Toucans are animals that for years have lived with the human race, becoming one of the most beloved tropical animals by humans. However, it seems that human activity itself is killing them off.

Types of toucans

What is known about toucans?

Toucans are better known as ranfastides (or Ramphastidae), although they are also known in some places as diotedé or diostedé. It has six different genera in which a total of 42 species of toucans can be distinguished.

exotic toucan

They are widely distributed throughout the Americas, from Mexico to Argentina. They are usually found in low altitude tropical rainforests, although there are some species that live in more temperate environments, such as mountain ranges or altitudes that can reach 3,000 meters above sea level.

Some of the species are in danger of extinction due to human activity, so having a toucan at home can be a bit complicated.

What does a toucan look like?

In addition to being a large, slow-moving, long-lived bird, there are two things that make the toucan stand out from the rest of the birds: first, its colorful and striking feathers, and then its large beak. They can measure up to 65 centimeters, although there are some species that only reach 25 – 30 centimeters. Its beak is approximately 20 centimetres long. Its weight ranges from 130 to 680 grams.

They have a long tongue, which can reach up to 14 centimeters, narrow and pointed. The wings are small in size, with a square tail that is very easy to move up and down. His eyes are surrounded by brightly colored skin. They are from birds with the most developed sense of sight. The legs are short and strong, allowing them to walk without problems despite the weight of the large beak and with which they can be held and moved along the branches.

bird in nature

They do not have sexual dimorphism, so it is difficult to differentiate between male and female. Although, according to experts, females have a slightly smaller and straighter beak than males.

How long can a toucan live?

Although there are different species, all seem to share the same life expectancy: 20 years, although there are some specimens that have exceeded it but almost none reach 30 years.

toucan bird exotic

However, although their diet is not at all complicated when they live in captivity, they usually do not live more than 18 years because they get hemochromatosis from a diet high in iron instead of the fruits they need to live.

How does a toucan behave?

Not many human beings choose to have a toucan at home, despite its great reputation. It is a sedentary bird, living in a single area almost all its life (few are those who migrate in search of another place), which makes it adapt very well to the area in which it is living from birth.

Although it is not a bird that presents many problems when in human contact, if it is captured while at liberty it would not be at all strange that it would become violent. Toucans are very affectionate and affable when they already have a relationship with their human being, and much more with other birds. As a rule, they do not usually get along well with other birds in the same cage, so it is best to put them in a separate cage.

I want to have a toucan, but is it legal?

That’s a good question. Morality says it is illegal to have a toucan as a pet and in some countries it is punishable by a fine or jail, prohibiting its sale, possession or reproduction because it is in danger of extinction.

two toucans

Then how come some people have a toucan? In fact, the only way to get one, and thus enjoy the company of this fantastic bird, would be to have an ecological core certificate, respecting the agreed CITES on transport and origin. However, this requires having a lot of land in the house or getting a special permit to keep it in the house, which rarely happens, but it is not impossible because very few people believe that this animal should live in a cage.

I got permission to have a toucan, now, what do I need to know?

Unlike a parrot or parakeet, the toucan is a bird that needs a very special type of cage and large size. The best thing to do is to buy a cage that is 3 meters wide, 3 meters deep and 4 meters high so that it has enough room to move around. But if this is not the case, a medium-sized cage will suffice. On the other hand, the shape should be square or rectangular, to avoid causing psychological stress to the bird. The distance between the bars should not be more than 2 centimeters, to prevent you from sticking your beak between the bars and getting stuck.

Remember that it is a bird used to living in forests, hence the large cage is so important, because it can be put branches or trees that can move around and not sit outside their habitat. They like to walk from one branch to the other very much. But if it is a small species, in this case with some hangers could be worth as long as they are made of natural wood so that the claws of the legs can be sharpened.

The most important thing about a toucan cage is that it is sturdy. The toucan’s beak is quite strong and sharp, which they like to sharpen on branches or tree trunks. If the cage is made of a poor quality material, such as plastic, the bars will break in a couple of days. So it has to be made of something quite sturdy, such as stainless steel, which is also much easier to clean.

Unlike other animals, the toucan is not usually a bird that likes to play so much, but it’s okay to have a few toys, like ropes or a rubber toy that you can entertain yourself with in your cage.

It is best if the feeder and watering trough are removable or hooked on the outside, so you avoid creating an escape route where you could get stuck and die.

If I keep him out of the cage, is that good?

There’s nothing to keep the toucan out of the cage. Only, as it is illegal to cut their feathers so that they can’t fly, you have to be especially careful with open windows.

However, when this bird has lived in captivity and is kept in a cage outside, they will rarely escape to explore the world because the place where they first live is the place they will consider home, so there is no need to worry about escapes when they are allowed to fly free.

They don’t usually have problems interacting with animals such as dogs and cats, but you have to be careful with their character, because if they feel threatened, it wouldn’t be strange if they tried to attack them using their beaks.

