Toco Toucan[: Ramphastos toco] Overview, Habitat, Diet, Sounds

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Scientific Classification

AnimaliaChordataAvesPiciformesRamphastidaeRamphastosRamphastos toco

Toco Toucan

With its distinctive appearance and wide bill, the Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco) is a large, colorful species of toucan that sticks out. The beak appears heavy, but it is actually quite light. It is hollow, has the consistency of a hard sponge,

and is held up by slender bone rods made of the keratin protein. Huge and impressive toucan with an orange bill with a black tip and base that ranges in length from 15.8 to 23 cm (6+1/4 to 9 in). It picks up food and flicks it down

its throat with its tongue, which looks like a feather. The body is mostly black, with a white throat, red vent, and rump. Dark eyes are surrounded by orange and blue skin.

Toco Toucan


  • Appearance: The Ramphastos toco is one of the most recognizable toucan species, known for its large and colorful bill. The bill is orange-yellow with a black base and can reach lengths of up to one-third of the bird’s total body length. The body is mostly black with white throat and chest, and the eyes are surrounded by a blue ring of bare skin.
  • Size: They are relatively large birds, with a body length of about 20 inches (50 cm) and a beak that can be up to 8 inches (20 cm) long.
  • Habitat: They are native to South America and can be found in a variety of habitats, including tropical and subtropical forests.
  • Diet: Ramphastos toco primarily feed on fruits, but they also eat insects, small reptiles, and bird eggs.
  • Behavior: These birds are known for their agile flight and are adept at hopping from branch to branch. They are social birds and often seen in small flocks.
  • Reproduction: Ramphastos toco nest in tree cavities, and the female typically lays two to four eggs. Both parents participate in incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks.
  • Conservation Status: Toco Toucans are generally not considered globally threatened, and their populations are stable. However, they face some threats, including habitat loss and capture for the pet trade.
Toco Toucan

Species in same Genus

GenusScientific NameCommon Name
RamphastosRamphastos tocoToco Toucan
RamphastosRamphastos vitellinusChannel-billed Toucan
RamphastosRamphastos dicolorusRed-breasted Toucan
RamphastosRamphastos sulfuratusKeel-billed Toucan

Taxonomy and systematics

That bird was first documented in writing in 1555 by the French naturalist Pierre Belon. Lagoa Santa, Minas Gerais is home to the bird’s remains, which are believed to be 20,000 years old and from the Pleistocene period.

Belon concluded from a specimen of its bill that it was a web-footed, fish-eating bird by equating its bill features with those of pelicans, mergansers, and ducks. Belon’s account influenced thinking all the way up to the eighteenth century.

Using samples from Cayenne, German biologist Philipp Ludwig Statius Müller scientifically recognized the species Ramphastos Toco in 1776. Jean Cabanis first identified R. albogularis as a distinct species from southern Brazil in 1862, but by 1870, it had been reclassified as a subspecies of R. toco.

The term “rhamphēstēs,” which denotes snouted in Ancient Greek, is misspelled in the genus name Ramphastos. The particular name “toco,” derived from the Guarani words “Tucá” or “Tucán,” could indicate “bone-nose.” The International Ornithologists’ Union has officially adopted the name “Toco Toucan” (IOU).

Tucanuçu in Portuguese, tucano-boi locally in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, yubibi in Tsimané, and tucán grande or tucán toco in Spanish are some of the names for it. The Ramphastidae family of toucans, which has around forty species, includes this bird also. It belongs to the genus Ramphastos, which has eight species.

Jürgen Haffer proposed in 1974 to split the clade of the bird into two groups: “channel-keel-billed croakers” (toco, red-breasted, keel-billed, Choco, and channel-billed toucans) and “smooth-billed yelpers” (chestnut-mandibled and yellow-throated toucans).

These clades were validated by additional mitochondrial DNA study, which also placed the toco toucan at the head of the family instead of just within the channel-keel-billed croaker group.José Patané et al. (2009) produced a cladogram that shows the evolutionary links between Ramphastos.

Toco Toucan


At its longest, it can reach 63 cm (22–26 inches), making it one of the largest toucan species. Males weigh an average of 723 g (1 lb 9+1⁄2 oz), and females weigh an average of 576 g (1 lb 4+3⁄8 oz). These birds range in body weight from 500 to 876 g (1 lb 1+5⁄8 oz to 1 lb 14+7⁄8 oz).

