Great Blue Turaco - Extra Information

Link to video of Great Blue Turaco chick hatching at Nashville Zoo. My thanks to Shelley Norris, Avian Area Supervisor at Nashville Zoo, Tennessee, USA for allowing me to add it to the ITS website.

Great Blue chick hatching at Nashville Zoo

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A young and bleached mohawked picture of Owen.  Any smart comments would be gratefully un-received!
Owen Joiner with a Great Blue
See article below.

 


"Blue Turaco breeding and hand rearing" by Owen Joiner.
A minor failure but an educational experience.


The Great Blue Turaco (Corytheola cristata) has to be one of the more challenging species that I have thus far worked with. Whilst these stunning birds provide hours of entertainment with their boisterous and ungainly nature they can prove to be a bit of a handful. Aggression can be sporadic and spontaneous and can disappear just as quickly, yet some individuals can be incredibly shy.

Housing this species was a matter of personal preference. They adapt well and thrive in both heated glass aviaries or outside flights in sub-zero temperatures. The species is a frugivore but are also very happy to consume leafy material. This can be supplied in various forms with lettuce being of particular interest. The diet itself heavily depends upon the resources available. Most fruits are accepted, the softer and more juicy fruits being preferred, cucumber should also be added to this list of fruit. The diet as with most softbill species should be enhanced with a vitamin/mineral supplement and the provision of a fruit-based softbill mix.

Perching, as with most turaco species is paramount and the provision of strong and securely hung perching is necessary. The Blue Turaco is a great fan of 'crashing around' which can be misconstrued as being quite deliberate, especially during an early weekend morning! Fortunately the species isn't destructive so aviaries can be well planted. Certain species of fruit bearing tree can be targeted for green forage so to plant expensive tropical fruit trees in the aviary may be a mistake. Otherwise the species rarely comes to ground and shows little destructive quality for the majority of aviary plants. Some damage in the form of leaf shredding may be seen on plants such as the banana, but in this case the plant shows no ill effects caused by the damage.

The blues are short-range strong fliers and will readily use the space afforded them. As mentioned secure perching is required in all areas of the aviary and if given the option the birds will bounce across an aviary rather than fly despite their agility in the air.

For nesting the birds were provided with wooden trays (approximately 2'.1'.6"). These trays were firmly attached to the aviary wall in a secluded area of the aviary and lined with sand. Twigs, dried moss and dry leaves can be scattered on top of the sand to provide nesting material, or at the very least something for the birds to tidy from the site. Most birds showed a preference for nesting on the sand itself, removing or ignoring any nesting material provided.

Eggs were removed for artificial incubation (37.5 degC with 55% humidity). The hatching of blue turacos is a lengthy process which can take up to three days. Once dry the chicks were kept at 30 degC with a drop of 1 degC daily until reaching 25 degC where the temperature would be maintained until fledging.

Chicks were fed on a purée mixture of papaya, mouse pinkie and water for the first few days and fed every two hours between 6am and 10pm. More solid papaya pieces were introduced from day four. The amount of pinkie was reduced gradually and the emphasis on fruit pieces enhanced. Other soft fruits were introduced including banana, grape, kiwi and mango. Providing the chicks with a drop of water was advised as they desiccate rapidly in the brooders.

The chicks themselves are black velvet in appearance, gorgeous. By day 4 / 5 they become very active and it is difficult to contain them. They are adapt climbers and would explore furiously. From other people's experience it would be highly recommended to avoid (if possible) excessive imprinting as aggression in adulthood can be of great concern and personal danger!

I have to confess that I actually failed in successfully rearing the two chicks that hatched during the spring of 2003. The first hatched chick made it to day nine and then succumbed suddenly to an intense gastric infection. The second chick had a bad hatch which required assistance and failed to survive the second day. Were I to have the chance of hand rearing this species again I would place more emphasis on the solid fruit content of the diet and less on the animal content. I would also consider the provision of an antibiotic from an early age to discourage infection. This in itself may lead to chicks of weak immunity, I don't know. Whichever, these birds are simply fantastic and if given the opportunity I'd recommend working with them just for the challenge.


Great Blue Turaco Ruhija, Uganda

Great Blue Turaco Ruhija, Uganda - My thanks to Nik Borrow for allowing the I.T.S. to use this image. (Webmaster)

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