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Exotic Birds


Toucans are animals that have lived for years with the human beings. They have become one of the most loved tropical animals by us. However, it seems that the same human activity is killing them.

Here you will find the most complete information about the toucan that exists. We will talk about their characteristics, behavior, types, care, breeding and many curiosities. Welcome!

Types of toucans

The scientific name for toucans is Ramphastidae. They have six different genera in which we can distinguish 42 species.

Where do toucans live?

Toucans live in the Americas, from Mexico to Argentina. The toucan’s normal habitat is in low altitude tropical rainforests, although there are some species that live mountain or altitudes that can reach 3,000 meters above sea level.

Some of the species are in danger of extinction due to human activity, so having a toucan at home can be a bit complicated.

Facts about toucans

In this section, we will go deeper into the most important features and facts about toucans. Continue reading if you want to know all the curiosities about these incredible and colorful birds.

What are toucans like?

A toucan is large, slow-moving and long-lived bird. Nevertheless, these are not the features that it stands out from the rest of the birds. Toucans are famous for its colorful and striking feathers, and its large beak. They can measure up to 65 centimeters, although there are some species that only reach 25 – 30 centimeters. Its beak is approximately 20 centimeters long. Its weight can be from 130 to 680 grams.

Toucans have a long, narrow and pointed tongue, which can reach up to 14 centimeters. Their wings are small, with a squaretail that is easy to move up and down. A brightly colored skin surrounds its eyes. Toucans are one of the birds with the most developed sight. Their legs are short and strong, allowing them to walk without problems despite the weight of the large beak and with which they hold and move along the branches.

How to tell the sex of a toucan?

Toucans do not have sexual dimorphism, so it is difficult to differentiate between male and female. Although, according to experts, females have a slightly smaller and straighter beak than males.

How long do toucans live?

Although there are different toucan species, all of them seem to share the same life expectancy. Toucans live around around 20 years. Although there are some specimens that have exceeded it, but almost none reach 30 years.

However, although their diet is not complicated at all, when they live in captivity, they usually do not live more than 18 years because they get hemochromatosis from a diet high in iron instead of the fruits they need to live.

Toucan in a cage

Toucans’ behavior

Not many human beings choose to have a toucan at home, despite its good reputation. It is a sedentary bird, lives in a single area almost its whole life (few toucans migrate). It makes it adapt very well to the area in which it is living from its birth.

Although it is a bird that gets along well with human beings, if you capture it when it already lives freely, it would probably become a violent bird. Toucans are very affectionate and affable when they already have a relationship with their owner, and much more with other birds. Toucans do not usually get along well with other birds in the same cage.

Are toucans legal pets?

That is a good question. Morality says it is illegal to have a toucan as a pet and in some countries, it is punishable by a fine or jail, prohibiting its sale, possession or reproduction because it is in danger of extinction.

Then why do some people have a toucan? In fact, the only way to get one, and thus enjoy the company of this bird, would be to have an ecological core certificate, respecting the agreed CITES on transport and origin. However, this requires having space enough or getting a special permit to keep it in the house, which rarely happens. It is not impossible because very few people believe that this animal should live in a cage.

All about the toucan cage

Unlike a parrot or parakeet, the toucan is a bird that needs a very special type of cage with a large size. The best thing to do is to buy a cage that is at least 3 meters wide, 3 meters deep and 4 meters high so that it has enough room to move. The shape should be square or rectangular, to avoid causing psychological stress to the bird. The distance between the bars should not be more than 2 centimeters. It will prevent it from sticking its beak between the bars and being stuck.

Remember that it is a bird that normally lives in forests. A the large cage is important because you can put branches or trees so that it can move around and feel like it is its natural habitat. Toucans like to walk from one branch to another. Nevertheless, if it is a small species, with some hangers could be worth as long as they are made of natural wood to avoid it sharpens the claws of the legs.

The most important thing about a toucan cage is that it is sturdy. The toucan’s beak is quite strong and sharp, which they like to sharpen on branches or tree trunks. If the cage material is of a poor quality, such as plastic, the bars will easily break. Therefore, it has to be made of something quite resistant, such as stainless steel, which is also easier to clean.

Unlike other animals, the toucan is not usually a bird that likes to play, but it is good to have a few toys, like ropes or a rubber toy so that it can entertain itself within the cage.

It is better if the feeder and watering trough are removable or hooked on the outside, so you avoid creating an escape route where you could get stuck and die.