The tarsus measures 4.8 to 6.5 cm (1+7⁄8 to 2+9⁄16 in), the tail measures 14.1 to 17.9 cm (5+9⁄16 to 7+1⁄16 in), and the wing chord measures 22 to 26 cm (8+1⁄2 to 10 in). These are the standard measurements.

The  Ramphastos toco is distinguished by its distinctive red undertail coverts, white throat, and black body. Its large, yellow-orange bill with a black base and tip spot, as well as the orange and blue skin around its eye, are among its most striking features.

The bill feels surprisingly light given its size because of the hollow interior. Both sexes look similar, however juveniles have a shorter beak and duller plumage than adults. Nearly as long as the bill, the tongue is flat.

Toco Toucan


  • They boasts the largest beak relative to body size among all birds, comprising 30-50% of its body surface area with serrated edges.
  • The beak serves multifunctional purposes, including fruit peeling, acting as a territorial warning, and deterring nest theft by other birds.
  • Research indicates the beak acts as a surface for heat exchange, regulating blood flow and functioning as a thermal radiator in heat transfer throughout the body.
  • Despite its large size, the bird’s bill has one of the most extensive surface areas in the animal kingdom, covered by a protective keratinous sheath called the rhamphotheca.
  • Similar to elephant ears, the bill efficiently absorbs body heat, with heat radiation varying with air speed, ranging from 25% at low speeds to four times the bird’s resting heat production at high speeds.
  • Unlike ducks and elephants, during repose, the combined heat production of Toco Toucan’s bill and wings is around 9%.
  • Observations reveal that they, contributing 30-60% of heat loss, insulate their bills under their wings while sleeping to prevent heat from escaping.
  • The development of vasculature and blood flow control mechanisms in the bill may continue until adulthood in them.
Toco Toucan


When it wants to communicate, it makes sounds like a toad, like “groomkk,” “grunt,” and “kkreekk.” These notes can be generated one at a time or consecutively, up to 50 of them in a minute. The younger members of the group vocalize “ehh-ehh” and murmur “te-te-te” in accompaniment to the toucan’s low, grunting voice. If you tap the bill against a branch, you can generate noises that are not spoken.

Despite having a different physical appearance, they has quieter, deeper calls than the red-breasted and channel-billed toucans. In comparison to the red-breasted toucan, its calls are slower during their fast segments.

Distribution and Habitat

  • Geographical Range:
  • Toco Toucans are a widely distributed species originating in South America.
  • Found in the Guianas, northern Argentina, and Uruguay.
  • Isolated populations exist in the northern part of its range, including Guianas, northern Brazil, and the mouth of the Amazon.
  • Range Extension:
  • Extends from the Maranhão coast to southwest Brazil, Bolivia, Pampas de Heath in southeast Peru, Piauí, Bahia, northern Argentina, and Uruguay.
  • Rediscovered in northwest Argentina in the early 2010s after being thought to have vanished in the late 1990s.
  • Possible range expansion due to Amazon deforestation; fresh data from Uruguay questions the stated southerly boundary.
  • Habitat Preferences:
  • Mostly residents but may band together to share food.
  • Prefers semi-open habitats over continuous, closed-canopy forests, distinguishing it from other toucan species.
  • Habitats include gallery forests, savannas, woodlands near water sources, chaco, secondary forests, plantations, orchards, and groves.
  • Common in Brazilian cerrado, gallery forests, and Pantanal wetlands.
  • Ecological Impact:
  • Ecological alterations or captive releases may influence its range extension south of the 30th parallel.
  • Behavior and Social Patterns:
  • Often found in groups sharing food.
  • Not strictly migratory, mostly resident in their habitats.
  • Altitude Tolerance:
  • Reports of Toco Toucans reaching heights of 1,750 meters (5,740 feet).
  • Habitat Variety:
  • Shows adaptability to diverse ecosystems, indicating a preference for a range of semi-open habitats.
  • Impact of Deforestation:
  • Range expansion possibly linked to deforestation in the Amazon.
  • Geographical Rediscovery:
  • Rediscovered in northwest Argentina in the early 2010s, challenging previous assumptions about its disappearance.
  • Uncertain Range Boundaries:
  • Fresh data from Uruguay raises questions about the previously stated southerly boundary of their range.
Toco Toucan


They fly in an undulating manner that blends gliding and flapping, making them a popular sight from treetops. Their typical home range is 86 hectares, and they are more dispersed than other toucans. They are able to fly over ocean bodies wider than five kilometers.

