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A bright green turaco with a notably long, floppy, white-tipped crest, Schalow's Turaco occupies evergreen forest, thickets, and riparian woodland in south-central Africa. Like other turacos, it is largely frugivorous and typically gregarious and vocal, though more often heard than seen. It is locally common from western Angola and southern Democratic Republic of Congo to western Tanzania, south to northeastern Namibia, northern Botswana, and western Mozambique, with a disjunct population in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. Schalow's Turaco was formerly considered conspecific with Livingstone's Turaco (Tauraco livingstonii) and Knysna Turaco (T. corythaix), but differs in plumage (1), genetics (2, 3), and vocalizations, having a slower advertisement call that contains fewer notes (4).
Length 41–44 cm. Mass male 236–261 g, female 208–267 g. A bright green turaco best identified by it's long, white-tipped, floppy and forward-pointing crest (5). Short white line above eye and longer white line below eye; bare skin around eye bright red; bright red flight feathers; wing coverts green washed blue; tail dark purplish black; bill red. White line under eye present on most individuals, but may be greatly reduced or even absent on birds in northern Tanzania. Immatures duller in coloration than adults.
Formerly considered conspecific with T. livingstonii and T. corythaix, but morphology and genetics (2, 3), and vocal differences (4, 1) indicate that recognition as full species is appropriate. Several subspecies have been proposed for northeastern populations, including loitanus (southwestern Kenya), chalcolophus (northeastern Tanzania highlands), and marungensis (Lake Malawi region), though here we recognize no subspecies.
West-central and eastern Angola (north to Malanje and Calandula), southern Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia to northeastern Namibia (Caprivi Strip), northeastern Botswana and northwestern Zimbabwe (west of Victoria Falls), Mozambique, Malawi (west of the Rift), and western Tanzania from Ufipa to Gombe Stream National Park; smaller, disjunct population in southwestern Kenya and northern Tanzania from Mara Game Reserve and Loita Hills south to northern and western Serengeti National Park, Crater and Mbulu Highlands, and Mt Hanang, and west to Mwanza District.
Evergreen forest, thickets, and riparian woodland from 600 m to 2,500 m elevation.
Largely sedentary throughout its range.
Diet and Foraging
Primarily frugivorous. On Nyika Plateau in Malawi, favors Cryptocarya liebertiana, Drypetes gerradii, Cassine ethiopica, Podocarpus latifolius, Olea capensis, and Syzygium and Rapanea species, and diet overlaps greatly with that of Livingstone's Turaco, 80% of species consumed being common to both (6).
Advertisement call. Main call is a series of ⁓6–10 raucous cawing notes, the first two typically shorter, less harsh and separated by longer pauses woh....woh....rrah..rraah..rraah..rraah..rraah, delivered at a mean pace of ⁓1 note/second. Occasionally, phrases may contain just 2, 3 or 4 notes. When calling, the tail is depressed slightly and with the emission of each note the head is pushed forward, while the bill is opened slightly at the end of each note (1).
Krakrakra. A rapid series of some 10 harsh kra or rek notes, uttered at a pace of ⁓5 notes/s.
Chorus. When several birds are vocalizing together in an excited chorus, birds utter a continuous series of cawing notes while other birds utter kra notes (the two elements which form the basis for the two previous vocalizations). See examples at Xeno Canto (1, 2).
Grumble. A very faint staccato series of low-pitched guttural notes, sounding like a rattled grumble. Only audible at close range. Observations of breeding in captivity reported no obvious courtship display, but when one bird alighted beside the mate, they would touch bills, shake heads and flash facial markings to the accompaniment of staccato, grumbling call notes (1), which presumably is this same vocalization.
Has not been studied in detail, but advertisement call of disjunct population in Kenya and Tanzania similar to birds in remainder of range. Schalow's Turaco was previously considered conspecific with Livingstone's Turaco and Knysna Turaco, but vocal differences were an important argument in treating these taxa as separate species, with Schalow's Turaco having an advertisement call consisting of less notes and delivered at a much slower pace (4, 1).
Little information. Presumably vocal all year with increased activity during the breeding season.
Daily Pattern of Vocalizing
Mainly calls in early morning and towards dusk, but can be heard at other moments of the day as well. Calling from one bird prompts vocal responses from neighboring individuals.
Places of Vocalizing
Typically calls from within the canopy of trees, remaining well concealed.
No known differences.
Social Content and Presumed Functions of Vocalizations
Little information. Advertisement call presumably for territorial defense, while krakrakra call is given in excitement or alarm. Grumble seemingly a close contact call between members of a pair.
Breeds December–March in southwestern Tanzania, July–October in Kenya, October–December in Malawi, and October–January in Zambia. Nest a flimsy structure of sticks, built ~3–10 m above ground in thickest part of tree or bush. Lays 2 oval eggs, white without gloss; incubation 20–22 days, by both sexes.
Demography and Populations
Common on Nyika Plateau, Malawi , where 43 small areas of forest totaling 157 ha contained 39 pairs, giving average territory size of 4 ha/pair (6).
Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II.