Article (in English & German): Breeding Toucans in Weltvogelpark Walsrode / Tukanzucht im Weltvogelpark Walsrode
Other / Global Names
Spanish: Tucán ... French: Toucan ... Czech: Tuka ...Danish: Tukan ... German: Tukan ...Italian: Tucano ...Dutch: Toekan ... Norwegian: Tukan
Polish: tukan ...Swedish: Tukan
Toucan Trivia: Unexpected, Interesting and Fun Facts about the Toucan Family of Birds
Toucans (family Ramphastidae)
by Deborah Candland (on behalf of Avianweb)
Toucans share their family name with toucanets and aracaris, with American barbets the most closely related family. The family includes six genera and 42 different species of near passerine (arboreal land birds) of the order Piciformes.
Of these, toucans comprise two genera, Genus Andigena and Genus Ramphastos, which consists of all the large black toucans which can be found in every Latin American country except Chile, with 16 species and sub-species.
The Tupi Indians of Brazil are credited with the original name 'tucano' as translated into Portuguese.
Toucans have distinctive coloration, markings, and are particularly noted for their large colorful bills. Toco Toucan is the most recognized because of the bird's iconic use in advertising, and is also distinguished as the largest at 25 in. (64 cm) long and by having the widest distribution, found not only in tropical areas and dry savannahs, but also lives in northern Argentina where night temperatures during the winter are near freezing.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE, TOUCAN?
Toucans principally reside in tropical forests of South America, particularly in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia. A few species are indigenous to Central America as far north as southern Mexico. Toucans are non-migratory and found only at lower altitudes.
These birds prefer to live in the tree canopies of rain forests in small groups of about six (sometimes more), although it is not uncommon to find a mated pair together. They hop from branch to branch on their short strong legs, enabled by their strong toes and claws, and bathe in water pooled in hollows of tree branches.
They often share their food, throwing it into each others' mouths, and preen each other with the tips of their long bills, requiring them to sit far apart. When flying together there is no particular formation or line.
The last three vertebrae are fused, joined to the spine with a ball and socket joint. This allows toucans to flip their tails above their bodies to touch their heads, the posture used for sleeping, with their bills protected and turned, resting on their backs causing them to resemble a ball of feathers. This compact posture allows many to roost together at night in even smaller hollows.
Toucans can do well in captivity, either in cages or in large flights where they can co-exist with other similar-sized birds. Almost all species have been bred successfully in captivity under the proper conditions.
WHAT IS PARENTING LIKE, TOUCAN?
The mating ritual is a fun-loving affair for toucans, as they throw fruit to one another.
Like all of their other activities, nesting happens high up in hollow areas in trees. The bill is not effective for digging or any other type of extensive excavation work and so they must rely on holes already formed by other means.
The nests are not lined, but the two to four shiny white eggs that are laid each year rest on a few wood chips created while enlarging the opening or on various kinds of regurgitated seeds collected for this purpose. Parents share equally in incubation duties, but rarely sit on the nest for more than an hour at a time and the eggs are often left uncovered. Both parents share in feeding fruit to the babies for up to 8 weeks.
After 16 days the nestlings are born blind, with no trace of down on their pink skin. The bill is unremarkable until about 16 days old when it takes on the distinguishing features of the toucan, and requires up to four months to develop fully. Feathers begin to expand at 4 weeks.
Babies have pads on their elbows that protect their feet by keeping them elevated until they fledge.
Breeding in captivity requires attention to a number of details. Even successful breeders report rates as low as 30% for the incubation of eggs.
WHAT NOISES DO YOU MAKE, TOUCAN?
Toucans are known for their distinctive vocalizations consisting of a variety of constantly repeated shrill yelps. One of the most famous calls is described by locals as sounding like 'dios te de, te de, te de', and is likened to the Spanish for 'May God watch over you'.
Some species are differentiated as making 'croaking' calls versus 'yelping' calls.
Diet / Feeding
Their natural diet consists primarily of a wide range of different fruits; thus they play an extremely important ecological role as vectors for seed dispersal of fruiting trees.
Toucans get most of the water they need from the fruits they eat. Although captive birds need access to fresh water at all times -- especially since their diet includes pellets. They also require opportunities for bathing.
In the wild, they will also feed on bird eggs and occasionally small animals (including smaller birds and their nestlings, lizards and other small prey). During the breeding season, in particular, they will take large amounts of insects for protein.
