A popular bird on smallholdings is the Grey Go-away bird (Corythaixoides concolor), otherwise known as the Grey Lourie or the Kwêvoël. Other names are umKlewu (Zulu), Nkwe (Kwangali), Mokowe (North Sotho), Kuwe, Pfunye (Shona), Umkluwe (Swazi), Nkwenyana (Tsonga) and Mokuê (Tswana).
Of course it gets its name from its alarm call, “Kuh-wê!”, which sounds like ‘Go Away!’ and is thought to alert other species to the presence of predators or other dangers such as hunters.
The Grey Go-away-bird has a height of 50 cms and weighs around 270 gms. The head is coloured grey while the bill is coloured black. 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 which can be raised or flattened according to its mood. The legs and feet are black, as is the short decurved (bent downwards) beak.
The eyes are brown.
The diet of Grey Go-away-bird includes, fruit, flowers, buds, leaves, nectar and insects.
It is apparently the greatest avian feeder of flower petals in southern Africa. In fact, at certain times of the year, their dependence on petals is such that the greatest proportion of their diet is made up of this seemingly strange food source. A wide variety of flowers are eaten. In our garden they have also eaten cabbage and cauliflower leaves.
They nest in trees, and the nest consists of an untidy, flat platform constructed from interlaced twigs.
They 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.
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. The bird lays between 1 to 4 eggs and they are coloured blue.
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.
The bird is found in the arid and semi-arid regions of Southern Africa and it can withstand high day and night temperatures.
It is also an urban dweller, being at home in parks, gardens and in old vacated buildings.
They are often seen in small family groups or in large flocks.
Back in 2004 the Gauteng Smallholder noted that the names of a number of southern African birds had been changed in line with international naming conventions and that was when the Grey Lourie became the Grey Go-away bird. The reason lay in the fact that Central African birders have always called this group or family of birds, ‘Go-away-birds’. However, using Tanzania as an example, there are 3 go-away-bird species recorded there, namely Bare-faced, White-bellied and Grey go-away-birds. In order to get conformity or standardization with names it was logical therefore for southern Africa to adopt Go-away-bird for Lourie (or Turaco), which was less disruptive than changing the names of all three go-away-birds in eastern central Africa.
The Knysna Lourie and the Purple Crested Lourie were renamed Turaco.