Toucans are primarily fruit-eaters,
preferring the darkest, so ripest,
Their long bill allows them to perch on
heavier, stable branches and
a distance for hanging fruits. They snip the
fruit off, hold it at the
of the bill, and then, with a forward flip
of the head, toss the fruit
the air and into their throats.
Small fruit seeds pass unharmed through
toucan digestive tracts and
seeds are regurgitated, also unharmed. Thus,
these frugivores aid in
dispersal of tree seeds, and, together with
other fruit-eaters, are
for the positions of some forest trees.
Breeding is during the dry season. Toucans
nest (and some sleep) in
cavities, either natural ones or those
hollowed out by woodpeckers, in
live or dead trees. Nests can be any height
above the ground, 100 ft or
Both sexes incubate and feed the 2 to 4
young. Toucans are apparently
Some species, such as the Collared Aracari,
seem to breed
that is, other family members, in addition
to the mother and father,
raise the young in a single nest.
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other word fits them - toucans are spectacular
animals. Their shape,
coloring, and tropical quintessence make them one of
the most popular
animals" for the tropical forests of the Americas
and one most visitors
to see. It's hardly surprising, therefore, that the
logos of several
organizations and tour companies feature toucans.
The toucan family,
is classified with the woodpeckers, and contains
about 40 species - the
and the usually smaller toucanets and aracaris
restricted to the American tropics. Six species
occur in Costa Rica.
The first sighting of toucans in the wild is always
exhilarating - the
size of the bird, the bright colors, the enormous,
Toucans are usually first noticed flying from
treetop to treetop in
groups. The bird's most distinguishing feature - its
large bill - is actually light, mostly hollow, and
used for cutting
and manipulating the diet staple, tree fruit.
§ continued below
Populations and Habitat
are gregarious forest birds, usually observed in
flocks of 3 to 12.
follow each other in strings from one tree to
another, usually staying
the high canopy (a toucan only occasionally flies
down to feed at
or to pluck a snake or a lizard from the forest
floor). The birds are
grasping each other's bills in apparent contests,
and tossing fruit to
Sometimes individual fruit trees are defended by a
mated toucan pair
other toucans or from other frugivorous birds -
defended by threat
and even, against other toucans, by bill clashes. Chestnut
toucans, the largest in Costa Rica, may
slightly smaller Keel-Billed Toucan. The
larger bird follows
the smaller, then chases the smaller away after it
succeeds at locating
a fruit-filled tree.
are common residents in the various regions in which
they occur, except
there is extensive deforestation. None of the family
in Costa Rica. Some toucans, such as the Chestnut
substantial population declines in heavily
deforested areas of Central
for instance, in some regions of Panama. §
Summary of Interesting Facts:
What do toucans eat?
Toucans are frugivores, so they eat mostly fruits
and nuts. However,
they occasionally snack on insects and small
What are the predators of toucans?
Snakes and lizards often raid bird nests. Birds of
prey, such as eagles
hawks, are predators of many species of birds.
Felines, such as jaguars
margays, will also eat a toucan.
How do toucans protect or defend themselves?
They nest and sleep in hollow tree holes, which
protects them from
and stalkers. Toucans in a group will often set up
a raucous chorus of
whenever a predator is near the flock.
In what rainforest layer do toucans live?
Toucans live in the canopy layer, high in the
trees, where they can
nests and protect their young from understory and
What is the toucans contribution to its
Toucans spread fruit seeds ! They eat the fruit,
and the seeds pass
their stomachs unharmed. In other words, many
forest trees do not grow
a parent tree, but grow where birds drop the