What Do Toucans Eat?

Category: Birds.

Toucans belong to the family Ramphastidae. Their typical habitats are the Neotropic region. Birds belonging to the Ramphastidae family have very a close relationship with the American barbets in most regards. There are about forty different species of birds in the Ramphastidae family. The most prominent among the toucans that reside in the rainforests is the toco toucan or the green-billed toucan. The name toucan is a derivative of a Portuguese word known as tukana.

A channel-billed toucan eating a tree frog. © Joao Quental.

Central and South American rainforests

Toucans are found in large numbers in the Central and South American rainforests. Mostly, they build their nests in the canopy layer of trees. While roosting, toucans have a strange and interesting habit of turning their heads backwards and resting their bills on their backs. The most distinguishing feature of toucans is their large and brightly colored bill, which is hollow inside. The bills of toucans are useful for chopping out chunks of fruit. The colors that we might find on the toucan bills include blue, brown, black, green, yellow, white, red or a combination of some or all of these colors. Most toucans are black and yellow. Sometimes, it is quite common to find blue eyed toucans.

Toucans have several eating habits

A toucan eating a fruit. © Paul Alexander.

In other words, toucans choose their food from a wide range of options. With respect to their food habits, toucans may be called frugivorous or fruit eaters. However, they widen their choice of food over other options too. Mainly, what they eat depends on what they are able to get. Toucans have a special liking for most varieties of tropical fruits available in the rainforests. The most favorite fruit of toucans is the banana passion fruit. Toucans prefer brightly colored fruits that are easy to locate.

How do they eat?

How a toucan consumes its food is rather very funny and awesome. For instance, while eating a piece of fruit or berry, it first plucks out the fruit, throws it up in the air, tosses it and catches the same with its bill to swallow it in whole. Once they swallow the fruits, they regurgitate the seeds. This process is highly useful for the dispersal of seeds in the given ecosystem. Other than fruits, toucans take delight in eating the eggs of smaller birds, small juicy insects, tree frogs and reptiles including lizards and snakes. Toucans also plunder the nests of other birds looking out for nestlings and eggs. This habit is useful in satisfying their protein requirement. While feeding their young ones, toucans mainly prefer animal food.

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