Whether you are a seasoned world-traveler or are just visiting Uganda for the first time, one thing that never gets old is seeing and experiencing the local wildlife. With 60 conservation areas, several of which are National Parks, Uganda is home to a vast variety of native species large and small. It is home to mountain gorillas, elephants, hippos and several species of monkeys, just to name a few! Uganda is a particularly popular destination for bird enthusiasts, however, with over 1,000 different species calling the East African nation their home. Uganda’s unique topography that ranges from snow-capped peaks to the majestic Lake Victoria offers species a wide variety of habitats to call home. If you are looking for diversity and a gorgeous backdrop for sightseeing, this is a dream destination!
Among the hundreds of species of birds that call Uganda home, one of the most unique and sought-after is the Great Blue Turaco. The brilliantly colored, fruit-loving species is a favorite among the birding community and is touted by African Geographic as one of Uganda's top 10 birds! But with a thousand other species of birds to see in Uganda, what's so special about the Great Blue Turaco? Here are some of the key facts that make this big blue bird a must-see.
Unlike other species of Turacos, they do not have red flight feathers in their wings. They have a large bill that is bright yellow with a red tip and a blue-black raised crest crowning the top of their heads. Many species of bird have males that are more brightly colored than females, but female turacos are typically as brilliantly colored as their male counterparts. And why shouldn't they be, after all?
For a bird as visually stunning as the Great Blue Turaco, it seems like it should be seen gracefully soaring through the air, its movements as beautiful as its plumage. Turacos in general, however, may have the looks, but they don't have the moves. Physically, they have short, round wings that make “flying” a little more like “gliding” when they make a leap from one tree to another. Landing is not the most graceful, since the short flights usually end in the bottom branches of the tree they are aiming for. Turacos have adapted to this setback with unique feet that give them the ability to climb to reach the fruit trees they live in. They can move quickly and deftly through the trees, using a fourth toe that can rotate around the foot all the way to the front, giving them a better ability to grip branches while climbing at odd angles. Once they get back to the top of the tree, they take another leap and move on to the next one. You may not get to see much majesty of this bird in flight, but watching them move so well through the branches with nothing but their feet is still a sight to behold!
Great Blue Turacos are Musophagiformes (Plantain eaters) Musophagiformes, or plantain-eaters, are the family all turacos belong to. These birds, including their biggest, bluest member, have a diet comprised mostly of fruits found in the native trees. They feed some on shoots, buds, and leaves and will indulge in the occasional insect if the mood strikes them. Interestingly, even though turacos are known as plantain-eaters, Great Blue Turacos also eat parasol and waterberry fruits commonly found growing in the trees in their natural Sub-Saharan habitats.