Rainforest Animals - Swainson’s Toucans

Of the 37 species of toucans, Swainson’s Toucans are the second largest. They are from 20-24 inches long and have huge yellow and chestnut beaks that are hollow. The bib under their beak is bright yellow with a red edge. Their under-tails are red, feet are blue and they have a white splotch just above the tail. Their eyes are brown, ringed in green.

Some of their native habitat is designated as rainforest land. In Costa Rica, toucans live in areas near humans. They prefer small family groups as opposed to large flocks.

These beautiful birds are distinguished by their hollow beaks that can reach up to eight inches in length. The beak is lighter than it looks and slightly translucent. Its knife-like serrated edges help the toucans grab food at the tip. Males feed fruit to females. They toss the bite from their beak tip back into their throat to swallow and digest. The fruit is usually growing on branches that are too thin to hold the toucan, so they sit on heavier branches and use their long beak to reach the food.

Toucans have four toes, two forward and two backward. When they sleep, they tuck their long beaks under their wings, head to the side, and their tails stand straight up. Their bodies are heavy, about 600 grams, but they have strong legs, hopping more than flying.

These birds usually stay in the canopy of the forest, sometimes descending to the forest floor to pursue insects and lizards which they pursue for protein during nesting. Their diet is mostly fruit from almost 100 different species of plants. They are found from the neotropical forests of Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua to Colombia and Ecuador.

A male and female toucan will mate, choosing a naturally hollowed palm tree for their nest. They will dig the natural hole deeper in the palm tree and then lay 3-4 white eggs. They share responsibility for incubating the eggs for 16 days. When the chicks hatch they are featherless and blind. Males can be territorial, defending their fruiting trees from other toucans. When fruit is abundant, however, toucan families may increase to groups of three to eight members. Their voices carry far, with a distinctive loud and rattling sound.

These birds are abundant in the wild. Also known as Chesnut-mandibilled Toucans, they are sometimes referred to as Dios Tede , from the sound of the call they give, Dios te dй – ‘May God give it to you’.

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