Toucan in a cage

Can I keep my toucan out of the cage?

It is not wrong if you keep the toucan out of the cage. As it is illegal to cut their feathers so that they cannot fly, you have to be especially careful with open windows.

However, when this bird has lived in captivity and kept in a cage outside, they will rarely escape to explore the world because the place where they first lived is the place they will consider home, so there is no need to worry about escapes when they can fly freely.

Toucans do not usually have problems interacting with animals such as dogs and cats, but you have to be careful with their character, because if they could feel threatened. It could be normal if they tried to attack them by using their beaks.

Where to place a toucan’s cage

Since the cage has to be so large, you may have an issue finding a place to put it. The best you can do, unless you have a large house, is to place it outside.

Despite being a bird that gets used to its environment, the recommended temperature is between 64 – 82 ºF, with a humidity from 60 to 85%.

If you will have it at home, respect these rules:

  • Put it in a place where you can see it, so that the toucan does not feel oppressed when it is too low or powerful when it is above your field of vision.
  • Two sides of the cage should be in contact with the wall, so that the bird can see you when you are close and do not gets frightened.
  • Prevents the cage from being in a drafty room, so the toucan will not get sick easily.
  • It is not good the sun hitting the toucan directly, so do not put it too near the windows.

How to clean a toucan’s cage

Cleaning products are toxic to any type of bird, so if you already have not earned your toucan trust, you will have to move them to another cage while you clean it. Otherwise, you can leave it out of the cage for a while.

To remove the bacteria, it is better to clean the cage using bleach diluted in water. Clean each bar with a brush to make sure there is no residue. Then soak them in water and dry them with a damp cloth. Then wait around half an hour before putting the toucan back in the cage.

There are many products to clean the birdcage, but remember that they can be toxic to the bird, so take your toucan out of the cage before using them.

How to get along with toucans

Although the toucan is not as affectionate as the lovebirds, it is very fond of its owners. As it is accustomed to living in a place for the rest of its life, they often make friends with those who live in its habitat.

First, you will require much patience. The cage should be located in a room with a lot of social activity. This way the bird gets used to human contact. You may be a little suspicious at first, but that is normal. After a few days, the toucan will get used to have people around it.

If it is the same person who puts food and water, the toucan will gradually get used to that person. In the beginning, it will be better not to touch it. After some days, you can put your finger between the bars after putting its food. The toucan will slowly come closer until it finally lets you caress its head or back. Under no circumstances should the bird’s beak be touched unless it is sick, because it is a very important part of its body to them.

If you can get the toucan gets near the bars to be caress, you can try to let it out of the cage. You can use the same trick some people use with other birds. Try to get it on your finger or hand, and take it out of the cage. To do this, you have to use “tricky” methods so that it can get close to your hand. At first it may bite you, but do not get angry at it or the bird will be frightened.

Once the arm is set, it is time to take it out of the cage and let it explore the surroundings, closing the windows to prevent it from flying away. Letting the toucan walk is the best way to get it back in his cage, as it will soon be hungry. You can help it by putting it on your arm with a command like “up”. Never pick it up, because the bird may understand it as an aggressive behavior.

What do toucans eat?

Toucans are mainly vegetarian. Their stomaches are very small and the food you feed them with does not last too long within. For this reason, always give them hydrated food.

Those who have a toucan at home usually feed it with small and soft balls made with boiled rice. You can also add carrot, cucumber and potato.

For those who do not want to make big mistakes and want their toucan to live a long, happy and prosperous life, it is better to provide the toucan with a basic diet, which is mainly made up of apple, melon, peach, banana, pear, mango, kiwi, papaya and strawberry. You should also feed them with vegetables, especially those rich in water, such as cucumber, tomato, carrot, corn or pea.

Toucan eating

The toucan’s daily diet must be composed of 60% fruit and vegetables. The remaining 40% must be made up of some complementary food. Take care at all times of the iron levels that can harm this bird.

Keep in mind that toucans only need to eat only twice a day. However, they need to have clean water all the time, even though they do not drink much, they need to be well hydrated. Therefore, if you do not give them food that is rich in water someday, it is a good idea to put plenty of fresh water. If it does not want to drink, there is nothing to worry about, because with the water in the fruit and vegetables, it has more than enough to feel hydrated.

What diseases can a toucan have?

