Perhaps the most well known tropical bird, the toucan is a symbol of playfulness and intelligence known by children the world over. There are about 40 different kinds of toucans. They vary in size from about 7 inches to a little over two feet. They have short and thick necks. Toucans are distinguished by their large, colorful, yet lightweight bills. A toucan’s bill is sharp and has saw-like edges. The bill is used to squash the many kinds of fruit and berries they eat. They may also use the saw-like edges to tear off parts of larger fruits, reach deep into holes for bird eggs or even catch small lizards or insects. Their famous bill is of light, but stout, construction and is hollow except for a network of bony fibers that run crisscross through the top for strength and support. It is made of keratin, the same thing our hair and fingernails are made of. Having such a lightweight bill allows the toucan to perch on the thinnest of branches to reach for the ripest of fruit. Like their relatives, the woodpeckers, toucans make their homes in holes in trees. They usually live in pairs or small flocks. The word “toucan” comes from the sound the bird makes. Their songs often resemble croaking frogs. Toucans combine their extensive vocal calls with tapping and clattering sounds from their bill. Many toucan species make barking, croaking, and growling sounds, and mountain toucans make braying sounds like those of a donkey. Females generally have a higher voice than the males. There are 6 different species of toucans in Costa Rica And I got to see four of them.
The Emerald Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus prasinus) is a small Toucan of humid montane forests of Central America. Currently there are eight subspecies of the Northern Emerald-Toucanet, which primarily vary in the color of the throat and of the bill. These subspecies can be divided into up to 4 groups (which sometimes are recognized as separate species). To those that call it separate species it is the Blue-Throated Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus caeruleogularis), living in the mountain forests of Costa Rica, Panama and far northwestern Colombia. While considered a species based primarily on morphology, other authorities continue to consider it a subspecies of the emerald toucanet. Regardless of the name, this toucanet has a large bill, but not as large as other Toucans. The bill is black with yellow to the upper mandible, and a white band at the base, but, uniquely among the emerald toucanet group, with a rufous patch near the base of the upper mandible. Its breast and the rest of its body is mostly light and dark shades of green, except for the throat, which is blue, and the tail-tip and crissum (the undertail coverts surrounding the cloaca), which are rufous. Both sexes look very alike, but females generally have a smaller bill and overall are smaller in appearance, these bird are born blind and naked. The blue-throated toucanets live in humid mountain forests in Costa Rica and western Panama. This is more of a mountain Toucan, found from 2,500 ft (762 m) to 7,600 ft (2,316 m) above sea level and it is generally common within its range.
The collared aracari or collared araçari (Pteroglossus torquatus) breeds from southern Mexico to Panama; also Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Costa Rica. Alternate names include the banded aracari, ringed aracari and spot-chested aracari. The adult is typically 15.5–16 inches (39–41 cm) long and weighs 6.7–9.7 oz (190–275 gm). The sexes are alike in appearance, with a black head and chest and dark olive green upperparts, apart from a red rump and upper tail. There is reddish collar on the rear neck which gives rise to the English and scientific (torquatus) names. The underparts are bright yellow, with a round black spot in the center of the breast and a red-tinted black band across the belly. The thighs are chestnut.
The Keel-Billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) can be found from Southern Mexico to Venezuela and Colombia. It roosts in the canopies of tropical, subtropical, and lowland rainforests, up to altitudes of 6,200 ft (1,900 m). It roosts in holes in trees, often with several other toucans. This can be very cramped, so the birds tuck their tails and beaks under their bodies to conserve space while sleeping. Including its bill, the keel-billed toucan ranges in length from around 17 to 22 inches (42 to 55 cm). Their large and colorful bill averages around 4.7–5.9 inches (12–15 cm), about one-third of its length. It typically weighs about 13–18 oz (380–500 gm). While the bill seems large and cumbersome, it is in fact a spongy, hollow bone covered in keratin, a very light and hard protein. As you can see above, the tongue is long and hairy, as it is with all Toucans.
Chestnut Mandibled Toucan
The chestnut-mandibled toucan or Swainson’s toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus swainsonii) is a subspecies of the yellow-throated toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus) which breeds from eastern Honduras to northern Colombia to western Ecuador. Like other toucans, the chestnut-mandibled is brightly marked and has a large bill. The male is 22 inches (56 cm) long, while the smaller female is typically 20 inches (52 cm) long. Weight ranges from 1.3 to 1.6 lbs (599 to 746 gm). Swainson’s toucans are the second largest of the 37 species of toucans. The sexes are alike in appearance, mainly black with brown heads. The face and upper breast are bright yellow, with narrow white and broader red lines forming a lower border. The upper tail is white and the lower abdomen is red. As you can see above, the legs are blue and quite large.
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