Toucans are beautiful creatures that live in the wild with gorgeous beaks and brilliant colors. You might even know one from a Froot Loop cereal box.
Yes, the mascot for Froot Loops is Toucan Sam!
This article will highlight everything you need to know about toucans and their natural habitat. Let’s hop right in!
What Do Toucans Look Like?
Toucans are distinctively known for their massive yet beautiful beaks and their inability to fly.
Like other non-flight birds, toucans have really small wings that help them hop from one place to another without taking proper flight.
Their body is covered with black feathers, while the beak (also referred to as a bill) has hues of orange, red, yellow, and even green, brown, or black, depending on the species.
What sets toucans apart is their beak size. Their beak-to-body ratio is very high compared to other bird species.
Toucans’ beak is quite large compared to the rest of the body, while birds like sparrows and crows have tiny beaks compared to their body size.
Now that you have a clear description of what a toucan looks like visually, let’s move on to discussing its natural habitat.
Toucan’s Natural Habitat
Toucans are found in tropical and subtropical regions like South America, Southern Mexico, and the Caribbean, with more than 40 species native to Argentina, Brazil, and Amazon rainforests.
Costa Rica, on the other hand, is home to around six toucan species.
Generally, you can find toucans in lowlands, as only a few toucan species survive in high altitudes.
This bird species is happy to live in thick cloudy forests, usually ranging from Venezuela to Bolivia.
However, these birds also prefer plantations, river forests, and open woodlands over dense forests.
Additionally, some toucan species are found in wetland areas, as well as tropical flooded grasslands. They are fond of semi-open habitats and scattered trees with a lot of branches.
Natural Habitat & Effect On Diet
Since their diet consists of 95% fruits, they live near places with fruit plants and trees. They love to eat anything ranging from palm fruits, blueberries, figs, and guavas.
However, during their nesting season, they like to feed on lizards, insects, and even eggs of other birds.
In some cases, the burds also feed on small snakes and treefrogs to increase their protein intake.
Water & Living Conditions
In terms of quenching their thirst, toucans prefer fleshy and juicy fruits rather than just plain water.
This is because there isn’t always a pool of freshwater available for them to drink from in rainforests or scattered tree areas.
Hence, they take all the moisture from the fruits since most fruits are made with high percentages of water.
Since their beaks have serrated edges, they can easily peel and chew fruits with their beaks.
In some cases, a toucan can rip fruit from a tree using its beak, throw it up in the air and swallow it whole.
Then they excrete the seeds as part of their droppings or regurgitate them once the digestion process is over.
This makes their droppings incredibly useful for the regrowth and fertility of the forests or plantations they make their homes.
Cozy Hollow Nests
Since toucans are non-migratory birds, they do not fly far away. They like making hollow nests inside tree barks so that they can feel secure against predators.
In some cases, they find tree hollows made by woodpeckers and create a home inside them to stay safe.
Toucans also use these tree hollows to protect their eggs. The deep cavities in the trees help them hide their eggs from other predators or birds who eat eggs.
A toucan lays around 1 to 5 white eggs in one go, and it is the responsibility of both male and female toucans to incubate the eggs for up to 20 days.
Another reason they like a natural habitat with trees and plantations isthat they like to create high nests to stay safe from predators.
It is very important for a toucan to have a nest of its choice because its huge beak cannot fit in everywhere.
So how do they fit in tree hollows?
You might ask how you can scan fit in tree hollows with their large beaks. Well, toucans look for tree cavities that are big enough to fit their body.
However, it seems bizarre that a bird with such a large beak would look for an enclosed space to rest. Rest assured, there is a method to the madness.
Once a toucan enters into a cozy tree hollow, it turns its head backward and settles on its beak tucked under a wing.
This also helps it conserve body heat, adjust overall body temperature other than saving space.
Since their beak is made of keratin, which is a soft material, they cannot use their beak for aggressive digging.
Hence, have to make high nests or use abandoned tree hollows made by woodpeckers to make their home.
Toucans are social creatures, but some species do like to live alone. You can find 3 to 4 toucans together, or even 12 in the same area.
Toucans do not walk on the forest floor mostly due to the fear of predators.
So, you’ll find them high up even when they want to socialize.
Toucans are known to toss each other fruit with their beaks as part of their mating ritual or to show affection.
Deforestation & Habitat Loss
Considering the damage that forests have faced around the world in a short period, these birds have started to feel the difference.
Increased deforestation, illegal animal trade, and wildfires have taken a toll on several species, including toucans.
Today, you can consider toucans to be an endangered species not only because of the fires but also because they have large predators such as snakes, larger birds, wildcats, and even rats.
All of these factors combined are contributing towards endangering toucans in the wilderness.
It is very interesting to see how the toucans have survived for so long, considering the effects on rainforests. From fires to severe deforestation, toucans have always found themselves short of a home.
Regardless, their ability to use their magnificent beaks has helped them survive till today.
Interesting Facts About Toucan Beaks
- Toucans have the largest beaks among all other bird species.
- Other than yellow and orange, you can also find other colors such as red, blue, green, brown, and white on their beaks, making them visually attractive.
- Toucans use their beaks to carry food from one nesting place to another.
- Since their beaks are hollow, they use them to adjust their body temperature by letting the airflow.
- Their beaks also help them conserve body heat which is why they sleep on them.
- A toucan beak appears to be incredibly heavy, but it is actually very lightweight. If a toucan beak was heavy, it would have been very difficult for it to balance its body weight.
- Toucans also use their beaks to intimidate predators. Since most birds use their beaks as part of a defense system, other predators view a toucan’s beak to be big and mighty.
- In reality, a toucan’s beak is made of keratin. This means that it is pretty soft. Therefore, in an actual fight, a toucan won’t be able to use its beak to defend itself.
- Toucan babies are not born with beaks. These gorgeous beaks develop in terms of size and color as the babies start to develop.
- The Toco Toucan has a bill that can go up to 8 inches. This is the largest recorded size, even among other toucan species.
- The colors on their beaks help them camouflage themselves among wild plants and flowers, which makes it difficult for their predators to spot them.
- The vibrant hue of their beak is also used to attract potential mates during their mating rituals.
Wrapping Up With Awareness
It is important to understand that several toucan species are facing severe habitat loss.
As rain forests are being chopped down to create buildings, farms, roads, or any other construction sites, the wildlife in the area is suffering big time.
Farmers and growers who take over forest areas make it incredibly difficult for toucans to live. Hence, more than one species of toucans are now considered endangered.
Other than that, toucans are still hunted in most parts of Central America and Amazon due to their visual appeal.
People like to keep them as pets mostly because of their brilliant beaks and unique characteristics.
It is not uncommon for hunters and poachers to create stuffed trophies out of toucans for people to hang on their walls.
Our man-made ordeals are resulting in habitat loss for many species across the planet.
Therefore, this is an incredibly important conversation to have because it is our responsibility to protect the beautiful bird species found on our planet.
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