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Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco) Fact Sheet: Summary

Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco) Fact Sheet

Toco Toucan at the San Diego Zoo

Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Piciformes

Family: Ramphastidae

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)

Body Weight
500-860 g (1-1.9 lb) (Short and Sharpe 2014)

Body Length
55-61 cm (21-24 in) (Short and Sharpe 2014)

Bill Length
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).

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

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).

IUCN Status
Least Concern (2016 assessment) (BirdLife International 2017)

CITES Appendix
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).

Activity Cycle
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).

Social Groups
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).

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

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).

Sexual Maturity
First breeding probably at 2 to 3 years of age, but more research needed (Short and Sharpe 2014).

Incubation Period
17 to 18 days (Short and Horne 2001)

Egg Description
Elliptical. Dull white (Short and Horne 2001).

Clutch Size
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 to 9 years (AZA 2024)

Feature Facts

  • 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)

About This Fact Sheet

For husbandry information and bibliography, click the tabs at the top of this page.


© 2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance


How to cite: Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco) Fact Sheet. c2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2019 Dec 31)


Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to


Thank you to Dr. José Ragusa-Netto for providing expert content review of this fact sheet.

Dr. Ragusa-Netto, wildlife ecologist at Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil, has extensive experience studying the foraging ecology of Central and South American birds as well as more broader forest ecology.

Thank you to Fatima Lujan for sharing her knowledge of bird husbandry for the Managed Care section of this fact sheet.

Ms. Lujan, Senior Keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, has been a bird keeper for 15 years. Her passion for birds was first sparked while caring for a Red-tailed Hawk at the Virginia Zoo. At the Safari Park, Ms. Lujan is part of the team that cares for the birds of Walkabout Australia and Condor Ridge.

Toco Toucan Distribution

Toco Toucan distribution map

Toco Toucans are found in South America, from northern Argentina to the mouth of the Amazon River.

Adapted from according to IUCN fact sheet. Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN).

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