Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco)


Family: †††††††††††††††††† Ramphastidae.

Status:†††††††††††††††††††† Special concern.

Size:††††††††††††††††††††††† Length 20 to 25 in., weight 1 lb.

Diet:††††††††††††††††††††††† Omnivore.

Characteristics:††††††† Sociable, playful, outgoing.

Area:†††††††††††††††††††††† South America.

Offspring:††††††††††††††† Two to four white eggs.



     All toucans are natives of South America, though 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.

     Toucans are sold in pet stores for as much as $6,000.00 or more.††



These playful birds have large, brightly coloured bills that may be as long as 7.5 inches. Although the bill looks heavy, itís 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 bird manipulate food to its mouth. The majority of the toucanís diet is fruit, but it also eats seeds, insects, small reptiles and eggs as well. Toucans have large, blue eyes surrounded by orange, with a white bib on the neck. Most of the rest of this birdís feathers are black. Like woodpeckers, toucans nest in holes in tree trunks by rolling up into a ball to sleep and as many as six may share the same hole. Toucans are social, outgoing birds that congregate in small groups of six to twelve, often made up of various family members. Theyíre one of the noisiest birds in the forest and employ a variety of calls to communicate. They use their large bills for a variety of reasons, one of which is to pick up food such as eggs or nuts. Once a toucan has food trapped in his bill, he tosses his head back to move the food to his mouth. Drinking is done in the same way, by sticking his bill into water and then raising his head to allow the water to flow towards his throat. Although the toco toucan can fly, it does so mostly for short distances only, by flapping his wings and then gliding the rest of the way. While up in trees, it hops from branch to branch rather than flying. Some South American native tribes believe the toucan can be used as to carry messages to the spirit world. Others believe that if native fathers with newborns eat toucan meat, the new child may become cursed.



The toco toucan is 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. Although the toucan is not considered endangered, it is 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.



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 arms, legs and a relatively large beak, but look nothing like the birds they will become. The babies are also 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 babies will leave their parentsí nest and head out on their own. Toco toucans have an approximate life span of ten years.