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Toco Toucan

Toco Toucan

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The Toco Toucan is the largest and probably the best known species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 in the toucan
Toucan
Toucans are members of the family Ramphastidae of near passerine birds from the Neotropics. The family is most closely related to the American barbets. They are brightly marked and have large, often colorful bills. The family includes five genera and about forty different species...

 family. It is found in semi-open habitats throughout a large part of central and eastern South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

. It is a common attraction in zoo
Zoo
A zoological garden, zoological park, menagerie, or zoo is a facility in which animals are confined within enclosures, displayed to the public, and in which they may also be bred....

s.

Description


The Toco Toucan has a striking plumage
Plumage
Plumage refers both to the layer of feathers that cover a bird and the pattern, colour, and arrangement of those feathers. The pattern and colours of plumage vary between species and subspecies and can also vary between different age classes, sexes, and season. Within species there can also be a...

 with a mainly black body, a white throat, chest and uppertail-coverts
Covert (feather)
A covert feather on a bird is one of a set of feathers, called coverts, which as the name implies, cover other feathers. The coverts help to smooth airflow over the wings and tail.- Wing-coverts :...

, and red undertail-coverts. What appears to be a blue iris
Iris (anatomy)
The iris is a thin, circular structure in the eye, responsible for controlling the diameter and size of the pupils and thus the amount of light reaching the retina. "Eye color" is the color of the iris, which can be green, blue, or brown. In some cases it can be hazel , grey, violet, or even pink...

 is actually thin blue skin around the eye. This blue skin is surrounded by another ring of bare, orange skin. The most noticeable feature, however, is its huge bill, which is yellow-orange, tending to deeper reddish-orange on its lower sections and culmen, and with a black base and large spot on the tip. It looks heavy, but as in other toucans it is relatively light because the inside largely is hollow. The tongue
Tongue
The tongue is a muscular hydrostat on the floors of the mouths of most vertebrates which manipulates food for mastication. It is the primary organ of taste , as much of the upper surface of the tongue is covered in papillae and taste buds. It is sensitive and kept moist by saliva, and is richly...

 is nearly as long as the bill
Beak
The beak, bill or rostrum is an external anatomical structure of birds which is used for eating and for grooming, manipulating objects, killing prey, fighting, probing for food, courtship and feeding young...

 and very flat. With a total length of 55–65 cm (22–26 in), incl. a bill that measures almost 20 cm (8 in), and a weight of 500–860 g (17.5-30 oz), it is the largest species of toucan and the largest representative of the order Piciformes
Piciformes
Nine families of largely arboreal birds make up the order Piciformes, the best-known of them being the Picidae, which includes the woodpeckers and close relatives...

. Males are larger than females, but otherwise both are alike. Juvenile
Juvenile (organism)
A juvenile is an individual organism that has not yet reached its adult form, sexual maturity or size. Juveniles sometimes look very different from the adult form, particularly in terms of their colour...

s are duller and shorter-billed than adults. Its voice consists of a deep, coarse croaking, often repeated every few seconds. It also has a rattling call and will bill-clack.

Distribution




It occurs in northern and eastern Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

, extreme south-eastern Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

, northern Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, eastern and central Paraguay
Paraguay
Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

, eastern and southern Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 (excluding southern Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul is the southernmost state in Brazil, and the state with the fifth highest Human Development Index in the country. In this state is located the southernmost city in the country, Chuí, on the border with Uruguay. In the region of Bento Gonçalves and Caxias do Sul, the largest wine...

, the dry regions dominated by Caatinga
Caatinga
Caatinga is a type of vegetation, and an ecoregion characterized by this vegetation in the northeastern part of Brazil. The name "Caatinga" is a Tupi word meaning "white forest" or "white vegetation"...

 vegetation and coastal regions between Ceará
Ceará
Ceará is one of the 27 states of Brazil, located in the northeastern part of the country, on the Atlantic coast. It is currently the 8th largest Brazilian State by population and the 17th by area. It is also one of the main touristic destinations in Brazil. The state capital is the city of...

 and Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro (state)
Rio de Janeiro is one of the 27 states of Brazil.Rio de Janeiro has the second largest economy of Brazil behind only São Paulo state.The state of Rio de Janeiro is located within the Brazilian geopolitical region classified as the Southeast...

). Other disjunct populations occur along the lower Amazon River
Amazon River
The Amazon of South America is the second longest river in the world and by far the largest by waterflow with an average discharge greater than the next seven largest rivers combined...

 (Ilha de Marajó
Marajó
Marajó is an island located at the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil. It is part of the state of Pará.- Geography :With a land area of 40,100 km² , which compares to the size of Switzerland, it is the largest island to be completely surrounded by freshwater in the world...

 west approximately to the Madeira River
Madeira River
The Madeira River is a major waterway in South America, approximately 3,250 km miles long The Madeira is the biggest tributary of the Amazon...

