With its enormous and colorful beak, the Toucan is a very attractive bird.
Eyes as round as beads, long body, with relatively short feet, sustaining an enormous and colorful beak, make this bird look rather exotic.
Light, because it is hollow, its beak is powerful, made of "bone blades", which make it solid and resistant.
Many birds, even the birds of prey, dont't dare face the Toucan. They say the lively colors of its beak are used to intimidate. With it, this bird delicately reaches out for small fruit from the tips of branches which would not bear its weight. Besides fruit, it also eats insects. It takes the food always in small pieces, holding them at the tip of the beak, and touching them with its long tongue, to savor the taste. Then, with a quick upward movement of the beak, the food falls directly on its throat.
It lives in noisy groups of ten, moving from tree to tree in straight and slightly wavy flights. It likes to bathe in the rain, but in times of drought, it usually looks for water in other places, in order to bathe. The comunication is through a hoarse sound. There are 37 species in both South and Central Americas. Among these, there are the big ones such as the Green Beak Toucan, and Toco; heavy as the one with the white chest (the biggest).
They sleep in tree holes (where they make their nests). They sleep in an odd position, folding the tail over the back, they turn the head backwards and tuck it under the wing.
In captivity, they go near man, pecking powerfully whoever touches it. But they can be tamed even when adults. In that case they allow man to touch it, climb in the person's shoulders and peck the hair delicately. The adequate manner of taming them is to offer them food from our hands, daily. They can live in cages or out of them, with wings cut.
Feeding in Captivity: Chopped fruit (1x1cm)
daily, they should be ripe but consistent. Add dog food (each piece 1cm at the
most) or beef, ground and raw, at the proportion of 10%. Do not feed it hen
food. Bowls with fresh water.
Housing: Aviaries with lots of trees, made with iron or concrete structure, and covered with aluminum canvas. Half covered with any kind of roof, under which there should be a perch (3cm diameter for big Toucans, and 2,5cm for small ones), and a wood box (for sleeping and eventual breeding) with an opening big enough for one Toucan only, and inside it should be big enough for it to move. In the other half, a solarium, with another perch. Under each perch, trays with sand to retain excrements so the place can be cleaner. Cemented floor, with at least 5% of inclination for washing. A back wall and lateral walls one meter high should be built, to protect birds from air drafts (they are sensitive to winds). For a big couple (Toco or Green-beak), aviary should be 4x2m, plus 2m height. A big basin for them to bathe, specially in days when it doesn't rain, and it isn't cold.
Breeding: Difficult in captivity. Cause is not known. There are reports of only 12 successful cases in the world. The main conditions suposedly responsible for success are: no human interference, no agitation, one couple per aviary, and no other birds, and good feeding. The female lays 2 to 3 eggs, which hatch in 18 to 22 days. Sex can be identified by size of beak, since male's beak is much bigger than female's.
Breeding in captivity: Brazilian species can be bred in captivity, as long as coming from breeders authorized by IBAMA, and species from other countries likewise, can be bred if world regulation from CITES, also found at IBAMA, are observed.
Health: Sensitive to wind and verminosis, specially capilariosis, usually lethal, and transmitted by contaminated bird excrements. Mycosis in the beak and feet are caused by lack of hygiene. Beak gets corroted, and feet present lesions and blood, contaminated with fungus and bacteria. Treatment with antibiotics and/or fungicides spread on contaminated areas or taken oraly.
Text: Carmen Olivieri. Copy-desk: Marcos Pennacchi.
Assistance: Dr. Werner C. A. Bokermann, biologist, head of the Bird Department of the São Paulo Zoo.
Picture: Fernando Torres de Andrade
Owner: São Paulo ZOO