Genus: Ramphastos (Linnaeus, 1758) — toucans
Species: Ramphastos toco (Müller, 1776) — Toco Toucan
Subspecies*: Ramphastos toco toco (Müller, 1776)
Subspecies: Ramphastos toco albogularis (Cabanis, 1862)
*Note: Two subspecies tentatively recognized (based on geographical differences in appearance). May be one species (Short and Sharpe 2014).
Source: Gill and Donsker (2019)
500-860 g (1-1.9 lb) (Short and Sharpe 2014)
55-61 cm (21-24 in) (Short and Sharpe 2014)
Male: 16.6-22.9 cm (6.54-9.02 in) (Short and Horne 2001)
Female: 14.4-20.2 cm (5.67-7.95 in) (Short and Horne 2001)
Body mostly black. Underthroat white with yellow. Base of tail white and red. Bill red-orange with black at base and tip. Breastband red and thin (less pronounced in R. albogularis). Facial skin orange, with purple around eye. Juvenile coloration more pale, with white around eye (Short and Sharpe 2014).
Neotropical. Amazon River southward to southern Brazil and northern Argentina (Berger and Brooks 2004).
Riverine forests, forest edges, patches of forest, palm stands in inland savannas, and mainly Cerrado vegetation (Brazilian savanna). Also, plantations, orchards, occasionally urban and suburban gardens. Sea level to 1,750 m (5,740 ft) (Short and Horne 2001; Short and Sharpe 2014; José Ragusa-Netto, personal communication, 2019).
Least Concern (2016 assessment) (BirdLife International 2017)
Appendix II (UNEP 2019)
Populations in the Wild
No global population estimates. Population trend: decreasing (BirdLife International 2017). Considered rare in Peru (Short and Sharpe 2014).
Threats to Survival
Hunting (BirdLife International 2017)
Young taken for pet trade (Short and Sharpe 2014).
Diurnal (Reynolds 2017)
Do not migrate, but family groups and pairs range widely in search of fruit-abundant habitat patches. Cross rivers and large open areas (Short and Sharpe 2014).
Typically forage in pairs or small groups, moving single-file (Short and Sharpe 2014); may also forage singly. Often perch in treetops (Short and Horne 2001). Bill tapping observed, possibly to assert social dominance. Mated birds also tap bills frequently and preen each other (allopreening) (Short and Horne 2001; Fecchio et al. 2010).
Song is a series of deep grunting notes. Other calls described as grating, soft, rattling, “snoring,” and clacking. Clap upper and lower bill together. May also use tongue inside closed bill, call while holding fruit, or hit bill on branch. Young make ehh-ehh call (Short and Horne 2001; Short and Sharpe 2014). Look at other toucans or human by turning head; facing opponent straight-on seems to signal aggression (Short and Horne 2001). May rattle tongue, peck, or grasp with bill tip, if close enough to opponent (Short and Horne 2001).
Fruits, flowers, insects, spiders, eggs and nestling birds as well as small vertebrates (e.g., small lizards). Feeds in canopy; also on the ground, when taking fallen fruit (Short and Horne 2001; Short and Sharpe 2014; José Ragusa-Netto, personal communication, 2019).
Not well known.
Adults: probably birds of prey (hawks and falcons; e.g., Black Hawk-eagle, Spizaetus tyrannus).
Young and juveniles: tree-climbing snakes, tayara (Eira barbara), or primates (Marise Horta, personal communication, 2019; José Ragusa-Netto, personal communication, 2019).
Agile in trees and on the ground. Uses strong bill and head to pull, twist, and maneuver through canopy. Hangs upside-down. Covers ground by hopping. Strong wingbeat (Short and Sharpe 2014).
Relationship to Humans
Iconic species in the Neotropics. Often depicted in South American art (Berger and Brooks 2004).
Breeding and Parental Care
Breed September to February in most areas; December to June from Bolivia to western Argentina, and May to June in northeastern Brazil. Nest in natural cavity, hollow palm tree, earthen banks of streams, and in termite mounds opened by other birds. Courtship behavior not well known. Both parents incubate eggs (Short and Horne 2001; Short and Sharpe 2014).
First breeding probably at 2 to 3 years of age, but more research needed (Short and Sharpe 2014).
17 to 18 days (Short and Horne 2001)
Elliptical. Dull white (Short and Horne 2001).
2 to 4 eggs (Short and Horne 2001)
Age at Fledging
6 to 7 weeks (managed care) (Short and Horne 2001; Reynolds 2017)
Typical Life Expectancy
Wild populations: not reported (Reynolds 2017; Marise Horta, personal communication, 2019)
Managed care: median life expectancy of 8.5 years (AZA 2023)
- Largest toucan (Berger 2004)
- Blood vessels in large bill help the Toco Toucan cool down (Tattersall et al. 2009; Hughes 2014)
- Strong head and neck; able to pull, shake side to side, and twist head around (Short and Horne 2001)
- Only toucan species that prefers semi-open areas (instead of dense forest) (Short and Horne 2001)
- Disperse seeds of important nesting plants for Hyacinth Macaw; also prey on this macaw’s eggs (Pizo et al. 2008)
- First toucan observed by European explorers (in 1555) (Short and Horne 2001)