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© Zdenek Machacek

Toucans are among the most recognisable birds in the world due to their unusual, oversized bill. Their unique and colourful appearance make them a well-loved species, but also puts them at risk of hunting for the pet trade.

Toucans are native to the tropics of the Americas and favour old-growth forests where there are large, old trees to nest in.

The toucan family includes 50 species, 11 of which are globally threatened or Near Threatened with extinction. Deforestation in the Amazon basin for cattle ranching and soy production is of particular concern for the species, and other threats include hunting and illegal wildlife trade.

Family: Ramphastidae
Diet: Omnivore
Life span: Up to 20 years
Weight: Up to 850g
Group name: Durante

Species information

Read detailed profiles of each species of toucan on our Datazone.

Did you know?

Toucans mostly eat fruit, but will occasionally eat insects, small birds, and lizards if the opportunity arises. They are excellent seed dispersers, helping to spread the seeds of fruit trees throughout their forest home.

A distinctive characteristic is their large, often brightly-coloured bill, which is unusually big for their body size. Researchers are undecided about its purpose, though it is thought to have evolved to impress mates or deter predators. Though the size of the beak may intimidate other birds, it isn’t sturdy enough to help in a fight. Toucans use their bill to reach and peel fruit and can even control blood supply to it. Sending heat from their body to their bill helps them to cool down when needed.

Toucans are social species and are likely to congregate in flocks of up to 20 individuals, though they may split off into pairs during the breeding season. In a courtship ritual, toucans romance their potential mate by throwing fruit to one another before nesting high up in the tree canopy. Female toucans lay 2 to 4 eggs a year and the male and female will take turns incubating them. Chicks are not born with a large bill; it takes several months for it to grow to full size.

© Pranesh Ravi

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