Thursday, October 13, 2011

Alive and well - Ross's Turaco in Botswana

In a previous blog (26/7/11), a challenge was issued to birders to look out for Ross's Turaco, which has only been recorded once in Botswana - in 1974. Well, some serious guides working for Okavango Wilderness Safaris have risen to the challenge, and followed up the sighting made by Victor Horatius in the Linyanti Concession recently.

Russel Crossey saw a single Ross's Turaco in the same vicinity shortly after Victor (possibly the same bird), and this prompted Dave Luck to keep a sharp look out for it when he was there during August. Whether it was Dave's skill or just luck that he saw one at Boscia Lagoon not far from the previous sightings is immaterial: this is now the third reputable guide reporting the species from the same place, and a proper submission has been made to the BirdLife Botswana Records Sub-committee.

Although the official verdict is not yet out, word has spread among the birding fraternity and the information has caused quite a stir. Rumours started that this is the first record for the Southern African Sub-region, that of Tim Liversedge in 1974 having been "thrown out" because it was subsequently proved to be a joke and not a genuine record. I contacted Tim Liversedge for his comment - he just laughed and said that it was after much deliberation that he 'collected' the bird he saw, and sent it to MPS Irwin at the Bulawayo Museum, because he knew that no-one would believe him - there can be no more concrete evidence than the specimen in a museum! However, he was thrilled that the bird had been seen again, not least because now no-one could accuse him of having shot the first and last one!

At the time of the first record, it was predicted that there would be other sightings and that this was not just an isolated bird. Tim believes that Ross's Turaco, being a forest bird, is likely to move down the riparian woodland of the Kwando River during wet times. However the long intervening period between sightings shows that it is unlikely that the species is resident or even a frequent visitor to Botswana. The current high flood levels in the Kwando-Linyanti system are quite comparable with those of the 1970s, so the wetter conditions may result in other individuals coming into the region. It should be looked out for in northern Botswana, the Caprivi Strip and western Zimbabwe.

So, well done to Vic Horatius, Russel Crossey and Dave Luck for re-confirming the presence of this species in the region. Many keen birders, like myself and Dave Luck, have seen Ross's Turaco in Uganda, and it is an awesome bird. It is however very difficult to photograph, so we are still encouraging photographers to keep an eye out for these magnificent birds, and to send their images to BirdLife Botswana.


  1. Hello, I would like to ask do you know how can I contact Mr. MPS Irwin? I am currently working on a species info page of a sunbird in Singapore and I would like to request for a copy of his paper because I cannot get access to the journal Honeyguide. Thanks!!

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