Ramphastidae – Toucans & allies

Some of the most iconic birds; symbols of the tropics

A captivating group of birds synonymous with tropical rainforests’ vibrancy and exuberance. These birds are celebrated for their strikingly bold plumage in a palette of contrasting colors—black, white, red, yellow, green, and blue—making them some of the most visually spectacular avifauna.

Among the toucans, the Aracaris are noted for their distinctive appearance, with black heads, throats, and backs that may shimmer with a green gloss. Their rumps are a vivid red, and their yellow underparts are dramatically accented with bands of red and black across the chest, presenting a dazzling display that celebrates the biodiversity of their rainforest habitats.

Toucans are perhaps most famous for their oversized, robust bills, which come in a variety of color patterns, including black, red, and yellow. Despite their bulky appearance, these bills are surprisingly lightweight due to their hollow structure, and they serve multiple functions—from feeding to thermoregulation to being a visual signal for mate selection.

The wings of toucans are small and rounded, suitable for short-distance flights through the dense canopy, while their long tails provide balance. Their legs are strong, supporting their zygodactylous feet—two toes pointing forward and two backward—ideal for a firm grip on branches as they navigate through the trees.

Toucans are inherently social birds, often found in groups. They are arboreal, spending most of their time high in the treetops. Their diet is predominantly frugivorous, but they are also opportunistic feeders, consuming insects, the eggs and young of other birds, and even small lizards when the opportunity arises.

For nesting, toucans repurpose tree holes left by other animals, often enlarging them to suit their needs. Both parents are involved in the care of their young, which underscores the importance of stable, mature forests with adequate nesting sites for the survival of these birds.