Captive toucans are thriving on a diet of high-quality, low-iron pellets and fresh fruits. Pellets should make up about 50% of their diet - the other half being fresh fruits. They should be fed plenty of fresh fruits, such as papayas, cantaloupes and other melons, berries, grapes, apples and bananas. (Papayas in particular are amongst their favorites.) The fruits should be chopped up into bite-sized pieces (about 0.5 inch on each side). Any seeds (such as found in papaya or melons) should be removed as they can cause intestinal problems.
Toucans have frequently been observed throwing their heads back when eating small fruits, allowing the fruit to roll into their throats before swallowing.
Please be aware that certain dietary components may increase the storage of iron, including Vitamin C, ascorbic acid (citrus fruit) and sugar. Their liver accumulates too much iron resulting in iron storage disease, which is a common and serious health problem with toucans.
Since citric acid facilitates the absorption of iron, Jerry Jennings, President / Director of Emerald Forest Bird Gardens strongly recommends "against feeding any citrus fruit at all - not even in moderate amounts." Fruits high in citric acid are, for example, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, pineapple, limes and tomatoes.
Red meat or any other meat should not be fed either (high in iron). He states that the iron in their diets comes mainly from the pellets they are fed, so low iron pellets should be provided. Jerry Jennings feeds "Mazuri because it is both low in iron and high in betacarotenes, and the quality control Mazuri practices is the best." (Should be available in better bird stores, as well as online.)
If Mazuri isn't available in your area, a good quality formulated (low-iron) softbill food (in addition to plenty of fresh fruit) should be fed. It is important that the formulated diet does not contain propylene glycol - a liquid derived from natural gas that is used in antifreeze and de-icing solutions, as well as skin-care products. Unfortunately, it is also added to many formulated pet diets (birds, dogs, cats). This chemical can cause serious and potentially irreversible health conditions, including death.
The pellets and fruits should be offered in separated dishes twice a day. It is important to wash the dishes very carefully before each feeding, as bacteria grow quickly in this high-sugar and moist environment. It is easiest to have several sets of dishes, place used dishes into the dishwasher for cleaning, and use fresh sets of dishes for each feeding.
During the breeding season, crickets are typically added to meet their increased need for protein.
Seeds should not be fed as their digestive tracts are not designed to digest seeds. Toucans will lose weight and eventually starve to death if kept on an all- or mostly seed diet.
Note: Birds that are fed a formulated diet do not need supplementation with vitamins. Excess nutrients (particularly synthetics) can be harmful to their health.
Keep a fresh, clean source of water available for your toucan at all times. Many toucans will use this dish primarily for bathing, but they do drink from time to time as well.
The active Toucans require large, planted flights. Aracaris are generally docile and can be kept with smaller birds -- but not birds so small that they could be considered as prey by these large birds, such as finches. Breeding pairs are best kept alone.
Captive birds may breed in nest boxes with a concave bottom; however, they generally prefer natural nests constructed from palm tree logs, which allows them to dig their nest chambers deeper.
Their eggs are white and elliptical shaped. The young fledge when they are 40 to 42 days old.
"Toucanets and Aracaris are far easier to breed than the large toucans and they are pretty close to being equal. I would rank them from easiest to more difficult as follows: Crimson Rump Toucanets, Guyana Toucanets, Green Aracaris, Emerald Toucanets, Ivory Bill Aracaris, Collared Aracaris, Curl Crested Aracaris, Chestnut Eared Aracaris, and Saffron Toucanets.
I have other small species that have not bred at all, but I recently acquired them and only have a pair or two of each, so it is too early to know how they will do. The Chestnut Ears have been the greatest challenge because they scramble their eggs and thus you must pull them for artificial incubation as soon as they are laid. Then they are the most difficult to hand raise from day one.
The Crimson Rumps, Guyanas and Greens are the easiest in that order I have never had mate aggression in the Curl Crested, Ivory Bill, Chestnut Ears or Crimson Rumps. I have had mate aggression in Emeralds several times and once in Guyanas.
They all require the same space. The smallest breeding flight I have used was 4' x 10' x 6 feet high and the flights I currently use are 8' x 12' x 8 feet high and the newest flights are 8' x 16' x 8 feet high.
They need the proper diet, a nest log and the pairs must be compatible.
I would start with the easiest, so when you have babies you will feel a sense of accomplishment and want to continue. If you start with a difficult species you will have much less luck and may become discouraged." (Source: Jerry Jennings, President / Director of Emerald Forest Bird Gardens)
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