Toucans do not have a very long life expectancy, especially if they live in captivity. This is because they may suffer from a number of very characteristic diseases:

  • Ripping off feathers: If the toucan is suddenly ripping off its feathers in an uncontrolled way, this is a sign that it may have some parasites among the feathers. It may also be due to emotional stress or a very low mineral diet.
  • Abnormal molt: Toucans molt their feathers once a year, but suddenly you can detect that it is suffering from an abnormal feather drop. This may be because the toucan feels nervous if you moved its cage.
  • Hemosiderosis: It is the most common disease in toucans and the main cause of their high mortality in captivity. An increase in iron levels in some of its organs and bloodstream causes this disease. In case of early detection, the toucan heals, but if left unchecked, it could increase and become hemosiderosis.
  • Hemochromatosis: A more serious degree of the previous disease in which there are iron accumulations in certain organs and this causes them to malfunction with its heart or one of the organs to function properly. In severe cases, the bird could die within 24 hours.
  • Beak fracture: This is often the most common “disease” in toucans, as they use the beak for almost everything and can break or dislocate it with a bad movement. For example, using it to hit a wall or for a bad movement inside your cage.
  • Idiopathic diabetes mellitus: A disease that frequently affects toucans. Symptoms include weight loss, high glucose levels, bloody stools and urine, and excessive thirst. Although science has not demonstrated it, the cause of this disease are the tumors.
  • Joint gout: toucans can also suffer from gout. A deficit of proteins, minerals and calcium caused this disease. Therefore, they must receive vitamin and anti-inflammatory supplements, avoiding stress on the bird at all times.
  • Avian pseudotuberculosis: It particularly affects this type of bird and is one of the main causes of death of this bird due to a severe reaction after having gestated it for a certain period. It is deadly for birds and symptoms include increased of liver size, ascites and pneumonia.
  • Cold: Toucans are very resistant birds, but are not free to get a cold. The main reason is that the cage is located in a place with airstreams. The bird usually feels better by taking antibiotics in water.
  • Heat stroke: Although there are species of toucans that live in warm environments, some do not carry heat very well above 82 ºF. Avoid being near the sun, with plenty of water and food to help you stay hydrated.
  • Necrotic enteritis: A water-borne bacterial disease that causes destruction of the intestinal mucosa. It usually causes the bird to show apathetic behavior, dehydration, diarrhea with foul-smelling stools, and nostril bleeding along with mucus.
  • Chlamydia: There are few documented cases of chlamydia, especially among toucans. In this case, in order to be able to intervene, it is necessary to use Doxycycline, either through oral intake in the mildest cases or intravenously in the most severe cases.
  • Parasites: In case the toucan eats some food that is in poor condition, it would not be surprising if it ends up having parasites. Because of this, it will lose its appetite, feel sad and despondent. In this case, take it to the vet.
  • Candidiasis: It appears when a microscopic fungus present in nature attacks the bird when its immune system is weak. So, among the toucan’s foods, make sure you get enough vitamin C to be always ready to fight the disease and repel it.
  • Aspergillosis: It occurs especially in pigeons, which show a very slow development due to poor feeding. Other causes also include the accumulation of feces in your home, which creates an ideal environment for the birth of fungi that the youngsters inhales that end up having this disease due to their low defenses.
  • Ascarids: A type of parasite that often attacks toucans and kills them prematurely. The treatment is very easy, but they can be fatal if you do not remove them within a week. The toucan will have lost its appetite, will feel despondent and may try to pull out feathers.
  • Plasmodium: Not a common parasite in toucans, but it has attacked some species. It is usually due to a mild infection and usually causes the deaths. The toucan is aggressive, both with the owner and with other birds. It is a sign that this parasite is attacking it.

How to breed a toucan

First, separate the couple of toucans you want them to breed. Remember that it is difficult to tell the difference between male and female. You will need to use DNA testing to find out the sex of each bird.

Once you identify the male and female, provide them a nest, better made of a good quality wood, so that they are comfortable, although toucans usually place them inside tree holes. Toucans mate once a year and lay two to four white eggs.

Toucans breeding

The incubation period lasts from 15 to 20 days, sharing the time in the nest between the male and female. When they are born, the young toucans have no feathers, are deaf and their eyes keep closed for three weeks. They stay in the nest with their parents, fed by them, until the second month when their beaks develop completely and it is time to separate them from their parents.

Before thinking about breeding toucans, it is important to have in mind that a toucan is monogamous, so it is not possible to pair it with another bird once it has met its “love”. In addition, they are not sexually active until they are three years old.