I have the cage, but where do you put it now?

Since the cage has to be so large, you may have trouble finding a place in the house to put it. The best thing to do, unless you have a large house, would be to place it outside, so that the toucan is more accustomed to life outside.

Despite being a bird that gets used to its environment very soon, the most recommended temperature for it is between 18 – 28 degrees, with a humidity of 60 to 85%. But you can acclimatize to other types of weather without many problems.

exotic bird

If you are going to have it at home, the location of the cage is not very different from that of other birds, respecting some rules:

  • Place it at your eye level, so that the toucan does not feel oppressed when it is too low or powerful when it is above your field of vision.
  • Two of the walls of the cage should be in contact with the wall, so that the bird will see you arrive and will not be so easily frightened.
  • It prevents the cage from being placed in a drafty room, so you won’t get sick so easily.
  • It’s not good for the sun to hit you directly and you have no way to protect yourself, so don’t put it near windows.

Cleaning the cage, what do I have to do?

Cleaning products are toxic to any type of bird, so if you haven’t already earned their trust, you’ll have to move them to another cage while you clean them. Otherwise, you can leave it out of the cage for a little exercise.

exotic bird

To remove traces of bacteria, it is best to clean the cage using bleach diluted in water, cleaning each bar with a brush to make sure there is no residue left. Then soak them in water and dry them with a damp cloth. Then wait about half an hour before putting the toucan back in the cage.

There are many products on the market to clean the bird cage, but always remember that they can be toxic to the bird, so remove them before using them.

I want to get along with my toucan, but is it possible?

Although the toucan is not as affectionate as the agapornis, it is very fond of its owners, as it is accustomed to living in one place for the rest of its life, and they often make friends with those who live in its habitat.

First of all, patience will be required. The cage should be located in a room with a lot of social activity, so that the bird gets used to human contact. You may be a little suspicious at first, but that’s normal. After a few days you will get used to people around you.

If it is the same person who puts food and water in it, it will gradually form a bond and at the beginning it will not be touched, but if you put your finger between the bars shortly after giving it its food, it will slowly come closer until you finally let your head or back be caressed. Under no circumstances should the bird’s beak be touched unless the bird is left behind, because it is a very important part of its body to them.

If you can get him near the bars to let himself be touched, you have to think about trying to let him out of the cage. You can use the same trick you use with other birds to try to get it on your finger, or on your hand depending on the species, and take it out of the cage on your arm. To do this, you have to “buy” him with a trinket so that he can get close to your hand. At first he may bite, but never get angry with him, as the bird will be frightened.

Once the arm is set, it is time to take it out of the cage and let it explore the surroundings, closing the windows to prevent it from flying away. Letting him walk in peace is the best way to get him back in his cage, as he will soon be hungry. You can help him by putting him on his arm with a command like “up”, but never by picking him up, because that is aggressive behaviour on the part of his owner and they don’t like it very much.

What do I feed my toucan?

Toucans are mainly vegetarian and have a very particular characteristic: their stomach is very small and the food they are fed is very little time, so the food they are given must always be very hydrated so that the animal does not suffer heatstroke or sunstroke.

Those who have a toucan at home usually resort to small, soft meatballs made with boiled rice, carrot, cucumber and potato to complete the fruit base of the bird’s diet. Sometimes it is good to include some minced meat, preferably inside the meatball, so that the diet can be balanced, as if they were free.

toucan eating

But, for those who don’t want to make a big mistake and want their toucan to live a long, happy and prosperous life, it is best to resort to the toucan’s basic diet, which is mainly made up of eating apple, melon, peach, banana, pear, mango, kiwi, papaya, tuna and strawberry.

You should also give your child vegetables, especially those that are rich in water such as cucumber, tomato, carrot, corn, pea or guatila. Salad? It can also be given a little, but in very low quantities, as it is a food that can cause diarrhea, although its composition is mainly water.

These two foods would make up the bird’s diet. However, even though its staple food is fruit, it can also be supplemented with other foods, such as wholemeal bread to make meatballs or cardboard or dark meat. You can also give him small animals, such as lizards, insects, eggs of other birds and, although this is prohibited in other countries, chicks.

Therefore, the toucan’s daily diet must be composed of 60% fruit and vegetables, while the remaining 40% must be made up of some complementary food, taking care at all times of the iron levels that can harm this bird.

Keep in mind that toucans are not animals that eat too much, eating only twice a day to be satiated. But they need to have clean water at all times, even though they don’t drink much, they need to be well hydrated. So if you don’t give him a food that is rich in water someday, it’s a good idea to put plenty of fresh water in it for him to drink. If you don’t want to drink, there’s nothing to worry about, because with the water in the fruit and vegetables you drink, you have more than enough to feel hydrated.

What are the diseases that a toucan can have?

