Exchanging Turacos

An article from the International Turaco Society magazine no. 21 Spring 2004 – written by David Jones.

A turaco breeder in South Africa contacted me with a view to exchanging some birds. He wanted White-cheeked and Schalow’s and had seen my advert in previous issues of the International Turaco Society magazine offering these two species, including cinnamon White-cheeked, a colour mutation of the original species. He was particularly keen to have some cinnamons.

White-cheeked Turaco
Cinnamon White-cheeked
Schalow’s Turacos

It may seem strange to export turacos back to their native Africa, but it is easier for someone in South Africa to obtain captive bred specimens from England than it would be to get them from many countries in Africa. I was also keen to obtain Knysna Turacos, having never seen them in real life before. I am not sure if there are any others of these outside South Africa. My order was completed with Purple-crested Turacos, a particularly beautiful species. There are a number of these around in the U.K., but I didn’t have any and fresh blood is always a healthy start.

Knysna Turaco

So the stage was set to exchange ten birds for ten birds. The main problem with an exchange of this nature is the paperwork that is required. The breeder in South Africa and I both had to apply for CITES export and import licences. We also had to arrange quarantine facilities and I had to get an Export Health Certificate. The turacos all had to be close rung. I also had to produce documentation to show that the birds I was exporting had not been imported from elsewhere. It took a long time to obtain the correct paperwork. However, that gave me time to finish the construction of a new flight of aviaries to house the new arrivals.

Purple-crested Turacos (pink breasted)

I have to admit that while my birds were en route to South Africa and later on, while my new turacos were on their way to England, I felt quite concerned for their well being. It is not just the birds that are put under stress during a move! When my new turacos came out of quarantine I was even more concerned about their health. They had not faired well, having lost a considerable amount of weight. They were eating very little food. I added lots of paw paw and banana and gradually their food consumption increased up to what I would expect them to eat.

Initially one of the male Knysnas was so under the weather that his female was pushing him around. I had to separate them for his own safety. When he had recovered sufficiently I put him back with his mate. Gradually he took control and eventually I had to remove the female for her safety! I have not been able to get these two back together again.

The second pair of Knysna Turacos were very well paired and a joy to keep. They were both tame enough to come to the hand for titbits, although the male was rather aggressive to me whenever I went inside the flight. I had high hopes of breeding from them this season. As with all good plans, fate took a turn. One morning at the beginning of February I found the female of this tame pair dead on the floor of her aviary, under where she always roosted. A post-mortem revealed that her pulmonary vein had ruptured at the entrance to the left atrium. This may have been caused by ‘night fright’, but who knows? As I could not get the other pair together, I have put the tame male in with the other female. I watched them carefully to check that they did not damage each other. So far they have completely ignored each other, with the male taking up residence in the shelter whilst the female lives in the flight. I hope they can do better than that!

Meanwhile, my new Purple-crested have settled in well, having gained in weight again, after an initial scare of one flying into a shed window and knocking itself out. I have left them all together in one large flight in the hope that they will select their own mates. Unfortunately one of the females had an accident recently and broke her leg badly. I don’t know how this happened. There has been no sign of aggression within the group. The leg that was broken had a closed ring on it and I am guessing that the ring caught on a twig or a bit of wire somewhere and in the process of getting free she broke her leg. My vet splinted it up and after four weeks redid the splint. I was impressed how well her leg was progressing when I looked at it during the change over. At the time of writing this article, she has one more week to go until the splint comes off again. I hope she will then be able to use her leg. Luckily she was a hand-tame bird, as she has had to endure a lot of human contact living in a fairly small cage in our porch since her accident. She has become quite accustomed to the comings and goings of the Jones family! An extra male has been added to the group outside from a friend’s collection and I hope the damaged female will be able to join them again soon.