They are less social than other toucan species and prefer to rest on treetops during the day. They fly in single file between the tops of the trees when they are foraging together. At fruiting trees, they might forage in small groups or by themselves.

Mutual preening is the exclusive preening of group members after they have laid eggs. Following mating, large flocks of them can form, which may include other species such as the white-throated toucan.

Toco Toucan


Their is diverse. Because they are opportunistic fruit consumers with a diverse diet, they are categorized as frugivores. Though they are not limited to this option, most of their diet consists of juicy fruits. The fact that they consume insects, eggs, and other birds’ nestlings is evidence of their omnivorous lifestyle.

Although they also scour the ground and understory for fallen fruit, they primarily forage under the canopy.Notably, figs contribute significantly to their diet of fleshy fruits, as do other perennial fruiting plants including Inga laurina and Cecropia pachystachya. They are opportunistic feeders, consuming any

fruit with a high sugar content when it is available.Their eating habits are greatly influenced by their surroundings. When deciduous forests have a consistent supply of figs, toucans eat a consistent diet with little seasonal change. However, in areas where the availability of fleshy fruit changes, they are more

frequent during the fruiting season; when the fruit supply declines, they relocate to new habitats.During the dry season, when the availability of fruit declines, they diversify their diet by consuming flowers from species like Handroanthus chrysotrichus and Erythrina fusca. The two types of insects that they most

commonly consume are caterpillars and termites. In addition to other tiny animals, they also eat small birds, lizards, and nestlings. In their natural habitat, toucans eat the nests of a wide variety of bird species, including icterid blackbirds, puffbirds,

tyrant flycatchers, and parrots. It’s interesting to note that they prey only on the nests of yellow-rumped caciques. It has been observed that they prey on the nests of larger birds, such the buff-necked ibis and hyacinth macaw, killing the nestlings with their

beak movements. In captivity, toucans exhibit a varied diet when kept with smaller birds like Gambel’s quails, house sparrows, Inca doves, and Toxostoma thrashers.

Toco Toucan


Breeding BehaviorDuring the breeding season, they become more reserved and independent. Toucans not in mated pairs cease grooming outside the nest after laying eggs.
Pair BondingMated pairs engage in customary preening behaviors and occasional beak touching. Male toucans may display breeding-related actions like revealing red feathers under their undertails.
Breeding DisplaysThe distinctive beak of Ramphastos toco is used in breeding displays. Breeding seasons vary by location, occurring from September to January in Amazonas and Maranhão, and from September to February in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paraná, and Paraguay.
Breeding Seasons by Region– Rio Grande do Sul and eastern Argentina: October to February. – Goiás, Minas Gerais, and Bahia: November to February. – Western Argentina: December to June. – Piauí: May to June.
Nesting SitesToucans build nests in tree cavities (coral cockspur, slash pines), termite mounds, and along stream banks. They may also use cavities made by other bird species like woodpeckers and campo flickers.
Urban Breeding ChallengesUrban environments support breeding, but disruptions like construction may lead to parental desertion. Captive toucans maintain tidy nests initially, later collecting fruit seeds and droppings.
Reproduction FrequencyIn the wild, toucans usually reproduce once a year; however, reports suggest more frequent breeding in captivity. The 17–18 day incubation phase involves parental collaboration until the eggs hatch.
Clutches of EggsFemale toucans lay two or four clutches of eggs during the breeding season. Chicks make begging noises in the absence of parents. Hatchlings are initially fed insects and gradually shift to a fruit-based diet.
Fledging PeriodChicks take 43–52 days from hatching to reach fledging, during which their diet shifts from insects to an increasing portion of fruits.
Toco Toucan

Relationships with different species

They, like other toucans, are able to disperse seeds throughout a range of environments, including urban areas, because to their large mouths and expansive home ranges. Though at a slower rate of germination than seeds spewed by smaller dispersers, their excrement disperses unharmed seeds.

Despite this, seeds can travel great distances—roughly 269 to 449 meters—due to the toucan’s size and feeding habits. They generally eat native species, but they also eat a lot of exotic plants, like Elaeis guineensis and Royostenia oleracea.

