Turaco Husbandry

Extracted from the Turaco Database prepared by Louise Peat, Registrar, Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford, Oxfordshire, UK. and Rachel Robson, Oxford Brookes University student.

(More information on turaco husbandry can be seen within the Members' area of this website.)

Enclosure Types and Features:

  • Size (here)
  • Enclosure Furnishings (here)
  • Feeding stations (here)
  • Water availability (here)
  • Perimeter types (here)
  • Temperature (here)
  • How to introduce turacos to each other (here)

Health and Disease (general information):
Many thanks to Andrzej Kruszewicz and Jason Waine for their contribution towards the information in this section.


Enclosure Types and Features:

Size:

Small Outside (m): (H x W x D) = 2 - 3.6 x 3 - 10 x 3 - 7.6 = 180 - 273.6 m3 Inside (m): (H x W x D) = 0.6 - 6.0 x 0.9 - 6.0 x 0.6 - 6.0 = 0.324 - 216.0 m3
Large Outside (m): (H x W x D) = 2.60 - 14.0 x 6.0 - 40.0 x 3.0 - 50 = 109.2 - 28,000 m3 Inside (m): (H x W x D) = 3 - 15 x 12.5 - 40 x 5 - 40 = 187.5 - 24,000 m3
Walk Through (H x W x D) = 20 x 90 x 150 = 270,000 m3  

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Enclosure Furnishings:

Trees / shrubs Non-toxic trees such as Elder, Hawthorn, Conifers and tropical greenhouse plants. Consider trees that will offer additional horizontal perching.
Inside Substrate Sand is most frequently used. Bark, Saw-dust and Tiles are also included as well as concrete and natural ground. Ideally any substrate should be easy to clean, especially around roosting and feeding areas.
Outside Substrate Grass is the most frequently used. Sand and Bark are commonly used while Stone and Gravel are occasionally in place. Turaco will habitually 'toilet' under favoured perches - consider an easy to clean substrate under these areas and around any feeding stations.
Perches Additional perches need to be in a variety of angles, directions, diameters and well spaced (1.5 - 4m). Dead tree branches are good perches. There should be many perches, depending on the size of the enclosure, to allow flight between them. Re-branching should be done every 6 months.

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Feeding stations:

General Ideally diet should be fed off the ground, out of reach of wild rodents. The feeding area should be either inside or undercover out of direct sunlight and rain. The cover will prevent wild birds or aviary inhabitants from defecating directly on the food. The feeding area should be built from materials that are easy to keep clean.
Number of feed stations In a small enclosure with a compatible pair one feeding station should be sufficient. For larger mixed species aviaries monitor for signs of feeding aggression or territorial aggression from more dominant species - increase number of feeding stations as required to ensure all species and individuals have access to food.

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Water availability:

Water intake Turaco will drink several times a day; access to clean water is essential. Placing a small water dish off the ground near a feeding station will enable birds to drink whilst feeling secure. Avoid placing any ponds or bowls under perches to prevent faecal contamination.
Bathing Turaco will bathe daily given the opportunity, access to a shallow dish or pond is essential. After bathing they will seek out a sunny area to dry off. Having a perch placed open to the elements will allow rain and sun bathing.

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Perimeter types:

Mesh Double fenced mesh should be used for separation between species that are known to exhibit aggressive behaviour.
Glass When introducing new birds to an exhibit with windows, best to smear a window lean type product on windows, to prevent birds from flying into windows, over time reduce amount of product on windows and phase out.

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Temperature:

Winter Can withstand temperatures as low as 10oC comfortably; to maintain activity levels through the winter access to heated areas recommended when temperature drops below 10C. Deny access to the outside in extremes of cold weather - birds will roost outside through poor weather conditions if you do not shut them in.
Summer Can withstand temperatures as high as 36oC - ensure adequate shade areas during the hottest months.

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How to introduce turacos to each other:

Neutral Territory Introducing birds is never predictable. Some turaco species are considered more difficult to introduce than others. As a general rule introduction on neutral territory is usually advisable. However, this is not always practical due to a shortage of aviary space.
Established territory Introduction of what potentially would be the most aggressive of the pair (in most cases the male) into the established territory of the least potential aggressor (generally the female) would be the next most viable option. Always ensure there is a suitable amount of cover to allow any bird being pursued to hide, and closely monitor that neither specimen is being prevented access to housing or food by the other and that neither individual is becoming unduly stressed.
Soft introduction In the event of a particularly difficult pair a softer approach can be attempted by allowing the birds to see each other from adjacent aviaries or by partitioning off part of the enclosure placing one bird either side. Once positive behaviour is observed gradual access can be allowed. Wing clipping has also been used in the past with more aggressive Turaco species; by “slowing down” the aggressor this enables more time for the subordinate to retreat.

