Strange Nestfellows

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Every aviculturist prizes their birds that are exemplary parents, but this Livingston’s Turaco takes his parental duties to the extreme. He will take over incubating any eggs that are left briefly unattended. He is housed with a mate of his own species, but she has yet to lay any eggs. They share their aviary with a pair of Luzon Bleeding-heart Doves and a pair of Gray Peacock Pheasants, and both the pheasants and the doves have been victims of this egg-napping turaco. Only the male turaco is intent on hatching any eggs he sees. The female turaco just goes about her business. He has never displayed any aggression towards the other birds in the aviary. He simply takes over sitting on any available eggs that he sees, and the rightful owners simply give up on them - out of sight, out of mind. Normally the eggs are removed for artificial incubation or foster parenting in the hope that the turacos will start their own family.

In early March, he once again had taken over incubating a clutch of Gray Peacock Pheasant eggs. To make this even more unusual, he was sitting on a nest that is on the ground, highly unusual for a turaco, a bird that prefers to nest in a platform up high. Rather than fight it this time, I decided to see just how committed he was to his self-appointed task. On March 25, 2001, I noticed an empty eggshell on the floor of the aviary. Upon inspection, a newly hatched Peacock Pheasant was found snuggled tightly under the male turaco. He had incubated this egg all alone from the time he took it over, with no help from the pheasants or his mate, and he seemed to be intent on taking care of the resulting chick. Because they have different diets, and because turacos are altricial and pheasants are precocial, the turaco probably would not have let the baby out of the nest to forage and the baby would have starved to death. The hatchling was, therefore, removed to an artificial brooder at one day of age. Not that I have anything against Gray Peacock Pheasants, but I am really hoping that the next clutch of eggs he incubates are his own.