Toucan

Toucan

Overview
Toucans are members of the family Ramphastidae of near passerine
Near passerine
Near passerine or higher land-bird assemblage are terms often given to arboreal birds or those most often believed to be related to the true passerines due to ecological similarities; the group corresponds to some extent with the Anomalogonatae of Garrod All near passerines are land birds...

 birds from the Neotropics. The family is most closely related to the American barbets. They are brightly marked and have large, often colorful bills
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...

. The family includes five genera
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...

 and about forty different 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...

. The name of this bird group is derived from the Tupi word tukana, via Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

.


Toucans range in size from the Lettered Aracari
Lettered Aracari
The Lettered Aracari is a species of bird in the toucan family.-Distribution and habitat:It is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru...

 (Pteroglossus inscriptus), at 130 g (4.6 oz) and 29 cm (11.5 inches), to the Toco Toucan
Toco Toucan
The Toco Toucan is the largest and probably the best known species in the toucan family. It is found in semi-open habitats throughout a large part of central and eastern South America...

 (Ramphastos toco), at 680 g (1.5 lb) and 63 cm (29 inches).
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Encyclopedia
Toucans are members of the family Ramphastidae of near passerine
Near passerine
Near passerine or higher land-bird assemblage are terms often given to arboreal birds or those most often believed to be related to the true passerines due to ecological similarities; the group corresponds to some extent with the Anomalogonatae of Garrod All near passerines are land birds...

 birds from the Neotropics. The family is most closely related to the American barbets. They are brightly marked and have large, often colorful bills
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...

. The family includes five genera
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...

 and about forty different 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...

. The name of this bird group is derived from the Tupi word tukana, via Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

.

Morphology



Toucans range in size from the Lettered Aracari
Lettered Aracari
The Lettered Aracari is a species of bird in the toucan family.-Distribution and habitat:It is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru...

 (Pteroglossus inscriptus), at 130 g (4.6 oz) and 29 cm (11.5 inches), to the Toco Toucan
Toco Toucan
The Toco Toucan is the largest and probably the best known species in the toucan family. It is found in semi-open habitats throughout a large part of central and eastern South America...

 (Ramphastos toco), at 680 g (1.5 lb) and 63 cm (29 inches). Their bodies are short (of comparable size to a crow's
Crow
Crows form the genus Corvus in the family Corvidae. Ranging in size from the relatively small pigeon-size jackdaws to the Common Raven of the Holarctic region and Thick-billed Raven of the highlands of Ethiopia, the 40 or so members of this genus occur on all temperate continents and several...

) and compact. The tail is rounded and varies in length, from half the length to the whole length of the body. The neck is short and thick. The wings are small, as they are forest-dwelling birds who only need to travel short distances, and are often of about the same span as the bill-tip-to-tail-tip measurements of the bird.

The legs of a toucan are strong and rather short. Their toes are arranged in pairs with the first and fourth toes turned backward. The majority of toucans do not show any sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism is a phenotypic difference between males and females of the same species. Examples of such differences include differences in morphology, ornamentation, and behavior.-Examples:-Ornamentation / coloration:...

 in their coloration, the genus Selenidera
Selenidera
Selenidera is a bird genus containing six species of dichromatic toucanets in the toucan family Ramphastidae. They are found in lowland rainforest in tropical South America with one species reaching Central America....

being the most notable exception to this rule (hence their common name, "dichromatic toucanets"). However, the bills of female toucans are usually shorter, deeper and sometimes straighter, giving more of a "blocky" impression compared to male bills. The feathers in the genus containing the largest toucans are generally black, with touches of white, yellow, and scarlet. The underparts of the araçari
Aracari
The aracaris are medium-sized toucans in the genus Pteroglossus. As denoted by the presence of the cedilla on the C , the proper pronunciation is "ahr-uh-SAHR-ee" not "ahr-uh-KAR-ee"....

s (smaller toucans) are yellow, crossed by one or more black or red bands. The toucanets have mostly green plumage with blue markings.


The colorful, giant 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...

, which in some large species measure more than half the length of the body, is the hallmark of toucans. Despite its size it is very light, being composed of bone struts filled with spongy tissue
Spongy tissue
Spongy tissue is a type of tissue found both in plants and animals.In plants, it is part of the mesophyll, where it forms a layer next to the palisade cells in the leaf. It is also the name of a disorder of fruit ripening which can reduce the value of a fruit yield, especially in mango...

 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...

 between them. The bill has forward-facing serration
Serration
Serration generally refers to a saw-like appearance or a row of sharp or tooth-like projections. A serrated cutting edge has many small points of contact with the material being cut. By having less contact area than a smooth blade or other edge, the applied force at each point of contact is...

s resembling teeth, which historically led naturalists to believe that toucans captured fish and were primarily carnivorous; today it is known that they eat mostly fruit. Researchers have discovered that the large bill of the toucan is a highly efficient thermoregulation
Thermoregulation
Thermoregulation is the ability of an organism to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is very different...

 system, though its size may still be advantageous in other ways. It does aid in their feeding behavior (as they sit in one spot and reach for all fruit in range, thereby reducing energy expenditure), and it has also been theorized that the bill may intimidate smaller birds, so that the toucan may plunder nests undisturbed (see Diet below). Also, the beak allows the bird to reach deep into tree-holes to access food unavailable to other birds, and also to ransack suspended nests built by smaller birds. However, as there is no sexual dimorphism in coloration it is unlikely to be a sexual signal
Signalling theory
Within evolutionary biology, signalling theory is a body of theoretical work examining communication between individuals. The central question is when organisms with conflicting interests should be expected to communicate "honestly"...

