Gwah! The call from the go-away bird is probably the sound I am least likely to ever forget from the Kenyan savanna (but yes, hyenas too…). Along with hyrax, dikdik, and vervet monkeys, white-bellied go-away birds (Corythaixoides leucogaster) were the most common, charismatic, and comical residents of Mpala. Towards the end of the dry season, go-away birds would feed ravenously on aloes (Aloe lateritia) to remain hydrated. I watched this individual methodically cut pedicels one at a time to consume the bright flowers from bottom to top. Every time the bird reached higher and higher, the stem warped and struggled to support the bird’s weight. This flower bundle was the last one the bird grabbed before giving up and moving on to forage elsewhere.
Go-away birds belong to the turaco family (Musophagidae). Like other turacos, they have a crest that they erect during courtship displays. From very far distances I would sometimes mistake them for raptors until their excitable mohawks gave them away. Turacos also have movable outer toes, allowing them to perch with zygodactyly (two toes forward and two back) or anisodactyly (three forward and one back). This characteristic is also present in other bird taxa such as parrots and woodpeckers, and it may aid in climbing and manuevering around branches in cluttered arboreal habitats like in acacia trees.
Photographed in situ