Corythaix hartlaubi Fischer and Reichenow, 1884, Mt. Meru, northern Tanzania. Monotypic.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
English: Blue-crested plantain-eater, black-crested turaco; French: Touraco de Hartlaub; German: Seidenturako; Spanish: Turaco de Hartlaub.
16–17 in (40–44 cm); 6.9–9.7 oz (195–275 g). A dark iridescent green turaco with brilliant red primaries conspicuous in flight. Rounded bushy crest and nape glossy blue-black; chin, cheeks, neck, mantle, throat, and breast dark green; lower back, folded wings, and tail deep violet blue; thighs and belly dull blackish washed with green. Prominent white patch in front of the eye separated from a white line extending from gape to ear coverts by a black loral patch and narrow black line immediately below the eye. Orbital ring and bare skin behind the eye red. Juveniles similar to adults but duller and with less red in primaries.
An East African endemic centered around the Kenyan Highlands, extending into north Tanzania at Loliondo, Longido, mounts Meru and Kilimanjaro, the Pares and West Usambara mountains. It reaches east Uganda at mounts Elgon, Moroto, and Morongole.
Evergreen montane forests between 4,550 and 10,500 ft (1,400–3,250 m), as well as in well-timbered suburban parks and gardens around Nairobi and other central Kenyan towns.
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. 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.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Primarily eats fruits and berries, but will also consume flowers, caterpillars, moths, and beetles. Appears particularly attracted to black or dark red fruits, and captive birds readily devour black grapes.
Two rounded dull white eggs are laid in a shallow platform of loosely interlaced twigs, some 7–25 ft (2.5–8 m) above ground, and generally among thick tree foliage. Incubation is by both sexes for 22–23 days. 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.
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. Tanzania has been the sole exporter of wild-caught birds, and despite annual quotas of 200 birds, this has been disregarded for many years.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
A popular cage bird with large numbers in zoos and aviaries in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America, Mexico, and the Far East, with considerable breeding success, thus reducing the need for the continued importation of wild birds from Tanzania.
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