The Palm tree polyp is a colonial, encrusting mat-like coral whose eight tentacles have feathery pinnules resembling the branches of a palm tree, thus its common name. The polyps can be found in a variety of colors including brown, cream, green, pink, purple, white and yellow, while the mat that contains the polyps is brown, gray or tan.
Before the 1980s, this small toucan from Northeastern South America was very rare in captivity. Since the first captive breeding took place in 1980, in a California private aviary, hundreds have been hatched in the US, and the captive population appears to be self-sustaining. Those in zoos are carefully monitored for genetic diversity through a Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and many others are kept privately. Since 2001, more than 50 have hatched at the DWA. This is one of the few toucans whose sexes can be easily distinguished; males have black heads and the females have brown heads.
These enormous grackle relatives are one of several species that build the hanging nests, looking like hairy bags, which can be seen in various places in the Orinoco rainforest. Males are much larger than females. The aquarium’s specimens are very fond of crickets and other insects and will come down to visitor level when their keeper provides them. They are skillful at picking them up with their beautiful two-colored beaks.