The Keel-billed Toucan of Costa Rica
One of the more well-known toucans of Costa Rica and the tropics. The Keel Billed Toucan’s image has been used in advertisements and artwork due to its striking beak.
The Keel-billed Toucan Distribution
The Keel-billed Toucan is found from Southern Mexico, through Central America and into parts of Colombia and Venezuela. It makes its home in the holes of trees in the canopy of tropical, subtropical and lowland rainforests. It can be found from sea level up to 1,900 meters (6,200 feet) in elevation.
Mating & Reproduction
Keel-billed Toucans appear to be monogamous. The males of the species seek to attract the affections of the female by performing a number of vocal and visual displays. Females and males will playfully toss food to each other in sort of duel, and once paired they stay together at least throughout the year if not longer. The pair will also defend their territory from other fruit eating birds that might want to forage at their tree.
Mating occurs in the rainy season, and, once impregnated, females will lay their eggs into the cavity of trees. These cavities are often naturally made, but the toucans will also carve out a space for the eggs at times. The pair then take turns incubating the eggs, and once the chicks are born they take turns feeding their offspring, as well.
When the baby chicks hatch, they have closed eyes that will not open for several days. They are also born in the buff, and they will not have feathers for about 37 days. Their beaks are also unformed until they are about 16 days old, but the beaks do not reach maturity until they are 4 months old.
Keel-billed Toucans are very social animals, and often call out to each other in the breeding season or molting season. Their calls are distinctive, and they can be heard from the forest floor. They nest in naturally hollow cavities in trees, or in cavities that have been hollowed out by woodpeckers. Often, several birds will roost in the same cavity, and they do so by tucking their large bills and tails into their breasts.
Keel-billed Toucans mostly forage for fruit in the forest canopy, but they will also eat eggs, small reptiles, small birds, insects and nestlings.
The Keel-billed Toucans beak appears to be a cumbersome and heavy affair, but the beak is actually quite lightweight and strong. The bird’s beak is made up of spongy, hollow bones that are covered in keratin.
These toucans are also unaccomplished flyers. Their heavy wings don’t accommodate them in flight, but they are agile birds due to their feet. The Keel-billed Toucan’s feet are zygodactyl; meaning that they have three toes with two facing in front and one behind. These toes, which are somewhat like thumbs in terms of grip, help them to maintain position in the trees where they spend most of their time.
Locations in Costa Rica: Cahuita National Park, La Selva Biological Station, Turrialba Volcano National Park, Tortuguero National Park
Diet: fruit, nestlings, insects, small reptiles, small birds, eggs
Migration Pattern: non-migratory
Habitat: tropical forests, subtropical forests, lowland forests
Size: length=42-55 cm weight=380-500 grams (Females are smaller than males)
Species: Ramphastos sulfuratus