Can You Imagine a World Without the Toucan?
If you’ve ever seen the Disney movie Rio, you’re probably a little familiar with what the toucan looks like. If not, you can find out all you need to know right here! These gorgeous, essential birds are more than just cute characters in a children’s cartoon. They’re not just a mascot for your cereal either; toucans help to keep their own environment alive and well.
One More Reason to Save the Rainforest!
Not only do they reside in the Rainforest, but toucans are also a crucial part of the ecosystem because they play a role in distributing seed along the forest floor as they forage for food. Since humans have significantly altered the region for lumber, palm oil, and farmland, there was a period of time when the toucan population was on a decline.
Incredibly, the trees themselves evolved in producing smaller, more crackable seeds. In turn, foraging became a little easier for these birds and they eventually made a comeback. Currently, there are about 42 species of Toucan in all; they’re listed as LC, or “Least Concern” after their recovery.
Okay, they aren’t “values” in the traditional sense, but toucans frequently live together and care for one another. They groom each other’s feathers for bugs and debris, and they even share space in the leftover tree hollows that woodpeckers leave behind. There may be three to four at a time living together in a hole, and about six birds per flock.
When they’re ready to mate, male toucans will bring a food offering to the female that they like in an attempt to “woo” her. During breeding season they’ll remain monogamous until their chicks are ready to leave the nest.
Toucans lay their eggs annually and have about 3 to 5 eggs per batch, which isn’t very many when you really think about it! While one parent is out searching for food, the other is protecting their offspring from snakes and other predators who might eat the eggs or the chicks.
There’s a Reason “Toucan Sam” is the Fruit Loops Mascot
Toucans are frugivores and their beaks serve as a natural peeler that effectively removes skin from oranges and guavas. In addition to fruit, these birds enjoy the taste of softer insects like caterpillars, worms, and they even partake in the occasional reptile egg. toucans certainly stick to their own kind, periodically eating the eggs of other birds as well.
Since their talons aren’t meant to tear apart flesh, they don’t take the time to pull apart a piece of fruit. Instead, they use the tip of the beak to lift and crunch up fruit; they toss it back in their throat to swallow.
Humans are Threatening the Toucan
The natural predator for the toucan are snakes and jaguars, but the pet trade is the most detrimental to the survival of the toucan at the moment. Thousands of dollars are regularly exchanged in the illegal capture and sale of toucans, leopard cubs, lions, and many others. Although they aren’t considered endangered at the moment, it's still a major issue as many people purchase “exotic” pets like these birds without any knowledge on how to care for them.
The illegal smuggling of toucans means that some may die during transport, along with those who are improperly maintained in their new homes. Owning a toucan is not even legal in some states, so be sure you know the law, know how to care for your bird, and know that it was legally obtained and domesticated.
The last part is very important! Owning an illegally purchased toucan could make you liable for fines or worse, jail time. If you’re interested in lending a hand in the maintenance and upkeep of toucans that have been rescued from these situations, try contacting a sanctuary! They’re always in need of volunteers.
Their Bills Don’t Protect Against Danger
While they’re great for cracking nuts and squashing fruit, the beak of the toucan isn’t very useful for self-defense. It's actually quite a bit more fragile than that of other birds, and it grows as the chick grows. They can certainly use it as a means of scaring off other animals and competitive suitors, but they aren’t going to do much for fighting.
The toucan relies on its ability to remain hidden in order to survive the dangers of the Rainforest. When peering up into the trees, these birds may have the resemblance of fruit to the eyes of a jaguar.
Another thing the toucan beak is useful for is maintaining an acceptable body temperature! It contains several arteries that expand and allow blood to flow more freely through the body.
Ever Heard a Bird Growl?
It's not exactly a croak, but the Toucan song has also been compared to the sound of a frog. They create a “bark” or “growl” sound from their throat instead. The purpose of this aggressive sounding cry is to ward off potential threats to their safety and territory. Their claws and beak are relatively weak and do nothing for defense.
This leaves the toucan with only two options, fly away or “growl” at their aggressor to prove a point. Although they do their best to protect their eggs and their young, a toucan is more likely to flee than fight if they have no other options.
Sticking together in groups also helps to maintain the illusion that other animals probably don’t want to agitate a group of large-billed birds. Toucans maintain safety in numbers, they wouldn’t survive if they had to live solo in the wild.
Overall, these birds are friendly, social creatures that don’t pose any real harm to outsiders. This could be a reason why people want them as pets, but it's best to allow toucans to live the life they were meant to have in the wild! If you’d like to support the conservation efforts of these birds and their habitats, donate to rescues, zoos, and other charities that make a difference in the welfare and longevity of exotic animals!