This might facilitate the invasives’ spread to nearby rural and woodland fragments, speeding up the invasion process. Over 83% of the seeds from manduvi trees are dispersed by them, which are important seed dispersers. The endangered macaws indirectly depend on

them since they mainly rely on manduvi trees for nesting, even though toucans are a primary predator of hyacinth macaw eggs. Furthermore, they may be biologically significant as nest predators for species that nest in settings with few terrestrial predators, such as cliffs.

While the precise predators of they remain unclear, large prey birds and primates are known to hunt toucans in general. Many kinds of chewing lice, such as Austrophilopterus cancellosus and Myrsidea witti, are known to parasitize toco toucans.


  • Habitat Preference and Deforestation Impact:
  • Thrives in open areas, often found near airports and new roadways in tropical South America, benefiting from significant deforestation.
  • Conservation Status:
  • Classified as Least Concern by Birdlife International due to its extensive distribution and overall common occurrence.
  • Post-Breeding Season Threats:
  • Faces threats after the breeding season, often hunted for flesh and kept as pets, especially when in large flocks.
  • Uncertain impact on population numbers due to historical hunting for both meat and trinkets.
  • Trade and Market Trends:
  • Ranked as the second most traded toucan species (1975-2018) based on a 2023 study.
  • Exported from more Latin American countries than counterparts, making them the most expensive toucan species.
  • Economic Value:
  • Average retail value reported as $12,450 in 2020 (or $14,080 in 2022), with some individuals selling for as much as $13,400 in 2020 (or $15,200 in 2022).
Toco Toucan


They are some of the most well-known Neotropical bird species, with a high profile both domestically and internationally. As the most frequently featured toucan species globally and in Brazil, they command a substantial amount of attention on the internet.

The toucan, in a funny fable from Brazil, is acclaimed king of the jungle because of its big bill, which is hidden in a hole and mocked when it is shown. The honey hunter from Ayoreo legend is the inspiration behind the name of the toco toucan. This bird not only appears on a well-known Guinness advertisement, but it also stands in for Brazil’s center-left Social Democracy Party.

Common Names in Different Languages

LanguageCommon Name for Toco Toucan
EnglishToco Toucan
FrenchToucan toco
SpanishTucán toco
ItalianTucano toco
RussianТоко-тукан (Toko-tukan)
Chinese (Mandarin)大嘴巨嘴鸟 (Dà zuǐ jù zuǐ niǎo)
Japaneseトコオオハシ (Toko oohashi)
SwahiliTukan wa Toco
Arabicطوكو طوكان (Toco Toucan)


  1. What is a Toco Toucan?
    • They, scientifically known as Ramphastos toco, is a species of toucan distinguished for its wide, vivid beak. It is indigenous to South America and is the largest species of toucan.
  2. What does they eat?
    • Although fruits are the main food source for Ramphastos toco, they also eat insects, small birds, and eggs. They can reach and grab fruits from trees thanks to a unique bill they have.
  3. Where are they found?
    • Originating in South America, Ramphastos toco are found in several nations such as Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. They live in woodlands that are tropical or subtropical.
  4. Are Ramphastos toco good pets?
    • Legal restrictions may apply to the keeping of them as pets in several locations. They also have certain food and environmental requirements, which might be difficult to fulfill in a household. Observing these birds in their native environment or in carefully maintained aviaries is usually advised.
  5. How large do they grow?
    • The largest species of toucan is the toco, which has an average length of 20 to 25 inches (50 to 63 cm). The actual bill has a maximum length of 8 inches (20 cm).
  6. Do Ramphastos toco fly?
    • Indeed, they are proficient aviators. In their natural habitat, they move between trees using their wings in quest of food.
  7. What is the lifespan of Ramphastos toco?
    • They live an average of fifteen years in the wild. If given the right care, they might survive longer in captivity.
  8. Why do they have large bills?
    • There are several uses for the big, vibrant bill of Ramphastos toco. It controls their body temperature, aids in reaching and manipulating fruits from tree branches, and is employed in courtship rituals.
  9. Are Ramphastos tocos endangered?
    • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List, Ramphastos tocoare now classified as a species of “Least Concern“. However, their numbers may be threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation.
  10. Can Ramphastos toco imitate human speech?
    • Unlike several parrot species,they are not recognized for their capacity to mimic human speech. Their usual means of communication is a range of calls and vocalizations.

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