There are more than 40 species of toucans, known for their large bills and brilliant coloration. All toucans are native to Central and South America, including the Toco toucan, which is the most recognizable of these species. This bird is also the most widely distributed toucan. The Toco toucan is considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources to be of “least concern,” meaning that its population is not at risk.
The Toco toucan (Ramphastos toco) is easily recognizable from its use as a product mascot and from its unique physical traits. It has a brilliant yellow and orange bill that measures up to 7.5 inches, making up a third of the Toco toucan’s approximately 25-inch body length. Toco toucans weigh about 20 ounces, but their bills are surprisingly light. Their bills look imposing and act as a defense against predators, though the bills are too light to be used as weapons. Male Toco toucans look slightly different from females, particularly in their somewhat larger size, but both sexes have the distinctive Toco bill.
Behavior and Diet
Toco toucans are social, living in groups of about six birds. Their distinctive bills are important to the birds’ diet and possibly are used to attract mates. The long bills are used to reach fruit on lightweight branches and to pass fruit to one another in a mating ritual. Toco toucans also eat insects and other small creatures in their forest and savanna habitats of Central and South America. These birds are quite noisy, which suggests they aren't trying to hide from predators, even though their bright colors can camouflage them in some forest environments.
Lifespan and Reproduction
The Toco toucan’s 20-year lifespan typically begins in a group of two to four eggs laid in a tree cavity in the spring. Both the male and female parents care for the hatchlings, which emerge with closed eyes, no feathers and small bills. After about six to eight weeks, the recognizable bill takes shape and the bird grows the feathers and other physical features necessary to fly. The bill grows to full size in a few months. The bird is sexually mature at about 3 or 4 years old and can begin reproducing annually.
The Toco toucan is considered fairly common and has IUCN “least concern” status, meaning its population is not threatened or vulnerable, though its numbers are decreasing somewhat due to the pet trade. It can be found in many parts of central and northern South American including Brazil, Peru, Guyana and several other countries.
E. Anne Hunter has more than a decade of experience in education, with a focus on visual design and instructional technology. She holds a master's degree in education. Hunter has contributed to several professional publications, covering education, design, music and fitness, among other topics.