Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco)


Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family:    Ramphastidae
Size:    Length: 20 to 25 inches (51 to 64 cm)
Weight: 1 pound (454 grams)
Diet: Fruit, seeds, insects, small reptiles and eggs
Distribution: South America
Young:  2 to 4 chicks, once a year
Animal Predators:  Birds of prey and snakes
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Average lifespan is 10 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity



     All toucans are natives of South America, although some are found as far north as Mexico.

     Toco toucans are the largest of the toucan species and have the largest bills.

     Toucans are related to woodpeckers.

     The call of the toucan can be heard up to half a mile away.

     Some South American native tribes believe the toucan can be used to carry messages to the spirit world. 


These playful birds have a large, brightly coloured canoe-shaped bill that may be as long as seven-and-a-half inches (19 cm). This colourful bill is actually camouflaging, as it appears to be a fruit when observed at a distance. Although the bill looks heavy, it is constructed of a honeycomb-type bone with plenty of air pockets. Males and females are similar in looks and colouring. The tongue is long and feather-like, and the bristles help the birds manipulate food to their mouths. Toucans have large, blue eyes surrounded by bare orange skin, and a white bib on the neck. Most of the rest of their feathers are black.



Toco toucans are found throughout eastern South America, in Brazil, Paraguay, Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, eastern Bolivia and northern Argentina, in open areas such as plantations, palm groves, woodlands and near human settlements. Like woodpeckers, toucans nest in tree cavities by rolling up into a ball to sleep and as many as six may share the same hole.


Feeding Habits

The majority of toucansí diets consists of fruit, but they also eat seeds, insects, small reptiles and eggs. They use their large bill for a variety of reasons, one of which is to pick up food such as eggs or nuts. Once they have food trapped in their bill, they toss their head back to move the food to their mouth. Drinking is done in the same way, by sticking the bill into water and then raising the head to allow the water to flow towards the throat. 



Toucan mates are extremely playful and affectionate with each other. They groom each otherís feathers and talk to each other. They play games while courting, including one in which they toss berries back and forth to each other. After the game is over, the birds mate and the female lays her eggs in their nest. Both parents take turns sitting on the eggs, and in 16 to 20 days the eggs hatch. They may hatch within hours of each other or even a day apart. The naked and blind newborns are completely helpless at birth and remain that way for several weeks. They have legs and a relatively large beak, but look nothing like the birds they will become. The chicks are constantly hungry, and the parents take turns feeding them. In 10 to 12 days, their wings begin to show under their translucent skin. By three weeks, their eyes open and their wings have emerged. At four weeks, their feathers have begun to grow and between five and six weeks, they have begun to look like miniature versions of their parents. By eight to nine weeks, the chicks leave their parentsí nest and head out on their own. 



Toucans are social, outgoing birds that congregate in small groups of six to 12, often made up of various family members. They are one of the noisiest birds in the forest and employ a variety of calls to communicate. Although toco toucans can fly, they do so mostly for short distances only, by flapping their wings and then gliding the rest of the way. While up in trees, they hop from branch to branch rather than flying. 



Although toco toucans have no special conservation status, they  are threatened by the pet trade, which captures adults from the wild and transports them to other countries. Unfortunately, the shock causes many of them to die en route. Another danger to the toucan is the loss of habitat due to human encroachment.



Toco Toucan Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US

Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1999). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited