what does toucan eat

What Does Toucan Eat?

Toucans are extraordinary birds, with huge, colorful bills and silky feathers. They truly are a gift from nature. They are very well-known creatures because of their unique visual characteristics and habits. Those tropical birds love the forests and mountains, and they are very beneficial to nature. When seeing their huge beaks, it is impossible not to wonder what do toucans eat? 

However, the question is not only “What does a toucan eat?” It’s also “How do they eat whatever they eat? 

Biology Of Toucans

Toucans come from the Ramphastiday family. The toucan family includes toucans, aracaris, and toucanets. There are 40 different species depending on the species of toucan, but their size can be somewhere between 11 and 25 inches. Their bills can be much longer than the actual body. It helps them maintain their body temperature.

The most famous and widespread species are Aracaris and Toucanets. We may consider the Toco toucan to be the most famous and well-known of their species, with its bright orange beak and black wings. They sleep by touching their tails to their heads, which is kind of like a huge ball of feathers. 

Toucans are found mainly in the central and southern American rainforests. Habitat is mainly restricted to the forests. Preferences are the ones with bigger and older trees that have holes large enough that they can breed in. They are woodland birds and build their nests by carving holes in trees. They are resident breeders and always stay in the same ecosystem that they live in. The only toucan species that lives outside of the forest is the Toco toucan. The Toco toucan is found mainly in savannah, where there are forest patches and open woodlands. 

Toucans are mainly seen together with their mate or flock, which can consist of 10 or 20 birds. They spend most of their day in the trees and rarely visit the ground. Scientists think that they like to establish dominance in the population. To achieve this, they wrestle and fence with their bills. 

Now let’s start discussing what does toucan eat and take a look at their eating habits.

Eating Habits Of Toucan

Toucans are mainly frugivorous eaters, meaning that they eat fruits. However, they are also omnivorous eaters, meaning that they can be opportunistic predators. Fruit is considered to be the main part of the toucan’s diet. However, they will eat insects and small animals too. They have a pretty important role in the tropical ecosystem, mainly because they spread fruit tree seeds. 

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Even though they are beautiful and may seem harmless, they can be pretty cruel. For example, it can raid other birds’ and creatures’ nests and eat nestlings and eggs. 

Their bills give them an opportunity to reach into the tree holes to get some food and even reach out to the ones that are hanging on the branches. So, what does toucan eat? They will eat food that can be larger in size. When it happens, they throw it up in the air several times. It keeps going until the food is crushed down so they can swallow it. 

Toucans have very long tongues and have no teeth at all. Their tongue is mainly used in the eating process. With it, they push the food back into the throat. It also protects them from getting the food trapped on the roof of the bill.

Those omnivorous birds can eat six times a day. It is mainly dependent on what they find and what the amount is. However, they mainly feed on smaller portions. 

What Does Toucan Eat In The Wild?

Toucans are tropical birds and come in many different species. Even though they have many similar behaviors, their eating habits and characteristics can be pretty different. Eating habits mainly depend on the type of toucan and the living environment. So, what does toucan eat in their natural habitats? 

Those beautiful birds mainly live in hot and humid places. In the rainforests, they require a diet that is high in moisture. The body will need to have the proper amount of water to function properly. 

Toucans are not picky eaters. Even though their diet mainly consists of berries, fruits, and insects, they will eat creatures that are smaller in sizes, such as lizards, rodents, and birds. They are pretty flexible eaters and can eat whatever is available to them seasonally. 

What does toucan eat exactly? Toucans’ main diet consists of fruit. Their favorite fruits to eat are dragon fruit, figs, watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, and papaya. However, oranges, guavas, figs, and peppers are their favorites. The Emerald toucanet’s diet consists of more than 113 species of plants. For some species, the Cecropia trees and Oenocarpus Bacaba palm tree fruits are the most important part of the diet. 

