Fiery-billed Aracari and Collared Aracari

Fiery-billed Aracari and Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus frantzii and Pteroglossus torquatus)Spanish Name: Tucancillo Piquianaranjado, and Tucancillo Collarejo

The Collared Aracari is common in Caribbean lowland and premontane forest. In cannot live in areas that are heavily deforested, and is not usually above elevations of 1,000 m.

The Fiery-billed Aracari lives in forest similar to the home of the Collared, but can live at elevations up to 1,500 m.

The Fiery-billed is endemic to the Pacific side of Costa Rica, from the southwestern region down to western Panama. It is common throughout its range except the northernmost parts.

The Collared Aracari shares the range of the Fiery-billed and furthermore lives on the Caribbean slope, from southern Mexico to western Ecuador. On the Pacific slope of Costa Rica, the Collared is uncommonly found in the northwest, and becomes more common in the western part of Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula.

Physical Description
The Collared Aracari ("ara-sorry') and the Fiery-billed Aracari are two of the most richly colored birds of the toucan family in Costa Rica. Their behavior and biology are closely similar, and their ranges overlap on the southern Pacific region of the country. Both are common within most of their ranges; their distinct profiles are most easily seen crossing between large trees on the edges of clearings in the canopy. They often shriek a high "cheep-eep' as they fly. Both birds have the characteristic, strikingly large bills that would be impossibly heavy if they were not hollow and lightweight. These species also have a slender body of medium size, a long tail and rather short, rounded wings. These are the only toucans known to sleep in groups in trees all year long-not only do parents take care of the hatchlings until they fledge, but the fledglings continue to share their parents' hole. Aracaris usually make their nests in holes that have been carved out by woodpeckers high off the ground, from 6 to 30 m high.

Adults of both species have a glossy black-olive head, neck, and chest; the facial and frontal colorations are also similar. Both have brilliant yellow and red feathers on the underside with a broad band across the middle: the Collared's is mostly black, the Fiery-billed's, red. The Fiery-billed has a noticeably larger black spot above this color band than does the Collared Aracari. The most striking difference between the plumages of these sister-species is that the Fiery-billed has a radiant spread of red, orange, and yellow across its bill. The Collared's bill is simpler: the lower mandible black and the upper mandible mostly a dull, pale yellow with maroon near the head. The Collared Aracari is also slightly smaller than the Fiery-billed and has a thin rufous collar around its neck that the Fiery-billed lacks.

Interesting Biology
The Collared Aracari tends to fly and forage in the middle and upper levels of forest, usually in moderately open areas or old and second growth zones. They may fly lower where the forest is more open, i.e., along forest edges, through gaps, or in young stages of forest. In such open areas, the unusually intense sunlight causes some fruiting trees and shrubs to produce more of the food that the Aracaris eat. They forage and travel in flocks of 6 to 15 individuals, and during the night as many as 6 may sleep together in a tree hole. Several adults (up to 5) may share caring for a clutch of 3 eggs at a time.
The Fiery-Billed Aracari tends to stay higher in humid forest than its collared relative, and can be found most often in adjacent clearings. They may still descend to lower levels to eat berries. Their groups tend to be smaller, foraging in bands of 6 to 10 individuals and sleeping together with 5 birds at most at night. Usually the 2 eggs to a clutch are raised by 3 or more adults.

The Collared eats a lot of fleshy fruits (such as aroids, Protium, palms, Cecropia), and may diversify its diet with certain insects, eggs, and small lizards or bird nestlings. The Fiery-Billed Aracari forages in the canopy for fruit, insects, and sometimes nestling chicks, and may approach the ground for berries.

The Collared Aracari is usually 41 cm long and weighs 230 g; the Fiery-Billed is somewhat larger, at 43 cm and 250 g.

Brief Taxonomy
Order: Piciformes
Family: Ramphastidae

Skutch, Alexander F. and F. Gary Stiles. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Utica: Cornell University Press,1989.
Henderson, Carrol L. Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica. University of Texas Press, Austin, 2002.

-Amy Strieter, Wildlife Writer