Toucans do not have a very long life expectancy, especially if they live in captivity. This is due, in particular, to the fact that they may suffer from a number of very characteristic diseases:

is this a toucan?

  • Ripping off feathers: If the toucan is suddenly found to be ripping off its feathers in an uncontrolled manner, this is a sign that it may have some parasites among the feathers that need to be located and eradicated. It may also be due to emotional stress or a very low mineral diet.
  • Abnormal molt: Toucans molt their feathers once a year, but suddenly you can detect that you are suffering from an abnormal feather drop. This may be because you are stressed or because you feel very nervous about having your cage moved.
  • Hemosiderosis: It is the most common disease in toucans and the main cause of their high mortality in captivity. It is caused by an increase in iron levels in some of your organs and bloodstream. In the case of early detection, it can be confronted, but if left unchecked, it could increase and become hemosiderosis.
  • Hemochromatosis: A more serious degree of the previous disease in which there are iron accumulations in certain organs and this causes them to malfunction and you may have problems with your heart or one of the organs to function properly. If you have severe cases, the bird will die within 24 hours.
  • Beak fracture: This is often the most common “disease” in toucans, as they use the beak for almost everything and can break or dislocate it with a bad movement, so to speak. Like, for example, using it to hit a wall or for a bad movement inside your cage.
  • Idiopathic Diabetes mellitus: Lately it is a disease that is frequently detected in toucans. Symptoms include weight loss, high glucose levels, bloody stools and urine, and excessive thirst. Some experts say that this disease may be caused by some tumors, but it is not fully demonstrated.
  • Joint gout: Like humans, toucans can also suffer from gout. This can be caused by a deficit of proteins, minerals and calcium. Therefore, they must receive vitamin and anti-inflammatory supplements, avoiding stress on the bird at all times.
  • Avian Pseudotuberculosis: It particularly affects this type of bird and is one of the main causes of death of this bird due to an acute reaction after having gestated it for a certain period of time. It is deadly for birds and symptoms include increased liver size, ascites and pneumonia.
  • Common cold: Toucans are very resistant birds, but are not free to catch a common cold. The main reason is that the cage is located in a place where it receives air currents. It can be cured with antibiotics in water.
  • Heat stroke: Although there are species of toucans that are accustomed to living in very warm environments, some do not carry heat very well above 28º C. You should avoid them being near the sun, with plenty of water and food to help them stay hydrated.
  • Necrotic enteritis: A water-borne bacterial disease that causes destruction of the intestinal mucosa. It usually causes the bird to show apathetic behavior, dehydration, diarrhea with foul-smelling stools, and nostril bleeding along with mucus.
  • Chlamydia: There are few documented cases of chlamydia, especially among toucans. In this case, in order to be able to intervene, it is necessary to use Doxycycline, either through oral intake in the mildest cases or intravenously in the most severe cases.
  • Parasites: In the event that the food given to the toucan is in poor condition, it would not be surprising if it ended up having parasites. Because of this, you will lose your appetite, feel sad and despondent. In order to fight them, you have to take it to the vet.
  • Candidiasis: It is produced by a microscopic fungus, very present in nature, that attacks the bird when its immune system is weak. So, among the toucan’s foods, make sure you get enough vitamin C to be always ready to fight the disease and repel it.
  • Aspergillosis: It usually occurs especially in pigeons, which show a very slow development due to poor feeding. Other causes also include the accumulation of faeces in your home, which creates an ideal environment for the birth of fungi that are then inhaled by the youngsters that end up having this disease due to their low defenses.
  • Ascarids: A type of parasite that often attacks toucans and if left untreated is prematurely killed. The treatment is very easy, but they can be fatal if they are not removed within a week. The toucan will have lost its appetite, will feel despondent and may try to pull out feathers.
  • Plasmodium: Not a common type of parasite in toucans, but there have been some species that have been attacked by this parasite. It is usually due to a mild infection and usually causes the deaths. The toucan is aggressive, both with the owner and with his companions, which is the sign that he is being attacked by this parasite.

It’s time to breed, what do I have to do?

First of all, separate the couple of toucans you want them to raise. Remember that it is difficult to tell the difference between male and female, so you will need to use DNA testing to find out what sex each bird is.

Once the male and female have been identified, they should be given a nest, better made of quality wood, so that they are comfortable, although toucans usually place them inside tree holes. Toucans mate once a year and lay two to four white eggs.

toucan bird in the nature flying

The incubation period lasts from 15 to 20 days, sharing the time in the nest between the male and female. When they are born, the young have no feathers, are deaf and their eyes are kept closed for three weeks. They stay in the nest with their parents, being fed by them, until the two months when their beaks develop completely and it is time to separate them from their parents.

Before thinking about having young, it is important to bear in mind that the toucan is monogamous, so it is not possible to pair it with another bird once it has met its “love”. In addition, they are not sexually active until they are three years old.

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