Although the loerie, as such, no longer exists – these well-known crested birds are still plentiful and occur in numerous African places such as coastal Angola, Zambia, Malawi, central Namibia, northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and north-eastern South Africa.
What has become of them?
They have simply been renamed in line with international naming conventions, and are now called turacos, like the other members of their family, except the Grey Loerie (Corythaixoides concolor) which is now called the Grey Go-away bird.
Names given to this bird in other local languages, such as Kwêvoël (Afrikaans), umKlewu (Zulu), Nkwe (Kwangali), Mokowe (North Sotho), Kuwe, Pfunye (Shona), Umkluwe (Swazi), Nkwenyana (Tsonga) and Mokuê (Tswana), remain unchanged.
The Grey Go-away bird is named for its alarm call, “Kuh-wê!”vwhich sounds like ‘Go Away!’ and is thought to alert other species to the presence of predators or other dangers such as hunters.
Unlike its colourful relatives, the Knysna and purple crested turaco, the grey turaco is a soft smoky grey colour with slightly darker flight and primary feathers and a dark brown tipped tail. The plumage is paler around the dark eyes and it has a shaggy crest that can be raised or flattened according to its mood. The legs and feet are black, as is the short decurved beak.
Double jointed toes for climbing
Although they are not adept at flying, these birds are nimble, strong climbers thanks to their uniquely adapted feet. The fourth toe can swivel around until it is near the second and third toe or right back so that it almost touches the first toe. This is a useful tool for climbing and hopping fast and furiously among the tree canopies which it inhabits.
The grey go-away bird subsists on leaves, fruit, flowers, buds and the occasional small invertebrates. It feeds on a wide variety of trees, but is particularly fond of acacia trees, Mopane trees, Jackalberry trees and cultivated fruit such as guavas.
Acacias are also a favourite site for nests, which consist of an untidy, flat platform constructed from interlaced twigs.
Grey go away birds mate for life and breed all year round, with the peak egg-laying season from September to October. Both sexes incubate the eggs and are extremely loyal parents. One bird was seen to remain on its eggs, even though a bushfire in the surroundings had completely enveloped it in smoke.
The chicks remain nest bound for up to 21 days, learn to feed and fly at only 33 days, and can fend for themselves at about 41 days of age.
Have you seen a go-away bird?
Keep a look out for these ungainly birds clambering about in the tall branches of trees around camp, as they have adapted well to living alongside mankind and are often seen in suburbia as well as in the wild.