Keel-billed Toucan

Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus)Spanish name: Tucan Pico Iris, Curre Negro

This toucan is common from sea level to 1,200 m in forest, tall second growth, and pastures that contain some mature trees.

The Keel-Billed lives between southern Mexico and northern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela.

Physical Description
The Keel-Billed Toucan is sometimes called the Rainbow-Billed Toucan, for the progression of yellow, orange, lime, and pale blue to the crimson tip of its exceptionally bright and enormous beak. This bill is deceptively light-being hollow and narrow-and a surprisingly adroit tool for plucking ripened fruits from awkward angles without trusting this large bird's weight to flimsy branches. The bill, white tail feathers, and bright blue legs contrast with the rest of the dark bird. Aside from yellow facial skin and bib lined in red, this large bird's body is mostly black with maroon on its back and neck, and olive on its lower back and underside.

Interesting Biology
In small flocks of up to 6 birds, the Keel-Billed Toucan travels through the upper levels of closed-canopy forest and nearby tall secondary forest. They may also forage in areas that are semi-open or along edges as they look lower for berries. They can be seen tossing their heads backwards to drop food from the end of the long bill into the throat. Choruses that sound like frogs may be sung while in their flocks; individually, the toucan may croak or call in a wooden or metallic tone, or sing a series of shrill chirps that resounds like a cricket. The toucan nests deep within tree cavities that have hollowed out from decay. They may move into holes that are 2.7 to 27 m off the forest floor, and do not bother lining the nest with anything besides regurgitated seeds.

This omnivorous bird sustains itself on fruits, including those with large seeds (such as Cirola or Protium), small seeded berries, or Cecropia catkins. To diversify its diet, the toucan also eats insects, spiders, small lizard and snakes, and the eggs and nestlings of small bird species.

Male Keel-Billed Toucans reach 47 cm in length and 500 g; females are smaller, at 44 cm and 380 g.

Brief Taxonomy
Order: Piciformes
Family: Ramphastidae

Henderson, Carrol L. Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica. University of Texas Press, Austin, 2002.

Kricher, John. A Neotropical Companion: an introduction to the animals, plants, and ecosystems of the New World tropics. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ, 1997.

Skutch, Alexander F. and F. Gary Stiles. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Utica: Cornell University Press, 1989.

Amy Strieter, Wildlife Writer