The Toco toucan is the largest and probably the best-known species in the toucan family. It has a striking plumage with a mainly black body, a white throat, chest and upper tail-coverts, and red under tail-coverts. What appears to be a blue iris is actually thin blue skin around the eye. This blue skin is surrounded by another ring of bare, orange skin. The most noticeable feature of this bird, however, is its huge bill, which measures up to 23 cm (9 in) in length; it is yellow-orange in color and with a black base and large spot on the tip. It looks heavy, but as in other toucans, it is relatively light because the inside largely is hollow. The tongue is nearly as long as the bill and very flat. The male and the female are similar in appearance and juveniles are duller and shorter-billed than adults.
Toco toucans are found in central and eastern South America. They don't migrate but local movements may occur. Toco toucans are non-forest birds. They can be found in a wide range of semi-open habitats such as woodland, savanna, and other open habitats with scattered trees, Cerrado, plantations, forest-edge, and even wooded gardens. They are also often seen in the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland area, and the world's largest flooded grasslands.
Toco toucans are typically seen in pairs or small groups. They are active during the day spending their time feeding and flying from one site to another. They move in a single file and in flight alternate between a burst of rapid flaps with the relatively short, rounded wings, and gliding. Toco toucans feed in the tree canopies and on the ground where they move by hopping. The birds eat fruit using their bill to pluck them from trees; their long bill is also useful for reaching things that otherwise would be out-of-reach. Toucans may also walk and hop between the tree branches to reach their food. In order to communicate with each other Toco toucans will use various calls. Their voice consists of a deep, coarse croaking, often repeated every few seconds. They also have a rattling call and will bill-clack.
Toco toucans are monogamous and form pairs. Their breeding season occurs in spring and timing differs between regions. The nest is typically placed high in a tree and consists of a cavity, at least part of which is excavated by the parent birds themselves. The birds may also nest in holes in earth-banks and terrestrial termite-nests. The female usually lays 2 to 4 eggs a few days after mating. The eggs are incubated by both parents and hatch after 17-18 days. These birds are very protective of themselves and their chicks. The young are born helpless and fledge between 43 and 52 days after hatching; they reach reproductive maturity at 3-4 years of age.
Toco toucans are fairly common and are not currently endangered. However, their numbers are declining due to hunting and trapping of young birds for keeping as pets.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Toco toucan total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.
These colorful birds play an important role in the ecosystem they live in. They feed on a wide variety of fruit and thus act as seed dispersals throughout their range.