Costa RicaCosta Rica

rainbow bill toucan la paz
 - Costa Rica

Toucans

Toucans

Hilights

  • Scientific Name: Ramphastos sulfuratus
  • Status in the Wild: Common
  • Habitat: Rainforests, Tropical Dry Forests
  • Diet: Omnivore

Of the 42 toucan species in Latin America, six are found in the lowlands and rainforests of Costa Rica. These flashy, colorful birds are among the most recognizable in Central America, thanks in part to their trademark bill. Despite its large size, the bill is surprisingly light, and enables the birds to thrust deep within tree holes in search of food.

read more close

From the country’s Pacific slope to the Caribbean lowlands, visitors can observe these toucan species: keel-billed, chestnut-mandibled, emerald toucanet, yellow-eared toucanet, collared aracari and the fiery-billed aracari.

Color and size variations occur between species, but all toucans are frugivores, eating fleshy fruits such as papaya, cecropia, berries and palm. They typically forage in the middle and canopy layers of the forest and occasionally supplement their diet with eggs, small reptiles, insects and bird hatchlings.

The chestnut-mandibled toucan (Ramphastos swansonii) is the largest toucan in Costa Rica. Its multi-colored body is generally black with a yellow bib, and its bill is brown on the lower portion and bright yellow on the upper. The beautiful keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) inhabits lowland and mid-elevation forests and is commonly spotted throughout the country. This vibrant bird has a black body, blue feet, a yellow chest and face, and a rainbow-hued beak with a scarlet tip.

Habitat:

Toucans are found in tropical and subtropical forests in Central and South America.  In Costa Rica, these flamboyant birds can be spotted in Carara National Park, Tortuguero, Manuel Antonio National Park, and many parts of the Central Valley and Guanacaste Province. 

Toucans are vocal birds, shrieking loudly as they fly in staggered flocks of 3 to 15 individuals. They are playful and often use their oversized bills to stage mock fights or fling fruit to each other in apparent games.

Reproduction:

Once a male toucan has attracted a female, they mate and remain together throughout the nesting season, foraging and parenting as a team. Mating couples dote on one another, feeding their companions fruit and preening their feathers. Toucans always nest in tree holes and lay  two to four eggs.

After 16-19 days of incubation, the nestlings emerge blind and naked. The young are fed by both parents and remain in the nest for six weeks until their beaks are fully developed and they are strong enough to fly. Toucans typically have two or three clutches a year; it is unknown if they keep the same mate or find a new one.

Status in the Wild:

Toucans are a common sight in the regions they inhabit, except where there is widespread deforestation. Fortunately, the populations in Costa Rica are not yet seriously threatened. Habitat loss is the main hazard to these rainforest dwellers and accounts for much of the decrease in wild populations. Hunting for meat and feathers and the illegal pet trade are other causes for concern. Conservation education continues to raise awareness of this amazing animal’s precarious position in the wild.