Toco toucan

(Ramphastos toco)




Facts about this animal

The Toco toucan is the largest and also most wide-spread of all the toucans. It reaches a total length of 55 to 60 cm, and weighs about 700 to 800 grams. It has an enormous bill about 22.5 cm long, which it uses to pick small fruits and berries from bushes and trees. The plumage of the toco toucan is black overall except for a white throat. The bill is orange with a black oval spot at the tip. The skin around the eyes is also orange. Tocos readily fly across open water and through open areas. Individuals may travel alone or in small flocks. Their voice is a deep grunt. Like other toucans, the toco nests in hollows high up in the trees. The female lays pure white, elliptical shaped eggs, usually 3-4 per clutch. Incubation lasts 16 days, and young fledge the nest at 46-50 days. Toucans are frugivorous birds, consume fruit from as many as 100 species of trees and other plants. Tocos are in particular fond of figs, and often come down to the forest floor to feed on fallen fruit. They also consume a variety of insects, and eggs and nestlings of other birds, for protein, especially during their nesting cycle.

Did you know?
that, in their native region, toucans are associated with evil spirits and are thought to be the incarnation of a demon? In certain religions of South and Central America, the father of a new child must not eat toucan meat as it might bewitch the newborn and cause it to fade away. The toucan can also be a tribal totem and the medicine man can use it as an incarnation to fly to the spirit world.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Ramphastos toco
Name (English) Toco toucan
Name (French) Toucan toco
Name (German) Riesentukan
Name (Spanish) Tucán grande
Local names Portugués: Tucano-toco, Tucanuçu
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Vladimír Motyčka



Range South America: northern Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname
Habitat Subtropical and tropical moist lowland forest, cerrado, and swampy savannas.
Wild population No global estimates available but it is believed to be large as the species is described as 'frequent' in at least parts of its range (1996) (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 218 reported to ISIS (2009)

In the Zoo

Toco toucan


How this animal should be transported

Toucans must be shipped singly. For air transport, Container Note 13 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Jon Hanson

Why do zoos keep this animal

This is a large, conspicuous and attractive bird, which is a good ambassador species for the conservation of neotropical forests. Toucans have an interesting anatomy, e.g. the large and very light bill, or two toes directed forward and two backward like in a parrot, and interesting behaviour, and are thus also of educational interest. Zoos may keep toucans also for animal welfare reasons as they may have to take care of confiscated birds, or former pet birds.