastern Transvaal north to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and southeastern Tanzania, and west to Botswana, Namibia, Angola, and southern Dem. Rep. Congo. Up to four races have been recognized, though racial variation is difficult to interpret. The presence of darker birds in the east and paler ones in dry western areas may to be attributed to a cline with differing characteristics among birds due to changes in the environment.
Typically a bird of the drier, open woodlands and savannas of southern Africa, with a marked preference for those areas dominated by acacias. While principally a species adapted to dry woodlands, it is very much dependent on water, a factor that accounts for its absence from otherwise suitable habitat such as the dry central and southwest Kalahari. In recent decades has readily adapted to suburban parks and gardens around Johannesburg.
Generally found in pairs, small family groups, or parties of three to 20 birds, hopping, climbing, and bounding about in trees and bushes with much dexterity. Alert and inquisitive, it will often perch on the topmost branches of trees with a marked upright posture, raising and depressing its crest, and jerking its tail as it calls. Flight is strong and direct with alternating gliding and flapping. Movements of up to 40–60 individuals or more have been observed on several occasions, possibly in response to fluctuating food or water supplies. At all times will react aggressively toward other turacos, chasing them away from fruiting trees, bird feeders, and water, yet readily sharing such resources with other birds such as pigeons, parrots, barbets, orioles, and starlings.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Feeds primarily on fruits, but will also consume large quantities of flowers, foliage, and termites. In many areas considered a pest by gardeners and commercial horticulturalists due to its destructive consumption of cabbages, lettuce, legumes, and soft-skinned fruits.
One to four, but usually three white or pale grayish-blue eggs are laid in a flimsy, pigeon-like platform of sticks some 15–20 ft (3–6 m) above ground, generally in an acacia tree. Both sexes incubate for 26–28 days. Newly hatched young are covered in dense brown or grayish brown down. They become active at 14–18 days, clambering around the branches of the nest tree, taking their first short flights at about 23 days, and finally becoming fully fledged at around four weeks. On several occasions three to six birds have been recorded attending to and feeding young in the nest. Such “helpers” are probably young birds from an earlier brood.
A wide-ranging and generally common species throughout its range. Currently no known threats to either its habitat or overall population.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Long considered a bird of ill repute among the Kalahari bushmen, who complain bitterly that it deliberately warns wild animals of their approach.
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