Toco Toucan

toco toucan

Toco toucan – Picture by Iain A Wanless

The toco toucan is the largest of the toucan birds. It can grow as long as 29 inches and its colorful bill is almost one third the length of its body.

Toucan Sam, the symbol for Froot Loops cereal, is a toco making it the most well recognized of all the toucans.

Because of its popularity it’s also known as the common toucan though its scientific name is Ramphastos Toco.

Appearance

The plumage of the toco toucan includes a black body, white chest, and a ring of red around the eyes. The eyes appear to be blue but are actually covered in a blue skin.

The most notable feature is the toco’s large, colorful beak which ranges in size from six to nine inches. The color of the beak is mostly orange with a large black tip on the end.

Though the beak appears heavy it is made mostly of keratin and air around a frame of hollow bones making it extremely light. This allows the toucan to fly short distances which it could not do if the beak was heavy.

The beaks of the toco are not only beautiful but serve a variety of functions .They help the birds reach for fruit from a distance. It works like a set of tongs to pick up the fruit and then to peel it.

The large size of the beak can help intimidate predators though it doesn’t really work as a defense weapon.

The beak also works as a type of built-in air-conditioning. The blood flowing through the beak releases heat and keeps the toucan cool. Restricting the flow keeps the bird warm. This is the same way an elephant’s large ears work to regulate its body temperature.

Another function of the beak is to help the toco toucan blend into its surroundings. Due to the brightly colored flowers of the tropics the beak works as camouflage.

Like other toucans, the toco has a long, powerful tongue that it uses to catch lizards and insects. It also uses its tongue to toss food into its mouth.

The toco weighs from 1.1 pounds all the way up to almost 2 pounds. Females are smaller in size than the males but the coloring is the same.

Habitat

Most toco toucans live in Central America or the eastern part of South American.

Unlike other toucans, the toco prefers to live in open habitats instead of the dense rain forest. They do live among trees but in more open areas.

The toco toucan can live in savannahs, woodlands and scrubland.

They will move from one area to another to fulfill their dietary need for fresh fruit.

Breeding

Toco toucans breed once a year in the spring. They are monogamous breeders and build nests in the hollow of tree.

They usually lay only two to four eggs at one time and the eggs hatch after around eighteen days.

Both parents stay with the eggs and then the young chicks. They are very protective of their young. The chicks have a small beak and no feathers when they are born. They are able to leave the nest at six to eight weeks but usually stay with the parents for several months.

Behavior

Toco toucans are not good flyers so they mostly bounce from tree to tree.

They are social birds that usually live in flocks of six to eight birds.

They communicate with a loud, deep croaking sound as well as making a clacking noise with their beaks.

Toco Toucan Diet

Like other toucans, the toco eats a diet consisting mainly of fruit. It will also eat other bird eggs, lizards and insects when available.

Dangers

The toco toucan has a variety of predators including large wild cats such as jaguars and panthers, as well as large birds such as hawks and eagles. Their eggs are sometimes eaten by rats or lizards.

Humans are still a threat to the toco toucan because they are often captured because of their beautiful beaks.

Because the toco toucan can live in a variety of environments; it is not in as much danger due to damage to the rain forest as are other toucans.

Like other toucans, the toco is susceptible to an iron storage disease that can be fatal.

Toco Toucans as Pets

Keeping a Toco Toucan for a pet is no small challenge. Due to the size of the bird it needs lots of room to move around. Though toucans don’t fly a lot they do bounce from branch to branch in the wild. They are not happy in a small, contained environment.

Toucans, including the toco, cannot be trained to talk.

These birds can live twenty years or more so when considering one as a pet you must think about life changes that will occur in the coming years. Will you be moving? Having a baby? These changes can impact your ability to care for one of these high-maintenance birds.

Tocos are messy. Since they are larger birds their mess will be larger, too. They like to throw the fruit they eat and the more they eat the more they poop.

You cannot leave small objects lying around the house or the toco will ingest it and endanger its health.

The cost of the toco is prohibitive for many potential owners. Purchasing a toco is usually over ten thousand dollars but that is only the beginning. They need a large space to move around such as an aviary. Fresh, diced fruit is the mainstay of their diet and they especially enjoy expensive, exotic fruits such as mangos and papayas.

Like other toucans, the toco is susceptible to an iron storage disease. This will require treatment from an avian veterinarian.

The Toco Toucan is an exotic and unique pet. They are intelligent and can be trained with a lot of patience.

In general, the Toco Toucan does better in a zoo environment than when privately owned.

Though the Toco Toucan is not endangered, care needs to be taken to protect its wildlife environment for future generations.