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Toucans: Ramphastidae

Toco Toucan (ramphastos Toco): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: This is the largest of the toucans and very easy to identify. Toco toucans are black overall except for a white throat. The truly enormous bill is orange with a black oval spot at the tip. The skin around the eyes is also orange. Individuals average 21.5 to 23.8 inches (55 to 61 centimeters) long and may weigh 17.7 to 30.4 ounces (500 to 860 grams).

Geographic range: These toucans live from the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil southward to Paraguay, northern Bolivia, and northern Argentina.

Habitat: Toco toucans can live both in undisturbed forest and in secondary forests as well as plantations and palm groves.

Diet: Like all toucans, toco toucans eat a variety of fruits, but mostly figs. They also eat caterpillars, termites, and eggs and nestlings of other birds.

Behavior and reproduction: Toco toucans are more likely than other species to drop down to the forest floor to feed on fallen fruit. They are more willing to fly across open water and through open areas. The voice is a deep grunt. Individuals may feed alone or in small flocks. They are very agile and often hang head-down like oversized chickadees to get at hard-to-reach fruits.

Pairs preen each other and fence with their bills like swordfighters. They often nest in palm-tree cavities and can dig the hole a little deeper. They also nest in burrows, which they dig in soft, sandy riverbanks, or nest in tree-termite nests that have been opened by woodpeckers. A typical clutch is two to four white eggs. The male and female take turns incubating for eighteen days. The nestlings are fed insects at first. They fledge after forty-three to fifty-two days.

Toco toucans and people: This species is often depicted in art. It is the classic symbol of the rainforest. Toco toucans are still hunted for food and young birds are taken as pets.

Conservation status: This species is not considered to be threatened. It is adapted to living in secondary forests and plantations, and there is some evidence that toco toucans are moving into newly cleared areas in Amazonia. ∎



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Fjeldså, Jon, and Niels Krabbe. Birds of the High Andes. Copenhagen: University of Copenhagen Zoological Musuem, 1990.

Short, Lester L., and Jennifer F. M. Horne. Toucans, Barbets and Honeyguides. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Skutch, A. F. Trogons, Laughing Falcons, and Other Neotropical Birds. College Station, TX: Texas A & M University Press, 1999.

Stotz, Douglas F., John Fitzpatrick, Theodore A. Parker II, and Debra K. Moskovits. Neotropical Birds: Ecology and Conservation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsToucans: Ramphastidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Toucans And People, Conservation Status, Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan (andigena Hypoglauca): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT