A Turaco in the House

A turaco is a bird from Western Africa. If you search Pinterest for Guinea, you will probably see some of the many species of this beautiful creature. Turaco feathers are special because they do something different than other bird feathers. They use an actual green pigment rather than combining a yellow pigment with a blue prismatic shape of the feather. You can get the details here.

cropped turaco chick
Baby Mort

These birds are arboreal and not wonderful flyers. They eat primarily fruit and would eat nothing but bananas given a choice. They are often called plantain eaters. They will eat leaves, flowers, insects, some vegetables, and in captivity low-iron pellets for softbills.


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I must have your toes!


Let’s say you were given the opportunity to hand feed a turaco chick. And the chick has grown up and is eating on his own. You don’t really have a big enough cage for an arboreal bird hopping around on tree branches. But the poor bird is not going to grow up properly if he is kept in a small cage all the time.

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We call our turaco Mort. And no, he’s not our turaco. He’s on loan until the true owner can take him back, which will be sooner rather than later. Even Mike says we are going to really miss him when he’s gone.

With no other options, I have been letting Mort out in the living room for an hour or so every day. I have come to rely on this hour for relaxation and entertainment. He is so adorable.

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Once the cage door is open, he jumps to the edge there. He looks around, watches what I do. If I sit in my chair, he flies up to the top of another cage in the living room. Mort then flies to the top of a small table, to the ottoman that my feet are on, to the back of the next chair over, to the parrot stand, where he might pause for a while. Then he flies to the back of his cage, to the ottoman again, and to the back of my chair. He makes some sweet, soft calls before running across my chair to the next chair, then he flies to the bookcase and knocks things over. By way of apology, he goes back to the small table and poops.

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I love the fact that Mort often does something klutzy but tries to look cool about it. I can almost hear him say, “I meant to do that.” When he settles down some, he will sit near me, on my legs or the Exercycle near me, letting me gaze into his really beautiful eyes. The photos I can find don’t do him justice. Little drops of clear caramel that look into my bird-loving soul are hard to photograph, I guess.

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Mort likes to chew on my toes. I am super ticklish but I put up with it for as long as I can. He also likes to bite my fingers while making baby noises. He hopes I will suddenly sprout banana from my hands. Sometimes when he is on the back of my chair, I will turn to make bird noises at him and he will bite my nose.

Mort on my head

I can’t imagine keeping him in the house like this for very long. Mort is presently sweet and cute, but I have read that even hand raised turacos can become aggressive. I worry about that sharp beak getting too close to my eyes, in spite of my glasses. He will be happier in a large aviary with lots of trees to run through and lots of space for a mate. I hope some day I might be raising his offspring.

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Until the day comes that he gets to be in a better situation, I will enjoy his attentions and company. After all, how many people do you know who have a turaco in the house?

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