), far northern Brazil in Roraima
Roraima
Roraima is the northernmost and least populated state of Brazil, located in the Amazon region. It borders the states of Amazonas and Pará, as well as the nations of Venezuela and Guyana. The population is 400,000 and the capital is Boa Vista...

, and coastal regions of the Guianas
The Guianas
The Guyanas or the Guianas refers to a region in north-eastern South America which includes the following three territories:* French Guiana, an overseas department of France;...

. It only penetrates the Amazon
Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest , also known in English as Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf forest that covers most of the Amazon Basin of South America...

 in relatively open areas (e.g. along river corridor
Wildlife corridor
A wildlife corridor or green corridor is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities . This allows an exchange of individuals between populations, which may help prevent the negative effects of inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity that often occur within...

s). It is resident, but local movements may occur.

Habitat and status


It is, unlike the other members of the genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Ramphastos
Ramphastos
Ramphastos is a genus of toucans, tropical and subtropical near passerine birds from Mexico, and Central and South America, which are brightly marked and have enormous, often colourful, bills....

, essentially a non-forest species. It can be found in a wide range of semi-open habitats such as woodland
Woodland
Ecologically, a woodland is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of...

, savanna
Savanna
A savanna, or savannah, is a grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently small or widely spaced so that the canopy does not close. The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of C4 grasses.Some...

 and other open habitats with scattered trees, Cerrado
Cerrado
The Cerrado, is a vast tropical savanna ecoregion of Brazil, particularly in the states of Gioas and Minas Gerais...

, plantations, forest-edge, and even wooded gardens. It is mainly a species of lowland
Lowland
In physical geography, a lowland is any broad expanse of land with a general low level. The term is thus applied to the landward portion of the upward slope from oceanic depths to continental highlands, to a region of depression in the interior of a mountainous region, to a plain of denudation, or...

s, but occurs up to 1750 m (5750 ft) near the Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 in Bolivia. Because it prefers open habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

s it is likely to benefit from the widespread deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 in tropical
Tropics
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

 South America. It has a large range and except in the outer regions of its range
Range (biology)
In biology, the range or distribution of a species is the geographical area within which that species can be found. Within that range, dispersion is variation in local density.The term is often qualified:...

, it typically is fairly common. It is therefore considered to be of Least Concern
Least Concern
Least Concern is an IUCN category assigned to extant taxon or lower taxa which have been evaluated but do not qualify for any other category. As such they do not qualify as threatened, Near Threatened, or Conservation Dependent...

 by BirdLife International
BirdLife International
BirdLife International is a global Partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources...

. It is easily seen in the Pantanal
Pantanal
The Pantanal is a tropical wetland and one of the world's largest wetland of any kind. Most of it lies within the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, but it extends into Mato Grosso and portions of Bolivia and Paraguay, sprawling over an area estimated at between and...

.

Behavior


The Toco Toucan eats fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

 (e.g. fig
Common fig
The Common fig is a deciduous tree growing to heights of up to 6 m in the genus Ficus from the family Moraceae known as Common fig tree. It is a temperate species native to the Middle East.-Description:...

s and Passiflora edulis
Passiflora edulis
Passiflora edulis is a vine species of passion flower that is native to Paraguay, Brazil and northern Argentina . Its common names include passion fruit and passionfruit...

) using its bill to pluck them from tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s, but also insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s, frog
Frog
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura , formerly referred to as Salientia . Most frogs are characterized by a short body, webbed digits , protruding eyes and the absence of a tail...

s, small reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

s and nestlings, and eggs of birds. It also has been known to capture and eat small adult birds in captivity
Captivity (animal)
Animals that live under human care are in captivity. Captivity can be used as a generalizing term to describe the keeping of either domesticated animals or wild animals. This may include for example farms, private homes and zoos...

. The long bill is useful for reaching things that otherwise would be out-of-reach. It is also used to skin fruit and scare off predator
Predation
In ecology, predation describes a biological interaction where a predator feeds on its prey . Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation always results in the death of its prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through consumption...

s. It is typically seen in pairs or small groups. In flight it alternates between a burst of rapid flaps with the relatively short, rounded wings, and gliding. They are poor flyers, and usually hop from tree to tree. Nesting is seasonal, but timing differs between regions. The nest
Bird nest
A bird nest is the spot in which a bird lays and incubates its eggs and raises its young. Although the term popularly refers to a specific structure made by the bird itself—such as the grassy cup nest of the American Robin or Eurasian Blackbird, or the elaborately woven hanging nest of the...

 is typically placed high in a tree and consists of a cavity, at least part of which is excavated by the parent birds themselves. It has also been recorded nesting in holes in earth-banks and terrestrial
Terrestrial animal
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land , as compared with aquatic animals, which live predominantly or entirely in the water , or amphibians, which rely on a combination of aquatic and terrestrial habitats...

 termite
Termite
Termites are a group of eusocial insects that, until recently, were classified at the taxonomic rank of order Isoptera , but are now accepted as the epifamily Termitoidae, of the cockroach order Blattodea...