All species of toucan eat insects. Insects are the main source of protein for them. The insects that they enjoy the most are crickets, termites, cicadas, caterpillars, moths, mealworms, and larvae of various kinds. 

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Even though their main diet is fruit and vegetables, they will not refuse other foods that they find easily available. Toucans love rodents, especially mice. However, they will also hunt squirrels and muskrats. Since they are opportunistic predators, they can be a threat to frogs, lizards, and small birds. They have been rarely seen eating amphibious worms like Caecilians. The Toco toucan does not have a problem eating blackbird, dove, and flycatcher eggs and nestlings. 

They can be pretty vigorous and aggressive hunters. They have been seen to attack blackbirds, hummingbirds, parrots, doves, tanagers, and even flycatchers. 

Toucan’s digestive system has one weak spot, and that is digesting specific seeds of the fruit. Therefore, they will not eat the seeds and will drop them while eating. They also rarely drink water; they get all of their water from the juicy fruits they eat, such as guavas and citrus.

What Does Toucan Eat In Captivity?

Have you ever wondered what does toucan eat while it’s in captivity? Perhaps unsurprisingly, toucans are considered to be great pets because of their beauty, characteristics, and longer lifespan if treated correctly. However, what most people do not understand is that they are wild birds, and in captivity, if they are not treated well enough, they can die. 

Toucans in captivity can be fed from 2 to 6 times a day. Depending on how big the meal is, they have almost the same food preferences as they do in the wild. They have a small and unusable crop, so they are unable to store their food to eat later, as other birds do. So, they require regular feeding. 

Pet and captive toucans require a specific diet that is high in low-iron pellet food and fruit. For example, they should be fed bananas, apples, pears, mangos, pear, papaya, and melon. Domestic toucans will eventually need to eat some protein too. They will appreciate mealworms and larvae. Toucans will feed on some insects that can be available around them. 

However, they need to have many insects in their diet. There are some commercial foods that are produced for pet toucans. However, the food needs to have a balanced amount of iron. Overconsumption of iron can cause diseases such as hemochromatosis.

How Fledglings Are Fed?

Female toucans can lay up to four eggs, and both parents take care of them until they hatch. Baby toucans do not have big bills; they only develop them as they mature. Newborn toucans are called fledglings. As we already mentioned, they do the biparental care until the babies are old enough to take care of themselves. Both female and male parents feed the fledglings. 

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What does toucan eat as a baby? Mainly, in the beginning, they are fed the food processed by their parents. As they grow slowly, they start the transition to food such as soft berries and tiny insects. Parents eat and regurgitate the food in their mouths and then give it to their fledglings to eat. During the breeding season and after hatching the eggs, toucans increase insect hunting and intake. That is because insects have more protein, which is an essential element for growth.

Threats to Toucans

We already discussed what does toucan eat. However, it is interesting to know what the threats are to them. Even though toucans have a big beak and will most likely scare all other animals away, they are still prey to some predators such as boas, eagles, jaguars, owls, hawks, margays, and humans. 

The greatest problems for them currently are deforestation and hunting. Humans hunt toucans, and even though they are good fliers, they can be easy to capture.

Interesting Facts about What Does Toucan Eat

  • Toucans are very noisy. Their sounds look like a frog croaking. Some toucan voices can also be similar to those of bark and growl.
  • Toucans help the environment and forest by dropping fruit seeds along the way. They are great propagators. 
  • Large bills of toucans act as a heatsink. It helps toucans cool down when the temperature is high. 
  • Toucans hunt other birds, such as parrots. However, they will only kill them and not be able to eat them.

Bottom Line

It is hard to specify exactly what does toucan eat. Different species may have their own preferences, and the living environment can have a huge effect on eating habits. In general, they mostly eat fruits and vegetables. However, they get their protein from the insects and smaller animals that they can handle. 

Toucans are an amazing and beautiful part of the ecosystem. They help nature and keep the life cycle going. Those awe-spiring creatures truly deserve protection and love from humans. 

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