Toco Toucan

Toco Toucan

Common toucan, Giant toucan

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Ramphastos toco
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
18-26 yrs
TOP SPEED
64 km/h
WEIGHT
500-876 g
LENGTH
55-65 cm

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.

Distribution

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 Toucan habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

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.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Toco toucans are omnivores. They feed mainly on fruits, but will also eat berries, nuts, insects, frogs, small reptiles, small birds, and their eggs and nestlings.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
spring
INCUBATION PERIOD
17-18 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
43-52 days
BABY NAME
chick
BABY CARRYING
2-4 eggs

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.

Population

Population threats

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.

Population number

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.

Ecological niche

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.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Toco toucan is the largest among toucans and its bill is amongst the largest of any animal.
  • Toucans are close relatives of woodpeckers.
  • Toucans often spend time sparring with their bills, tag-chasing and calling, during the long time it takes for the fruit to digest. These behaviors may be related to maintenance of the pair bond or establishing dominance hierarchies; however, the digestion time of fruit, which can take up to 75 minutes during which toucans can't feed, provide this social time.
  • One of the functions of the Toco toucan bill is to serve as a surface area for heat exchange. The bill has the ability to modify blood flow and so regulate heat distribution in the body, allowing the bird to use its bill as a thermal radiator. In its capacity to remove body heat the bill of the Toco toucan is comparable to that of elephant ears. When toucan places its bill under its wings it insulates the bill and thus reduces the heat loss during sleep.
  • When feeding Toco toucans are able to hang upside-down on the tree branches and pluck fruits with their long bill.

References

1. Toco Toucan on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toco_toucan
2. Toco Toucan on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22682164/113557535

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