-nests. Their reproduction cycle is annual. The female usually lays two to four eggs
Bird egg
Bird eggs are laid by females and incubated for a time that varies according to the species; a single young hatches from each egg. Average clutch sizes range from one to about 17...

 a few days after mating. The eggs are incubated
Avian incubation
Incubation refers to the process by which certain oviparous animals hatch their eggs, and to the development of the embryo within the egg. The most vital factor of incubation is the constant temperature required for its development over a specific period. Especially in domestic fowl, the act of...

 by both sexes and hatch after 17–18 days. These birds are very protective of themselves and of their babies.

Bill function


The bill is largest beak relative to body size of all birds providing 30 to 50% of its body surface area. It was called by Buffon
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was a French naturalist, mathematician, cosmologist, and encyclopedic author.His works influenced the next two generations of naturalists, including Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Georges Cuvier...

 a “grossly monstrous” appendage. Diverse functions have been suggested. Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 suggested it was a sexual ornament
Sexual selection
Sexual selection, a concept introduced by Charles Darwin in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, is a significant element of his theory of natural selection...

: “toucans may owe the enormous size of their beaks to sexual selection, for the sake of displaying the diversified and vivid stripes of colour with which these organs are ornamented". Further suggestions have included aid in peeling fruit, intimidating other birds when robbing their nests, social selection related to defense of territory, and as a visual warning.

Research has shown that one function is as a surface area for heat exchange
Heat transfer
Heat transfer is a discipline of thermal engineering that concerns the exchange of thermal energy from one physical system to another. Heat transfer is classified into various mechanisms, such as heat conduction, convection, thermal radiation, and phase-change transfer...

. The bill has the ability to modify blood flow and so regulate heat distribution in the bird, allowing it to use its bill as a thermal radiator. In terms of surface area used for this function, the bill relative to the bird's size is amongst the largest of any animal and has a network of superficial blood vessels supporting the thin horny sheath on the bill made of keratin
Keratin
Keratin refers to a family of fibrous structural proteins. Keratin is the key of structural material making up the outer layer of human skin. It is also the key structural component of hair and nails...

 called the rhamphotheca.

In its capacity to remove body heat the bill is comparable to that of elephant
Elephant
Elephants are large land mammals in two extant genera of the family Elephantidae: Elephas and Loxodonta, with the third genus Mammuthus extinct...

 ears. The ability to radiate heat depends upon air speed: if this is low only 25% of the adult bird's resting heat production to as much as four times this heart production. In comparison the bill of a duck and the ears of elephant can shed only 9 to 91% of resting heat production. The bill normally is responsible for 30 to 60% of heat loss. The practice of Toco Toucan's of placing their bills under their wings may serve to insulate the bill and reduce heat loss during sleep. It has been observed that "complexities of the vasculature and controlling mechanisms needed to adjust the blood flow to the bill may not be completely developed until
adulthood."

Aviculture


The Toco Toucan is sometimes kept in captivity, but has a high fruit diet and is sensitive to haemochromatosis
Haemochromatosis
Haemochromatosis type 1 is a hereditary disease characterized by excessive intestinal absorption of dietary iron resulting in a pathological increase in total body iron stores. Humans, like most animals, have no means to excrete excess iron...

 (an iron storage disease). Also, pet Toco Toucans must not be permitted to eat mouse
Mouse
A mouse is a small mammal belonging to the order of rodents. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse . It is also a popular pet. In some places, certain kinds of field mice are also common. This rodent is eaten by large birds such as hawks and eagles...

 (or rat) meat, due to a risk of bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

l infection
Infection
An infection is the colonization of a host organism by parasite species. Infecting parasites seek to use the host's resources to reproduce, often resulting in disease...

. There is an ongoing population management plan that should help to revert the decreasing captive population of the Toco Toucan for Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Association of Zoos and Aquariums
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums was founded in 1924 and is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and public aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation.The AZA headquarters is located in Silver...

 (AZA) member institutions. This will be the second management plan that is occurring since 2001.

External links


  • Extensive Gallery on Toucans
  • List of Toucans
  • Toco Toucan videos on the Internet Bird Collection
  • St. Louis Zoo About the Animals
  • Biology of Toucans
  • Nashville Zoo Toco Toucan Breeding
  • Toucan Species
  • Stamps (for Argentina
    Argentina
    Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

    , Bolivia
    Bolivia
    Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

    , Brazil
    Brazil
    Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

    , French Guiana
    French Guiana
    French Guiana is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It has borders with two nations, Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west...

    , Guyana
    Guyana
    Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

    , Paraguay
    Paraguay
    Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

    )
  • Toco Toucan photo gallery VIREO

Further reading

  • Bibliography of online, ornithological articles which explore the natural history of the Toco toucan, Ramphastos toco toco.