Couas are only found in Madagascar. A particularly pretty representative of these colorful birds is the Crested Coua (Coua cristata). The back and tail feathers are purple, the breast feathers are rust-red, the head carries the eponymous mop of feathers. Around the eyes, as with all Couass, there is naked skin around the eyes, which glows blue in this species. The two sexes do not differ at all from each other with this Coua optically.
The natural habitat of this beautiful bird is very diverse: intact dry forests, savannah-like areas, but also mangroves are among them. Mostly the Crested Couas move on the ground or in very low branches. Only where Coua species occur at the same time, the Crested Coua moves to higher trees. In the different habitats on Madagascar live four different subspecies of the Crested Coua. They differ mainly in size and feather coloring. One of them, the subspecies Coua cristata maxima from the area around Tolagnaro in southern Madagascar, is already considered extinct. The other three share the other cardinal points: Coua cristata cristata occurs in the northern half of Madagascar to about Mahajanga. Coua cristata dumonti inhabits the west from Mahajanga to Morondava and Coua cristata pyropyga lives in the southwest to Toliara and Amboasary.
Crested Couas are not choosy about their meals. In the end, they eat everything the forest offers. Fruits, leaves, seeds, insects, arachnids, snails, amphibians and small reptiles such as geckos and chameleons are part of the permanent food repertoire.
Crested Couas builds nests from thin branches at protected heights of several meters above the ground. Both parents hatch the two white eggs – the brood lasts only two weeks. The young are also raised together. This distinguishes the Crested Coua clearly from other Cuckoo species, which lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and let the young be raised by other birds. The young birds already become fledged after two weeks and leave the nest for the first time. Due to the short breeding and rearing period, the Crested Couas have the possibility to hatch several clutches in only one rainy season.
The biggest enemy of the Crested Coua is human beings. Because of its tasty meat, the pretty bird is hunted by means of simple snare traps, especially in the south and west of Madagascar. Natural enemies are also the Fossa as well as hawks and other birds of prey. Unfortunately, the Crested Coua has no protection status so far. Nevertheless, the species is hardly kept in zoos or privately. The world’s first offspring in the year 2000 was successfully bred in the Bird Park Walsrode in Germany. At present only three zoos in Europe keep Crested Coua at all.