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Turacos of the World

A Simple Classification Table for Turacos from the Society's Poster

Clive Humphreys and Howard Robinson

Here is a simple table to classify the turaco species as they appear on the society’s beautiful poster by Howard Robinson and using a table based on that by Rainer Berenz in aviculture magazine ‘Die Vogelspiel’ June 2000. The 28 subspecies and 22 species are numbered LEFT TO RIGHT as they appear on the poster (and from TOP TO BOTTOM). For the purposes of management this classification is useful because the birds in each of five groups can be treated in a similar way.

The groups are:
‘Blue-Green Turacos’ - Top row (Left 1 - 4)
‘Green Turacos’ - Top row (Centre to Right, 5 - 10)
‘Eye-Marking Turacos’ - Middle Row (1 - 10)
‘Grey Go-away-Birds’ - Bottom Row (Left 1 - 6)
‘Blue Turacos’ - Bottom Row (Right 7 - 9)

The Eye-marking group is a subgroup of the ‘Green Turacos’. In fact many of the subspecies of the Eye-marking group are not illustrated on the poster because the differences are so slight. This group I regard as a super-species complex; Tauraco persa in the northwest to Tauraco corythaix in the south, because their distribution is continuous with no significant breaks and subspecies meet at contiguous (touching or adjoining) territories with poorly defined boundaries.

Recently however, the number of hybrids being reported, either recent or historic, again emphasise that this classification, like many others, is somewhat ‘artificial’ as this family of birds seems to hybridise easily even between species of different groups that are clearly different visibly and phenotypically; for example between Blue and Green species!

TOP ROW – LEFT TO RIGHT

‘Blue-Green Turacos’
1. Tauraco leucolophus White-crested Turaco
2. Gallirex j. johnstoni Johnstone’s Turaco
3. Gallirex. j. kivuensis (subspecies) Ruwenzori Turaco
4. Gallirex porphyreolophus Purple-crested Turaco

The Generic name (or subgenus) Gallirex is now used in this group indeed since the poster was printed as most authorities have assigned the Johnstone’s, Ruwenzori and Purple-crested Turacos to the genus Gallirex.

‘Green Turacos’
5. Tauraco erythrolophus Red-crested Turaco
6. Tauraco bannermani Bannerman’s Turaco
7. Tauraco ruspolii (Prince) Ruspoli’s Turaco
8. Tauraco hartlaubi Hartlaub’s Turaco
9. Tauraco leucotis White-cheeked Turaco
10. Tauraco l. donaldsoni (subspecies) Donaldson’s Turaco

MIDDLE ROW – LEFT TO RIGHT

‘Eye-Marking Turacos’
1. Tauraco schuettii Black-billed Turaco
2. Tauraco c. corythaix Knysna Turaco
3. Tauraco l. chalcolophus Long-crested Turaco
4. Tauraco l. livingstonii Livingstone’s Turaco
5. Tauraco l. schalowi Schalow’s Turaco
6. Tauraco p. buffoni Buffon’s Turaco
7. Tauraco persa persa Guinea Turaco
8. Tauraco fischeri Fischer’s Turaco
9. Tauraco m. verreauxii (subspecies) Verreaux’s Turaco
10. Tauraco macrorhynchus Yellow-billed Turaco

Not illustrated are other subspecies that include:
Tauraco zanzibaricus - Zanzibar Turaco, Tauraco zenkeri, Tauraco emini, Tauraco reichenowi & Tauraco phoebus - that form part of the Tauraco persa - Tauraco corythaix complex or the Eye-marking super-species group.

BOTTOM ROW – LEFT TO RIGHT

‘Grey Go-away Birds’
1. Corythaixoides personata Bare-faced Go-away Bird
2. Corythaixoides concolor Grey Go-away Bird
3. Criniferoides leucogaster White-bellied Go-away Bird
(female)
4. Criniferoides leucogaster White-bellied Go-away Bird
(male)
5. Crinifer zonurus Eastern Plantain-eater
6. Crinifer piscator Western Plantain-eater

‘Blue Turacos’
7. Corythaeola cristata Great Blue Turaco
8. Musophaga rossae (Lady) Ross’s Turaco
9. Musophaga violacea Violet (Violaceous) Turaco