The toucan is a medium-sized bird native to the rain forests of central and South America and the Caribbean.
Toucans are tropical birds of the family Ramphastidae.
There are about 40 different species of Toucans.
Toucans have a lifespan of up to 20 years in the wild. The oldest captive toucan lived to be 26 years old.
They are brightly marked and have large often-colorful bills.
They range in size depending on the species.
The smallest is the lettered aracari (Pteroglossus inscriptus), weighs approximately 130 grams (4.6 ounces) and is about 29 centimeters (11.5 inches) long.
The largest is the toco toucan (Ramphastos toco), weighs approximately 680 grams (1.5 pounds) and is about 63 centimeters (29 inches) long.
The tail is rounded and varies in length, from half the length to the whole length of the body. The neck is short and thick. The wings are small, as they are forest-dwelling birds who only need to travel short distances, and are often of about the same span as the bill-tip-to-tail-tip measurements of the bird.
Almost entire body of toucan is covered with black feathers (except the throat, which is covered with white or yellow feathers). Color of the feathers provides camouflage.
The color of the bill may be black, blue, brown, green, red, white, yellow or a combination of colors.
Their large bill helps them keep cool in the hot environment in which they live. This adaptation is one of the best heat regulating systems in the entire animal kingdom. Arteries in their bills expand when the bird gets hot; and release heat.
Despite its substantial size, the beak weighs less than you may think. Composed of the protein keratin (same thing our hair and fingernails are made of), the structure of beak incorporates many air pockets allowing for a very low mass.
Bill has several purposes. It is used for gathering and peeling of the fruit, for intimidation of the predators and for attracting mating partners.
When toucans sleep, they tuck their beak under their feathers to keep them warm.
Toucans are diurnal and they produce many different calls. They are noisy in the late afternoon when other birds become inactive.
Toucans are among the noisiest of forest birds. Their songs often resemble croaking frogs. Toucans combine their extensive vocal calls with tapping and clattering sounds from their bill. Many toucan species make barking, croaking, and growling sounds, and mountain toucans make braying sounds like those of a donkey.
Toucans are usually found in pairs or small flocks.
They spend their lives high in the rain forest canopy — seldom making trips to the forest floor.
Toucans are omnivorous birds. Its diet is mainly based on fruit. Besides fruit, toucan eats berries, seeds, eggs, insects and small reptiles.
Life is not all fruit and play for toucans. Predators to watch out for include forest eagles, hawks, and owls; boas, jaguars, margays and weasels, often invade toucan nests. Their enormous bill is useless in defending against predators and, in fact, attracts humans to catch them for the pet trade.
To protect themselves, they depend on their loud voices to scare off enemies and alert other toucans to the danger.
Toucans build their nest in tree hollows, created by other animals such as woodpeckers; generally in the rainforest canopy.
Although most toucans live in groups, it is believed that they are monogamous, at least during the breeding season and while rearing young.
Breeding occurs during the spring. Then, the female lays 1 to 5 shiny white eggs deep in a tree cavity; both the male and female incubate the eggs for 15 to 18 days, depending on the species.
Toucans are born very small and do not reach their full size for many months. During this time both the mother and father protect it from predators.
Luckily, population of toucans is still large and stable and these birds are not on the list of endangered species.
Perhaps the most well known tropical bird, the toucan is a symbol of playfulness and intelligence that has been used quite successfully by advertisers and business owners.
Toucans were some of the very first birds noticed by the conquering Europeans. Their flamboyant colors and outrageous beaks made them entertaining curiosities in the courts of Europe.
The rainbow-billed or keel-billed toucan is the national bird of Belize.
While often compared to hornbills, toucans are close relatives of the woodpecker.
Since the 1960’s, Toucan Sam, a cartoon mascot, has been used as the face of Kellogg’s breakfast cereal Fruit Loops.