Online Since 1994

Updated October 2014

Toucan Bird Facts

All about the actual animal, brought to you by The Toucans!


Tacky The Toucan

  • Believe it or not, the Toucan bird has been flying around the Central and South American rainforests for a lot longer than a certain cereal company would like you to think.
  • The colorful beak of the Toucan is very light, but is also very strong!  The interior of the beak is a rigid "foam" bio-composite made of bony fibers and drum-like membranes (really!) sandwiched between outer layers of keratin. (Beak Strength Research Article)
  • Toucans are one of the noisiest jungle birds, with a varied repertoire of harsh croaks, yelps, mews, rattles, and other sounds.  Some of the larger species sing a series of almost musical calls at dawn.
  • Toucans must be fed a diet that is high in fruit and low in iron, as their metabolism makes them exceptionally prone to hemochromotosis, or iron storage disease.  (Kind of like our steel drum band!)
  • During their courting display, Toucans will play a game which consists of tossing berries to each other and catching them with their beaks.  Cute!
  • The Toucan is a smart and friendly bird, and loves to eat fruit, nuts, and berries just like everyone else.  Toucans hate sugary cereal and avoid it like the plague.  You probably should, too.
  • Who are the Toucans?
  • The Toucans are a Steel Drum Band playing in Seattle, Washington, nestled deep in the heart of the Tropical Northwest! (About Our Band)
  • We've been playing together as a professional group since 1989, and there's nothing we like better than sharing our fun-filled island beats with everyone who enjoys tropical music! (Toucans Music)
  • The Toucans have recorded lots of albums, and we also have a bunch of information about the unique instrument from Trinidad called the Steel Drum! (Pan History)
  • We get asked about the Toucan Bird pretty often, too, so we decided to make this helpful page just for you!

The Toco Toucan (illustrated here) is the largest member of its family, which comprises 37 species.  All toucans are inhabitants of South America, though some can be found as far north as Mexico.

The function of their enormous bill has puzzled scientists for a long time.  What use is such an ungainly instrument?  It is not a weapon, the toucan's usual enemies being much too strong to be fooled by even the heftiest bill.  It is not a special tool for gathering food, since all toucans are fugivorous, and eat berries, seeds, and ripe fruit.  A shorter, more solid bill would do just as well.

Some ornithologists think it is simply a distinguishing feature, a visual threat to would-be competitors.  But this hypothesis is not very convincing, since the bill of both the male and the female is exactly the same.  New research suggests that the massive bill may actually be a radiator for excess body heat. (Beak Function Research Article)

Toucans are very noisy members of the jungle society, and live in smallish communities, equivalent to several families.  They are related to the woodpeckers, and inhabit holes in tree trunks in the same way.

One might well ask how a bird like a toucan manages to sleep at the bottom of a tight-fitting hole.  Nimbly, the toucan bends double; the beak is twisted round and rests on its back, its tail is folded up on to its breast, its wings wrap round the rest of its body, making a warm, feathery ball!

  • Vital Statistics of the Toucan Bird
  • (source: Leisure Arts Animal Fact Card, 1975)
    • Laying: 2 to 4 white eggs
    • Incubation: 17 to 20 days
    • Frequency: 1 clutch a year
    • Development of the young is very slow; their bill only reaches full size after several months. They will leave the nest at 8 to 9 weeks.
    • Length: 60 to 65 cm (24 to 26 inches)
    • Length of bill: 20 cm (8 inches)
    • Phylum: Vertebrata
    • Class: Aves
    • Order: Piciformes
    • Family: Ramphastidae
    • Genus & Species: Ramphastos Ariel (pictured)

Here are some additional Toucan Tidbits for you!

  • The Toucan is a colorful, gregarious forest bird found from Mexico to Argentina, known for its enormous and colorful bill.  They have red, yellow, blue, black or orange plumage, often in vivid patterns, and feed on fruit and berries.  They nest in tree holes, laying 2-4 glossy white eggs that are incubated by both parents.  (Random House Encyclopedia)
  • In Central and South America, the Toucan is associated with evil spirits, and can be the incarnation of a demon.  But the Toucan can also be a tribal totem and the medicine man can use it as an incarnation to fly to the spirit world.  (Symbolic & Mythological Animals, Aquarian Press, 1992)
  • You can find out much more about Toucans and other tropical birds on the very knowledgeable website of Emerald Forest Birds.  Additionally, this article has a lot of great information about breeding Toucans in captivity.

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