Artwork of Tsitsikamma forest, one of the homes of the Knysna Turaco

The Knysna Turaco: A Colorful and Enchanting Bird of South Africa

Tucked away in the lush forests of South Africa's Garden Route lies a bird that's sure to take your breath away. With its vibrant blue and green plumage and unmistakable call, the Knysna Turaco is a true icon of the region. But this bird is much more than just a pretty sight to behold. From its unique nesting habits to its fascinating social structure, the Knysna Turaco is a true marvel of the avian world.

So if you're planning a trip to South Africa, make sure you don't miss out on the chance to spot this stunning bird in its natural habitat.

Knysna Turaco

Knysna Turaco


The Knysna Turaco (also Knysna Lourie, or Tauraco corythaix) is a medium-sized bird, about 40-45 cm in length, with a distinctive and striking appearance. Look at any picture of this majestic bird and you will stuggle to argue that it is not one of the most beautiful species you have seen. This beauty has caused it to feature on our Top 10 South African Birds for International Birders.

The bird's most distinctive feature is its bright green feathers, which cover most of its body, with a prominent crest on top of its head and distinctly marked factial feathers. The bird's wings and tail are also strikingly marked, with iridescent blue and purple feathers that shimmer in the sunlight, and bright red feathers under the way to make it easier to locate as it flies across the branches in the top of the forest canopy. The bird's large, bright red bill is another eye-catching feature.

Knysna Turaco

Knysna Turaco

Interesting Behaviors

Beyond its stunning appearance, the Knysna Turaco is known for its interesting behaviors. One of the most notable behaviors of the bird is its unusual call. The bird's call is often described as a loud, grating sound, which is both haunting and beautiful. When calling, the bird often bobs its head and spreads its crest feathers, making for a truly enchanting sight.

The Knysna Turaco is also a skilled climber, often seen clambering up and down trees in search of food. The bird's diet consists mainly of fruit, which it plucks from trees using its large bill. Interestingly, the bird's digestive system is adapted to handle toxic compounds found in some fruits, allowing it to consume a wider range of foods than other bird species.

Cultural Significance

Known locally as the "Knysna Loerie," these birds have been featured in art and literature for centuries, and are a beloved symbol of the Garden Route, featuring on the artwork for many hotels and restaurants in the region.

The Knysna Turaco also holds cultural significance to the indigenous people of the region. The bird is believed to have supernatural powers in some African cultures, with some people associating the bird with luck, wealth, and fertility. Some cultures also believe that the bird has the ability to communicate with the spirits of the deceased, and is therefore often associated with death and the afterlife.

Artwork of Knysna Turaco

Artwork of Knysna Turaco

Where to Find

The Knysna Turaco is completely endemic to Southern Africa - primarily found in the indigenous forests and woodlands of the Eastern and Southern Cape regions of South Africa. These areas include the Knysna and Tsitsikamma forests, as well as the Hogsback and Amathole Mountains. The bird can be found throughout the year, but is easiest to spot during the breeding season (September to February), when it is more active and vocal.

These birds are particularly fond of mature indigenous forests, where they can find plenty of fruit and insects to feed on. Keep your eyes peeled for them perched high up in the tree canopy, or hopping along branches in search of their next meal.

It's worth noting that the Knysna Turaco is not the easiest bird to spot, as their vivid plumage blends in well with the foliage of the forest. Your best chance of seeing them is to listen for their distinctive calls, which are often described as a loud, booming "kow-kow-kow-kow". Once you've located the source of the call, look for flashes of blue, red and green among the leaves.

If you're not sure where to start looking, consider hiring a local guide who can help you track down these elusive birds. They will know the best spots to find them and can offer valuable insights into their behavior and habitat. Keep in mind that the Knysna Turaco is a protected species, so be sure to respect their space and observe them from a safe distance.

Knysna Turaco

Knysna Turaco

Conservation Status

Sadly, like many other bird species around the world, the Knysna Turaco faces threats to its survival. Habitat destruction and fragmentation due to logging, agriculture, and urbanization are among the most pressing threats to the bird's survival. Additionally, the bird is sometimes targeted by illegal bird traders who capture and sell the birds as pets. The Knysna Turaco is currently listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, highlighting the need for conservation efforts to protect this beautiful and unique species.

Knysna Turaco

Knysna Turaco - Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Conclusion

In the depths of South Africa's forests, the Knysna Turaco is a true jewel of the avian world. With its vivid plumage, unique nesting habits, and fascinating social structure, this bird is a must-see for any birdwatcher or nature lover. Whether you're a seasoned birdwatcher or simply appreciate the beauty of nature, the Knysna Turaco is a bird that is sure to leave a lasting impression. So pack your binoculars and head to the Garden Route – you won't be disappointed!