Types of Toucans - Different Toucan Species
Along with barbets, toucans make up the birds found in the Ramphastidae family, itself belonging to the order Piciformes. Toucans are arboreal and inhabit the forests of the Americas with a habitat ranging from Mexico to Argentina. Toucans are very intelligent birds, but they are particularly noted for their physical appearance. This is due to their vibrant plumage colorations and characteristically long beaks.
The best known toucan is the largest, a bird known as the toco toucan (Ramphasto toco). However, there are more than 40 species of Toucan to be found. In this AnimalWised article on types of toucans, we reveal what are the different toucan species, as well as their characteristics and photos of what they look like.
Characteristics of different types of toucans
All types of toucans that exist have a series of characters that allows their grouping within the same taxonomic group. The common characteristics of toucans include the following:
- Beak: all toucans have a long, wide and downward curved beak. It can be of various colors, including black and white or yellow. Its edges are serrated and sharp, with air chambers to make it lighter and reduce strain on their head. In addition to eating, they use their beaks to eliminate heat and regulate their temperature.
- Plumage: the color of their plumage varies greatly between the different types of toucans that exist, although black, green, blue, white and yellow colors usually dominate. A peculiar characteristic is that the orbital zone around the eye is usually of a different color.
- Wings: their wings are short and rounded, meaning they are best adapted to short flights.
- Habitat: toucans are arboreal and inhabit the canopy of forests. They are generally quite sedentary, although they can make regional migrations looking for seasonal fruit.
- Food: most are toucans are types of frugivorous animals, i.e. they mainly feed on fruit. However, the diet of the toucan may also include seeds, leaves, eggs, insects and small vertebrates, such as lizards.
- Social behavior: they are monogamous animals and live with the same partner all their lives. In addition, many form family groups of more than 4 individuals.
- Reproduction: after a mating ritual in which the male feeds the female, both mates build a nest in the hollow of a tree. Afterwards, the females lay their eggs and both parents take care of both incubation and rearing.
- Threats: the toucan family is considered vulnerable due to the destruction of habitat as a result of deforestation. According to the IUCN, although none of the types of toucans that exist are in danger of extinction, the number of their populations is in constant decline.
Toucans are not the only bird with an elongated beak. Take a look at our related article to find out the different types of birds with long beaks.
Types of toucans
As with many types of bird, different toucan species are grouped into categories depending on certain factors. With the toucan, they are usually differentiated by size. Toucans are grouped into three categories according to size:
- Toucans: the largest type of toucan.
- Aracaris: medium-sized toucans.
- Toucanets: small toucans.
This size grouping is loose and does not affect their taxonomic ordering. According to modern classification, there are five genera of toucan:
- Green toucanets (Aulacorhynchus)
- Dichromatic toucanets (Selenidera)
- Mountain toucans (Andigena)
- Aracari (Pteroglossus)
- Toucans (Ramphastos)
Within these different genera of toucans, we can find various types of toucan species. We look at some of these different toucan species in more detail below.
Green toucanets (Aulacorhynchus)
Green toucanets (Aulacorhynchus) are distributed throughout the humid forests of the Neotropics, from southern Mexico to Bolivia. They are small, green types toucans that are between 30 and 40 cm long and have a long, stepped tail. Their bill is usually black, white, yellow or reddish.
Examples of green toucanets
The different species of toucanets present variations in color, size, bill shape and vocalizations. The following are some examples:
- Emerald toucanet (A. prasinus)
- Chestnut-tipped toucanet (A. derbianus)
- Groove-billed toucanet (A. sulcatus)
If you want to know about other types of small birds, take a look at our guide to the different types of hummingbirds.
Dichromatic toucanets (Selenidera)
Dichromatic toucanets (Selenidera) inhabit the forests of the northern half of South America. They are characterized by having a dark black beak with white or, sometimes, gray tones. As in the previous group, its size is between 30 and 40 cm, making them part of the small toucanet group.
These jungle animals are markedly sexually dimorphic animals. Males have a black throat and chest, while females have a brown chest and a slightly shorter bill. In some species, males have a red and yellow stripe that starts from the orbital area, while the females do not have this feature.
Examples of dichromatic toucanets
Among the species of dicrhomatic toucanets, we find the following:
- Spot-billed toucanet (S. maculirostris)
- Yellow-eared toucanet (S. spectabilis)
- Gould's toucanet (S. gouldii)
Mountain toucans (Andigena)
As their name suggests, mountain toucans (Andigena) are distributed in the humid forests of mountain ranges. Specifically, they are found in the Andes mountain range of western South America. They are characterized by having very striking and varied colors, both in their plumage and on the beak. THey measure between 40 and 55 cm in length.
Examples of mountain toucans
These are some examples of mountain toucans:
- Black-billed mountain toucan (A. nigrirostris)
- Plate-billed mountain toucan (A. laminirostris)
- Grey-breasted mountain toucan (A. hypoglauca)
And if these toucans seem striking to you, we encourage you to read this other article about the most exotic animals in the world.
Aracari (Pteroglossus) live in the forests of the Neotropics or tropical zone of America. They mainly inhabit the basins of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers.
The size of these Amazon animals is around 40 cm in length. With the exception of the saffron toucanet (P. bailloni), they have black or dark back plumage, while the belly is colorful and often covered with horizontal stripes. The beak measures around 10 cm in length and is usually yellow and black.
Examples of aracari
- Green aracari (P. viridis)
- Ivory-billed aracari (P. azara)
- Collared aracari (P. torquatus)
Birds of the genus Ramphastos are the best known toucans and they bear the mononym of toucan. Of all the types of toucan that exist, these are the largest and have the most striking beaks. They also have a very wide distribution, from Mexico to Argentina.
These jungle animals measure between 45 and 65 cm in length and their beak can reach 20 cm. As for its plumage, it is very varied in coloration, although the back and wings are usually dark, while the belly is lighter or brighter.
Examples of toucans
Here are some examples of toucans:
- Keel-billed toucan (R. sulfuratus)
- Toco toucan (R. toco)
- White-throated toucan (R. tucanus)
Now we know the different types of toucan species, we might want to know about other groups of birds. Take a look at our article on the different types of water birds to learn more.
If you want to read similar articles to Types of Toucans - Different Toucan Species, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.
- Short, L., & Horne, J. (2001): Toucans, Barbets & Honeyguides. Oxford University Press.
- Puebla-Olivares, F., et al. (2008). Speciation in the Emerald Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus Prasinus) Complex, The Auk, 125(1), 39–50.
- Sandoval, R., & Rodriguez, A. (2018). Observations at a yellow-eared toucanet (Selenidera spectabilis). Neotropical Ornithology, 29, 175–178.
- Hilty, S. L., & Brown, W. L. (2001). Guide to the Birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, NJ. 1030p.