.

A toucan's tongue is long (up to 14–15 cm, or 6 inches), narrow, grey, and singularly frayed on each side, adding to its sensitivity as an organ of taste.

A structural complex probably unique to toucans involves the modification of several tail vertebrae. The rear three vertebrae are fused and attached to the spine by a ball and socket joint
Ball and socket joint
A ball and socket joint is a joint in which the distal bone is capable of motion around an indefinite number of axes, which have one common center...

. Because of this, toucans may snap their tail forwards until it touches the head. This is the posture in which they sleep, often appearing simply as a ball of feathers, with the tip of the tail sticking out over the head.

Toucans are arboreal and typically lay 2–4 white eggs
Egg (biology)
An egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing...

 in their nests. They make their nests in tree hollow
Tree hollow
A tree hollow or tree hole is a semi-enclosed cavity which has naturally formed in the trunk or branch of a tree. These are predominantly found in old trees, whether living or not...

s and holes excavated by other animals such as woodpecker
Woodpecker
Woodpeckers are near passerine birds of the order Piciformes. They are one subfamily in the family Picidae, which also includes the piculets and wrynecks. They are found worldwide and include about 180 species....

s—the toucan bill has very limited use as an excavation tool. When the eggs hatch, the young emerge completely naked, without any down
Down feathers
The down of birds is a layer of fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers. Very young birds are clad only in down. Powder down is a specialized type of down found only in a few groups of birds. Down is a fine thermal insulator and padding, used in goods such as jackets, bedding,...

. Toucans are resident breeders and do not migrate
Bird migration
Bird migration is the regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds. Bird movements include those made in response to changes in food availability, habitat or weather. Sometimes, journeys are not termed "true migration" because they are irregular or in only one direction...

. Toucans are usually found in pairs or small flocks. They sometimes fence with their bills and wrestle, which scientists hypothesize they do to establish dominance hierarchies.

Diet


Toucans are primarily frugivorous
Frugivore
A frugivore is a fruit eater. It can be any type of herbivore or omnivore where fruit is a preferred food type. Because approximately 20% of all mammalian herbivores also eat fruit, frugivory is considered to be common among mammals. Since frugivores eat a lot of fruit they are highly dependent...

 (fruit eating), but are opportunistically omnivorous and will take prey such as 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 and small lizard
Lizard
Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with nearly 3800 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica as well as most oceanic island chains...

s. Captive toucans have been reported to actively hunt insects in their cages, and it is possible to keep toucans on an insect-only diet. They also plunder nests of smaller birds, taking eggs and nestlings. This probably provides a crucial addition of protein to their diet. However, in their range, toucans are the dominant frugivores, and as such play an extremely important ecological role as vectors
Vector (dispersal)
In the biology of dispersal, a dispersal vector is "an agent transporting seeds or other dispersal units". Dispersal vectors may include biotic factors, such as animals, or abiotic factors, such as the wind....

 for seed dispersal of fruiting trees. Often when eating small fruits, toucans will throw their heads back and allow the fruit to roll into their throats before swallowing.

Systematic list

  • Genus Aulacorhynchus
    Aulacorhynchus
    The green toucanets are near-passerine birds from the genus Aulacorhynchus in the toucan family. They are native to Mexico, and Central and South America. All are found in humid forests and woodlands in highlands, but a few also occur in adjacent lowlands. They are relatively small toucans, ...

    —green toucanets (6–15 species, depending on taxonomy
    Taxonomy
    Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into a classification. The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as "biological taxonomy", revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa...

    )
  • Genus Selenidera
    Selenidera
    Selenidera is a bird genus containing six species of dichromatic toucanets in the toucan family Ramphastidae. They are found in lowland rainforest in tropical South America with one species reaching Central America....

    —dichromatic toucanets (6 species)
  • Genus Andigena
    Andigena
    Andigena, the mountain toucans, is a genus of birds in the Ramphastidae family. They are found in humid highland forests in the Andes of South America, ranging from Bolivia to Venezuela...

    —mountain toucans (4 species)
  • Genus Pteroglossus—araçaris (14 species, incl. Saffron Toucanet
    Saffron Toucanet
    The Saffron Toucanet is a species of bird in the Ramphastidae family. It was formerly placed in the monotypic genus Baillonius, but Kimura et al. was able to show that the Saffron Toucanet belong in the genus Pteroglossus...

    )
  • Genus 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....

    —Typical toucans (about 8 species)

See also

  • Toucan Sam
    Toucan Sam
    Toucan Sam is the cartoon mascot for Froot Loops breakfast cereal. The character has been featured in advertising since the 1960s. He exhibits the ability to smell out Froot Loops from great distances and invariably locates a concealed bowl of the cereal while intoning, "Follow my nose! It always...

    , cartoon
  • Van der Valk (company)
    Van der Valk (company)
    Van der Valk is the largest hospitality chain in The Netherlands, with 59 branches in the Netherlands and 30 hotels in other countries , and is run by the Van der Valk family...

    , a Dutch hospitality chain which is identified by its toucan logo

External links