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Health and Disease (general information):
Many thanks to Andrzej Kruszewicz and Jason Waine for their contribution towards the information in this section.

Handling A firm and not too tight a grip is recommended. The wings should be held firmly against the body while the legs should be held between the middle and ring fingers. It is important not to obstruct the beak or hold the bird on its back - turaco will regurgitate food when stressed which can cause asphyxiation if unable to expel the food. Birds that are not hand raised and are flying free in big aviaries are very prone to stress – procedures should be as fast as possible. When planning a procedure on turaco, better to fast them (no supper and no breakfast). They will lose feathers if stressed and handled improperly.
Catching Catching turaco in a small enclosure is best done using soft catching nets. Turaco are quite clumsy fliers. They are relatively easy to predict and catch mid-flight. This is less stressful/traumatic than attempting to catch against a wall of an enclosure. In a large mixed exhibit a catching cage can be used. By placing food inside a cage close to the normal feeding station, birds can be encouraged to enter, using a pulley system the door can be closed from a distance by a patiently waiting keeper. This can take time to achieve, but if the cage is a permanent fixture the birds will become conditioned to entering the cage, making the process more routine and quicker.
De-worming Twice yearly treatment recommended (pre & post breeding season) in conjunction with faecal parasitology screening. A rotational cycle of De-wormers such as Panacur (2.5%) is recommended with a change of treatment every 2 years.
Micro chipping A transponder can be inserted into the pectoral muscle tissue, or under the skin over the L scapula.
Ringing Different coloured metal split rings can allow identification of individuals from a distance. Plastic rings have a habit of fading or can be degraded by the effects of weather over time.
Sexing Turaco species are monomorphic. There may be very slight differences in size between the sexes, but this is an unreliable form of sexing. DNA sexing either via feather, blood sample, and now eggshell are all relatively non-invasive.
Transport For short journeys (in-house moves from aviary to aviary) a sky kennel or cardboard box can be used. Cover the container to keep the bird in the dark, but ensure there is still adequate ventilation (especially important in hot weather). Do not place the container in any draughts. Always crate individuals separately as stressed birds can become aggressive. For longer car journeys follow the above routines but also place a perch in the crate. Foam attached to the roof of the crate will prevent any damage to the head if the bird panics and newspaper can be used as a substrate for the floor of the crate. If travelling in hot weather make sure that the vehicle is air conditioned. Food and water must be provided if the journey time exceeds 12 hours. For journeys by air the IATA Live Animal Regulations must be adhered to. In the 31st edition container 11E (pages 176-183) is required.
Anaesthetic Anaesthetic protocol – Same as for other bird species. Careful manual restraint of the bird, using a mask and membrane attachment to the anaesthetic circuit. 2 litres/min oxygen flow with either isoflurane (4-5%) or sevoflurane (8%) induction. After induction, if the procedure is likely to be more than a few minutes, routine endotracheal incubation is carried out. Maintenance of anaesthesia is isoflurane (1-3%). On recovery, volatile anaesthetic agent is switched off and pure oxygen maintained until recovery. A short interval of fasting is recommended before any anaesthetic. This will reduce the risk of inhalation of regurgitated food. A 4 hour fasting period should be sufficient.
First aid As in other bird species, depending on injury. Bird should be placed in dark, quiet place and wait for a veterinarian.
Ill Health: behavioural indicators Lethargy:
Birds are very good at masking a disease, usually when a bird is lethargic and staff can easily approach him – this is an end stage of a disease. Lethargy can be a symptom of CNS injury e.g. after hitting the window.
Fluffed up:
Hypothermia, non specific. Occurs when bird is undergoing an infection or infestation – birds can’t have fever and when fighting a disease will “shift” energy by saving body heat. If that is not environmental (too low temperatures in enclosure) provide an additional heat source e.g. reptile heating lamp.
Wasting:
Loss of weight may indicate Aspergilosis, fungal diseases of a GI tract, parasitosis, chronic bacterial diseases (including TB and Yersiniosis), liver insufficiency, metabolic diseases, etc.
Sneezing:
Infections (bacterial, fungal) of upper respiratory tract, sinus infections, gapeworm infection

Rapid breathing:
Stress, fungal and bacterial diseases of respiratory tract, shock, also when peritonitis occurs (egg binding), gapeworm

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