Toco Toucan

by Buddy Davis and Kay Davis on September 13, 2013

Thirty-three species constitute the toucan family, with the toco toucan possessing the largest bill.

Toco Toucan

Thirty-three species constitute the toucan family, with the toco toucan possessing the largest bill. Its territory ranges from the rain forests of eastern Brazil to forested areas along the rivers of northern Argentina and in palm groves with large trees.

This large bird does not fly well but its very strong legs allow it to remain in the treetops, hopping from perch to perch. Its natural enemies are not known, but the toucan can be tamed as a pet. These particular birds bathe high in the treetops using pools of rainwater found in the hollows of trees.

Toucans have a black body with a white patch under the throat and face and a patch of white just above the tail. The most distinctive part of this bird is its large bill, which is orange, black, and hollow inside, making it very light. Although lightweight, this bill is very strong, having a network of support rods on the inside. The toucan uses its bill and six-inch (2.37 cm) tongue to pick up food.

The notches along both edges of the tongue make it like a brush at the end, enabling it to gather food easily. The toucan feeds on fruit, berries, seeds, insects, and spiders, and sometimes eats small lizards, snakes, and eggs. This large-billed bird will hold food in its bill and throw back its head, tossing the food down its throat. If the food is too large, it will tear off pieces with its bill.

The toucan nests in a tree that has a hole formed by decaying wood. It does not line its nest but regurgitates seeds to form a bed. The female lays 2 to 4 eggs and both parents take turns incubating them for about 16 days. The young are born blind and naked. Both parents feed the hatchlings during the several weeks of development. A layer of feathers can take about 30 days to grow.

Toco Toucan

Piciformes • Ramphastidae • Ramphastos toco

Weight: 1 pound (457.1 g)
Length: 2 feet (60 cm)
Length of bill: 8 inches (20 cm)
Life Span: 30–50 years
Special Design Feature: This large bird cannot fly well but has toes that give it a good grip to hop from limb to limb in the trees.
Did You Know? The toco toucan is the largest member of the toucan family and one-third of its length is its bill.