‘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! www.rondoretreat.com
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!’.