Toco Toucan, Ramphastos toco

The Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco) is a species of bird that is found in semi-open habitats through much of central and eastern South America. It occurs in north and eastern Bolivia, southeastern Peru, northern Argentina, central Paraguay, and parts of southern Brazil. There are scattered populations along the lower Amazon River as well. It will only enter the deep Amazon where there are relatively open areas. It is mostly resident with some localized movements. It has a wide range of habitats including woodlands, savannas, and other semi-open regions with scattered trees. They are also common along plantations, forest edges, and even wooded gardens. It occurs mainly in lowlands and elevations up to 5750 feet near the Andes Mountains. It is fairly common within its range and is considered to be of Least Concern by BirdLife International.

The plumage of the Toco Toucan is unique. It has a mainly black body, white throat, white chest and uppertail coverts, and reddish undertail coverts. It has bluish skin around the eye that is sometimes mistaken as a blue colored iris. The bluish skin is surrounded by an orange layer of skin. Its huge bill is yellow-orange to reddish-orange on the lower section. The base of the bill is black. Although the bill looks very heavy, it is rather light because the inside of the bill is mostly hollow. The bill is about 8 inches long. The adult is about 22 to 26 inches long, including the bill. The adult weighs between 17.5 and 30 ounces. It is the largest of the toucan species. The male is larger than the female, but they both are similar in appearance. The young are duller in color and have shorter bills relative to their size than the adults. The call is a deep, coarse cracking that is often repeated every few seconds. It also has a rattling call.

The diet of the Toco Toucan consists of fruit. It also feeds on insects and other nestlings and eggs of birds. It has also been known to eat small adult birds in captivity. It uses its bill to pluck figs and other fruits from trees. The bill can also be used to reach other things that would normally be out-of-reach. The Toco Toucan is typically seen in pairs or small groups. It flies with a short burst of rapid flaps but is also known to glide.

The nest of this species is placed high in a tree in or around a cavity which is excavated by the parent birds themselves. It also sometimes will nest in ground holes and termite banks. They reproduce annually. The female lays two to four eggs within a few days after mating occurs. Both adults incubate the eggs. the eggs hatch after 17 to 18 days. The Toco Toucans are very protective of themselves and their chicks.

Although these birds are sometimes kept in captivity, they require a high fruit diet and are sensitive to hemochromatosis (an iron storage disease).

Image Caption: A Toco Toucan in Birdworld, Farnham, Surrey, England. Credit: Chris Parfitt/Wikipedia (CC Attribution 2.0)