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Swainson’s toucan

Ramphastos swainsonii

Description: Swainson’s toucans are the second largest of the 37 species of toucans. They are just a little smaller than a Toco toucan. They have huge, hollow yellow and chestnut beaks, bright yellow bibs edged in red, white rumps with red under-tails, green rings around their brown eyes and blue feet. Their distinctive hollow beak can grow up to eight inches (20 cm) long, is much lighter than it looks and slightly translucent. A narrow bristly tongue reaches the tip of their bill and resembles a feather. The beak’s serrated edges help the toucans hold fruit/food at the tip, which then is thrown into their throat with an upward toss of the head. The long beak helps to pluck fruits that are on branches too thin to hold their weight, as they reach far out from their perch on thicker branches. They have two toes forward and two in back for more secure perching and when they sleep their tails stick straight up. Their bodies are heavy but they have strong legs which make them much better hoppers than flyers.

Size: The male averages 22 inches (56 cm) long and weighs 26.5 ounces (750 gr). The smaller female is typically 20.5 inches (52 cm) long and weighs 20.5 ounces (580 gr).

Behavior: Socially they prefer being solitary or in small groups rather than large flocks. They are friendly, playful, intelligent and curious about their surroundings.

Diet: They eat fruits from nearly 100 species of plants and trees. During their nesting period they will also consume insects and lizards for protein.

Communication: There are several shrill, yelping, repetitive sounds these birds make. The calling bird usually tosses up its head and beak and along with a side-to-side movement, jerks its head up and moves its tail rapidly up and down. Closer to evening, flocks will gather in trees or on tall dead snags and call in chorus. They will often be answered by another group off in the distance.

Reproduction: Their nest is a naturally hollowed palm tree where they will dig a deep nesting hole to lay three to four white ellipsoid eggs. They take turns incubating the eggs for 16 days. When the chicks hatch they are featherless and blind but they will fledge in about seven weeks. Around nine weeks of age, the juveniles are self-feeding.

Habitat/range: This species is native to the neotropical forests of Central America and range from Honduras south to Colombia.

Status: Listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.