The Toucan

Quick Facts

- Good for novice owners
- Best solo or in groups
- Medium-large size
- Medium activity level
- High Trainability
- High sociability with people

Toucans are soft-billed birds that are native to the tropic regions of South and Central America and Mexico. There are 47 species of toucans and they are part of the Ramphastidae family. Toucanets and aracaris share the same family as Toucans and are extremely similar in looks and temperament; they are just smaller and usually less expensive in the pet market.

The first Toucans that were kept as pets were brought to Span in the 1500s by the first Spanish conquistadors for the Royal family and other nobility. Today, Toucans are available as pets to anyone who can afford one; they are far more expensive than the average pet bird. The most common toucans seen as pets are the Toco, Keel Bills, Swainson's Toucans, Emerald Toucanets, Guyana Toucanets, Collared Aracaris and the Green Aracaris.

Toucans make wonderful pets. They are highly intelligent and trainable, very affectionate and friendly, and in comparison to a parrot, they are easy to care for, low maintenance birds. However, Toucans do require daily dedication from their owner; they need attention, exercise and of course fresh food and water.

Toucans are highly intelligent and quite easy to train. They can be taught to play catch, roll over, move objects, go the washroom in their cage, ride on shoulders, and do other simple tricks. They enjoy having toys to play with and seem to really enjoy ropes and hard rubber toys. However, toucans are notorious for putting toys in their mouths and will swallow anything small enough to be swallowed.

Toucans differ from parrots, as they are far quieter and less messy. Toucans do not screech and scream like a parrot, but neither do they mimic human speech. They do tend to toss their seeds around a bit, but are generally far neater than the average parrot.

Toucans are affectionate birds that enjoy being petted. Many will fly over to greet their owner at the door when they come home and will happily sit upon their shoulders for hours. They like to cuddle and will often make a soft purring sound when they are happy. They are very social birds that need daily interaction and attention.

Toucans are very easygoing birds not given to aggression. They can be kept in the same room or even or the same perch as other birds that are similar in size to them. Unlike parrots that can break a child’s finger with a bite, toucans have very weak beak muscles and cannot bite hard. Toucans also do not have the constant need to chew the way parrots do and will not chew up the house.

Toucans require a large cage. Most toucan enthusiasts recommend a cage that is a minimum of 8’x 12’ x 8’ for one large toucan. Smaller toucan breeds can be housed in a cage that is a minimum of 4’ x 8’ x 4’. Toucans can be housed with other birds of a similar size as long as they have lots of room, but should not be housed with small finch sized birds, as they tend to bully them. Toucans should not have their wings clipped, as unlike other birds they cannot use their beaks to help them move around their cage. Their cage should have several perches that are of different sizes and textures. The cage should be kept away from drafts.

Appearance and Care:
Toucans are medium to large sized birds that range from 13-25 inches in length. Toucans are mostly black with white, yellow or red chests or accents. Toucans are best known for their large bright coloured bills that can grow to be one-third the size of their body. Their bills muscles are weaker than that of a parrot, but have saw-like edges that help them squish and tear up their food. Their tongue is feathered. Unlike parrots, they do not shed feather dust making them a bit easier for allergy suffers to live with.

Toucans require regular bathing and should be offered a swallow dish of water to bathe in daily.

Health and Diet:
Toucans are hardy birds with an average life span of 25-40 years. They are very resistant to viruses that affect many of the other pet birds and have a natural resistance to Psittacosis. However, they are susceptible to intestinal parasites such as roundworm. In addition, they have a high susceptibility to iron storage disease. Iron storage disease is a metabolic problem that causes the malabsorption of iron. To help prevent this problem Toucans should be fed a diet low in both iron and acid. Toucans are very sensitive to smoke and strong odours and should not be housed near a kitchen or anywhere smoky. At the first sign of illness, Toucans should be taken to a veterinarian. Some of the signs that a toucan is sick are weight loss, decreased appetite, fluffed up feathers, wheezing and coughing, discharge from nose and mouth and sitting on the bottom of their cage.

A proper diet is an essential part of maintaining a healthy toucan. Their diet should consist of around 45% low iron soft-bill pellets made especially for toucans, about 50% fresh fruits and about 5% vegetables. Most Toucans enjoy bananas, grapes, peaches, melon, pears, apples, blueberries, papayas and other fruit that is non-citrus. They should never be given citrus fruit like oranges and grapefruit as they can cause serious health problems. Toucans tend to be sensitive to the water they drink and need fresh filtered water; they should not be given tap water.


Located in: Birds