Toucans as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: May 22, 2018
Toucans as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips

Toucans are colorful and tropical birds from the Ramphastidae family in the class of the Piciformes. They are visually unmistakable given their huge beak and bright colors that contrast with areas of fabulous black plumage. The different varieties of toucan are found in their native habitat, which ranges from Mexico down to Argentina. The largest and best-known variety is the toco toucan (Ramphastos toco).

Some people want to keep toucans as pets; in this AnimalWised article we will resolve your doubts and give you guidelines, general tips and more details about this beautiful and odd-looking bird.

You may also be interested in: Kiwis as Pets: General Guidelines and Tips

Is it legal to have a pet toucan?

Having a pet toucan is not legal everywhere. In some countries, their sale is strictly prohibited, and possession of these animals in captivity, even for breeding, is illegal. In those cases, the only way to respect the law and still enjoy the company of these wonderful birds would be to have a zoological certificate which respects the necessary codes.

In some states of the U.S. it is indeed possible to keep a toucan as a pet as long as you have the proper license. However, a bird with these features should be able to enjoy the wild or, at the very least, reside in a very practical and ideal habitat with appropriate care.

Toucans as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Is it legal to have a pet toucan?

Life expectancy of toucans

As is common among wild animals, a toucan's life expectancy is usually extended when living in captivity if it has proper care. We are talking about birds that can live between 15 and 20 years, which means a great deal of time for ongoing care and expense. If you want to keep a toucan as a pet, this is something that you must keep in mind before making any decisions.

Even taking into account all the time that the toucan may live, it's also important to understand that a toucan requires very specific care, and that kind of care isn't something that everyone can provide. Do your research and ask around.

Toucans as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Life expectancy of toucans

How to care for a pet toucan

The toucan must be offered a temperature between 18° C and 28° C (64º F to 82º F) and a high relative humidity level, at 60 to 85%. This is because toucans are tropical birds, and they should be kept in the closest manner to their native conditions.

Toucans are mostly vegetarian, but they do need some animal protein in their diet, which in their natural habitat is derived from insects, small lizards, nestlings and some rodents. The basis of their diet is fruit, followed by vegetables. This is because toucans have a very small stomach where food remains for very little time, so they need to eat very hydrating food like fruit. Among the most desirable fruits for toucans we can find:

  • Banana
  • Apple (seedless)
  • Pear
  • Melon
  • Mango

You can feed a tame toucan soft "meatballs"; they should be 2 or 3 centimeters (1 inch) in diameter, made with boiled rice, carrots, cucumber and potato, to compliment the toucan's fruit-based diet. These little supplements should include, occasionally, a bit of ground beef to balance their diet and make it somewhat similar to that of a toucan out in the wild. Toucans should have clean water at all times.

When we talk about animals that spend much of their time in a confined space, such as in a birdhouse or an aviary, it is worth remembering that there are no cages that are too big, but there are many that are too small.

Desirable minimum dimensions for an aviary for a pair of toucans are 4 m (high) x 3 m (wide) x 3 m (deep), that is, 13 x 10 x 10 feet. A toucan cage must have perches or crossing sticks if there isn't a nice hollow log for your feathered friend. However, do remember that these measures are minimal and that a toucan needs to exercise on a very regular basis, even when kept as a pet.

The hygiene and cleaning of a toucan's aviary must be very meticulous in order to avoid diseases, but it must not be carried out with ordinary household cleaning products. Use cleaners that are not harmful to our feathered friends. Toucans can be attacked by parasites; in that case it will be necessary to consult with an exotic animal veterinarian on which product is best suited to help these birds.

Toucans as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - How to care for a pet toucan

Keeping toucans as pets, then, is very difficult, time-consuming and expensive, and we at AnimalWised do not recommend it unless you are absolutely sure you have the resources and will to do it.

Check out out our articles to learn the benefits of keeping birds and tips on how to photograph birds.

If you want to read similar articles to Toucans as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.

Write a comment about Toucans as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips

Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
logan dalton
Are Toucans legal in Georgia?
Annette Yaba
Are toucans legal in Virginia
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi, before you can bring in wild or exotic birds, you will have to contact with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. They will advise on a case by case basis.
Great article; thank you.
Administrador AnimalWised
You are very welcome!
are toucans legal in oregon? like with a permit or something?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Dane,

While there has been relatively recent legislation denying new permits to certain animals such as lions, bears and apes, we can't find much specifically to do with toucans or other exotic birds. You will have to contact your local animal services directly.

Toucans as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips
1 of 4
Toucans as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips

Back to top