Known for its long, colorful bill, a toucan is a bird that is found in the tropical rainforests of South and Central America, and the Caribbean.
Nature is filled with colors that are exhibited through flowers, plants, animals, soil, trees, sky, and many such things. A classic example is the peacock, which has feathers filled with various hues. Next come parrots, conures, macaws, and lorikeets. These birds display some of the spectacular color combinations in the animal world.
Toucans are also popular for such color combinations. However, they display such flashy colors on their long beaks. In fact, the long and colorful beak is the characteristic feature of this bird. The beak can measure more than half of its body length.
Interesting Facts about Toucans
- Toucans belong to the family Ramphastidae, which is composed of five genera with forty species, that may vary in size and colors. The five genera are Andigena, Aulacorhynchus, Pteroglossus, Ramphastos, and Selenidera.
- The smallest among the species is Pteroglossus inscriptus, which is known as Lettered Aracari. These small toucans weigh around 130 grams, and they have a maximum body length of around 12 inches. The largest toucan species is Ramphastos toco (Toco toucan) with a body weight of about 700 grams and a length of 30 inches.
- Toucans are natives to Southern Mexico, certain parts of Caribbean islands, and South America. They inhabit the dense rainforests of these regions.
- As mentioned above, the characteristic feature of a toucan is its large, colorful beak with serration. Despite being large, the beak is very light, as it is composed of air chambers and keratin.
- Toucans use their beaks for collecting food, like fruits. They use their beak during mating rituals, which include tossing of food. It is believed that toucans use their beaks for camouflaging and thermoregulation. In some species, females have shorter, straighter beaks, as compared to males.
- Even though, toucan diet is mainly composed of fruits, it is not uncommon to find these birds feed on insects, lizards, bird eggs, and nestlings. Their beaks are of immense help in feeding, and are found to be used for collecting fruits and removing their skin, ransacking the nests of other birds, etc.
- A toucan has a short, compact body, that is mostly black in color, with a few flashy markings. These colors are found near the neck, on the feathers, and the tail. Toucans have short wings, as they are not required to fly long distances.
- These birds have the ability to snap their tail backwards, towards the head. This is facilitated by the ball and socket joint formed by the three rear vertebrae, that are fused together, and are attached to the spinal cord. This is why these birds are found to sleep with the tails near their heads.
- Toucans have strong, short legs with claws, that help them to perch on trees, on which they spend most of their lifetime. They can be found solitary or in groups of up to six members.
- These rainforest birds make their nests in tree holes made by other birds. Two to four eggs are laid at a time, and the newborn toucans emerge naked without any fine feathers, as seen in some other young birds. They lack the long beaks too.
Toucans are noisy birds with a lifespan of around 20 years. Their predators include large birds, wild cats, humans, etc. Toucans are so popular that some of the species are kept as exotic pets.