Toucans are near passerine birds from the neotropics. They are brightly marked and have enormous, colorful bills. The family includes six genera and about forty different species.
Toucans range in size from the Lettered Aracari (Pteroglossus inscriptus), at 130 g (4.6 oz) and 29 cm (11.5 inches), to the Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco), at 680 g (1.5 lbs) and 63 cm (25 inches). Their bodies are short (of comparable size to a crow’s) and thick. 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, and at the base of the head is a huge, brightly-colored beak that measures, in some large species, more than half the length of the body. A toucan’s tongue is long, narrow, and singularly frayed on each side, adding to its sensitivity as an organ of taste.
The plumage of the toco toucan includes a black body, white chest, and a ring of red around the eyes. The eyes appear to be blue but are actually covered in a blue skin.
The most notable feature is the toco’s large, colorful beak which ranges in size from six to nine inches. The color of the beak is mostly orange with a large black tip on the end.
Though the beak appears heavy it is made mostly of keratin and air around a frame of hollow bones making it extremely light. This allows the toucan to fly short distances which it could not do if the beak was heavy.
The beaks of the toco are not only beautiful but serve a variety of functions .They help the birds reach for fruit from a distance. It works like a set of tongs to pick up the fruit and then to peel it.
The large size of the beak can help intimidate predators though it doesn’t really work as a defense weapon.
The beak also works as a type of built-in air-conditioning. The blood flowing through the beak releases heat and keeps the toucan cool. Restricting the flow keeps the bird warm. This is the same way an elephant’s large ears work to regulate its body temperature.
Another function of the beak is to help the toco toucan blend into its surroundings. Due to the brightly colored flowers of the tropics the beak works as camouflage.
Like other toucans, the toco has a long, powerful tongue that it uses to catch lizards and insects. It also uses its tongue to toss food into its mouth.
The toco weighs from 1.1 pounds all the way up to almost 2 pounds. Females are smaller in size than the males but the coloring is the same.
Most toco toucans live in Central America or the eastern part of South American.
Unlike other toucans, the toco prefers to live in open habitats instead of the dense rain forest. They do live among trees but in more open areas.
The toco toucan can live in savannahs, woodlands and scrubland.
They will move from one area to another to fulfill their dietary need for fresh fruit.
Toco toucans breed once a year in the spring. They are monogamous breeders and build nests in the hollow of tree.
They usually lay only two to four eggs at one time and the eggs hatch after around eighteen days.
Both parents stay with the eggs and then the young chicks. They are very protective of their young. The chicks have a small beak and no feathers when they are born. They are able to leave the nest at six to eight weeks but usually stay with the parents for several months.
Toco toucans are not good flyers so they mostly bounce from tree to tree.
They are social birds that usually live in flocks of six to eight birds.
They communicate with a loud, deep croaking sound as well as making a clacking noise with their beaks.
Toco Toucan Diet
Like other toucans, the toco eats a diet consisting mainly of fruit. It will also eat other bird eggs, lizards and insects when available.