With their huge bills and striking plumage, toucans are some of the world's most recognisable birds. This page contains toucan information and is part of our Rainforest Animals series. At the bottom of the page you will find a list of toucan facts for kids. Let's take a trip to the rainforest to learn about this amazing bird!
Part of our Rainforest Animals facts series.
Toucan Facts & Information For Kids
Toucans are crow-sized birds with extra-large, brightly-coloured bills. Toucans live in the tropical forests of South and Central America. Due to their unique appearance and bright colours, toucans are very popular with humans, and are even kept as pets. Let’s find out more toucan information!
Toucans live in the canopy layer of the rainforest. The canopy provides plenty of food and protection for the birds. Here, the toucan’s bright colours act as camouflage, hiding the bird among fruits and plants.
You can see toucans in the wild in the video below:
Toucans live together in pairs or in very small flocks. Rather than nest in the branches of trees, toucans build their nests in tree holes and hollows. These are often holes abandoned by woodpeckers. Here the female will lay 2-4 white eggs. The male and female take turns incubating the eggs for about 16-20 days. After the eggs hatch, both parents continue to care for the chicks.
Toucan Facts: Can Toucans Fly?
Toucans do fly, but they don't have very big wings and aren't known for their flying prowess. They prefer to glide or to hop around.
There are more than 40 different species of toucan. Although toucans are famous for their colourful bills, many species have brightly coloured plumage, too.
Toucans are members of the Ramphastidae family. This family includes toucans, aracaris and toucanets.
The different toucan species vary in size, ranging from just under 12 inches (30cm) to around 2 feet (60cm) in length, and 0.25 pound (0.113 kg) to 1.5 pounds (0.680 kg) in weight. The average full-grown toucan weighs just under a pound.
The toucan’s body is short and compact, similar to that of a crow’s, and its back and tail are covered with black feathers. The chest, underparts and bill are where the bright colours are found.
Toucans make loud croaking noises. They sound like a frog trying to impersonate a pig. Toucans also make high-pitched squealing sounds.
You can hear a Keel Billed Toucan's call in the video below:
Different toucan species have noticeably different calls.
The Toucan’s Bill
A toucan’s bill is very large and can be well over half of the length of the toucan’s body.
Toucan bills can be black, orange, blue, brown, green, red, white, yellow, or a combination of these colours.
Inside, the bill is like a honeycomb, with thin bony walls filled with a spongy tissue called keratin (the same substance from which a rhino’s horn is made). The honeycomb structure gives the bill its strength and lightness.
What The Bill Is Used For
Despite its size, the toucan's bill is too lightweight for making nest holes in trees, or for defence against predators (although it may help as a deterrent).
The primary purpose of a toucan’s bill is feeding. The edges of the bill are serrated. These jagged edges help the toucan tear fruit apart. Toucans also use their bills to reach for food. The bill’s light weight helps the bird reach fruit on thin branches. It is also used to reach into cracks and holes in trees.
Some scientists think that the bright colours on the toucan’s bill may scare smaller birds, allowing the toucan to raid their nests.
Toucans have been known to wrestle or fence with their bills, possibly to determine a toucan’s social standing within the flock.
The bill serves another important purpose: to regulate the toucan's body temperature. Temperature is controlled by the amount of blood flow that is sent to the bill.
The Toucan’s Diet
Toucans are omnivores, which means they eat plants and animals. Their diet consists mainly of fruit, insects, eggs, reptiles, and even some small animals.
Toucans will raid the nests of other bird species, and take not only the eggs, but the nestlings too.
The Toucan’s Body
With more than 40 species, the toucan comes in a variety of sizes. These range from as small as 7 inches to more than 2 feet. The average full-grown toucan weighs just less than a pound; about 14 ounces.
A toucan's body is short and compact, similar to that of a crow’s, and is mostly covered with black feathers, with the throat area having white or yellow feathers.
An Important Bird In The Rainforest
Toucans are very important to the health and diversity of the rainforest. They help by spreading seeds from the fruit and berries they eat; this helps more plants to grow.
Imagine a toucan eating a passion fruit (one of its favourite foods). It uses its bill to cut off big chunks of fruit, which are then swallowed whole. The toucan doesn’t spit out the seeds: they go down along with everything else. The seeds aren’t digested, and quickly pass through the toucan. They are still intact in the toucan’s droppings, and may grow into a new passion fruit plant.
10 Toucan Facts For Kids
- Toucans can live up to 20 years.
- The Toco toucan is the most recognisable toucan species, with its black and white plumage and orange bill.
- Toucans hatch from the eggs bare; without any down (feathers) at all.
- Newly hatched toucan chicks don't look too different to other birds. However, their long bills develop fast!
- Toucans are not on the list of endangered species, however illegal pet trade among humans does affect toucan numbers.
- Toucans have narrow, 6 inch (15 cm) long, grey-coloured tongues.
- Because of the way the bones in their tails grow, toucans are able to flip their tails up to touch their heads. This is also how they sleep: in a ball, with their bills tucked back and their tails flipped forward.
- Adult toucans tuck their bills under their wings while they sleep. Researchers believe this is because they might otherwise get too cool and lose heat through the bill.
- Toucans do not migrate.
- Besides rainforests, toucans also live in tropical savannas and shrubland.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading these amazing toucan facts. As we've found, toucans are not only beautiful to look at, they also play an important part in the rainforest ecosystem.
Toucan Games & Activities
- Write a story from the first person point of view of a toucan. Describe a day in the life of a toucan. Be sure to include the senses of taste, touch, and sight.
- Practise drawing a toucan. Add all the bright colors with crayons, markers, or coloured pencils.
Learn about more incredible rainforest animals here.