Great Blue

Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata). Kakamega, Kenya

‘Koruuk, koruuk, koruuk, koruuk’ . . . the calls sounded out from the forest canopy. Seven or eight floppy-crested birds bowed and bobbed, raising first their heads then their tails while calling out this strange hollow rattle. They were enormous, appearing twice the size of any turaco I had seen before. A family of colobus monkeys began their chorus in response, as the turacos worked themselves up into a frenzy. Another morning had begun at Kakamega, a small, isolated forest in western Kenya which is home to a wonderful variety of Congo-basin birds that occur no further east.

The Great Blue Turaco is about 75 cm (30 inches) from bill to tail, so is the length of a large eagle, although much more slender. Like other turacos, it feeds on figs, fruit and leaf buds as well as flowers – a truly committed vegetarian. Bands of these birds gather to feed in the forest canopy, often in the company of hornbills, green-pigeons, barbets and other turacos at bountiful food sources.

Kakamega, Kenya, June 2005

* Rondo Retreat is an ideal base from which to explore the Kakamega Forest – the idyllic, colonial-style cottages are set in a forest clearing with birds, butterflies and primates all around. Make sure you include the wonderful Rondo Retreat on any birding trip to Kenya!

Note: The turacos are a uniquely African bird family, comprising 23 species. Most of them are predominantly apple-green with crimson flight feathers, but the Great Blue lacks these features. Five species of savanna-dwelling turacos are drably-plumaged in grey and known as go-away-birds due to their harsh alarm call: ‘g’way!’.

About Duncan Butchart

Duncan Butchart is interested in all aspects of the natural world, with a particular fascination for birds and their ecological relationships.
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2 Responses to Great Blue

  1. Sam Parsons says:

    We were lucky enough to have 8 purple crested in the garden this week, bouncing around. The dogs find their big dark shapes very scary and bark incessantly at them. Can you imagine what they’d think of this magnificent specimen. I just measured it out with a ruler, it’s huge!

  2. Peter Retief says:


    Lovely painting. I’d love to see one of these in the wild.


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