Photo of the Month: Keel-billed Toucan

By Megan Runquist Holmstedt

Keel-billed toucan; PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Pham

Toucans live in South America, ranging from southern Mexico southwards to northern Columbia and the western edge of Venezuela. They are found in the canopies of tropical and subtropical rainforests where they share their homes, made in the holes of trees, with up to twelve others.

Toucans primarily eat fruit, but are considered omnivorous because they will also eat insects, lizards, tree frogs, and other bird eggs. Their beaks are very dexterous and let them eat a large range of fruit that other birds might not be able to reach. The birds swallow their fruit whole and regurgitate the larger seeds while the smaller ones pass through their digestive systems. In this way, toucans play an important role in the reproduction of the fruit trees they depend on.

The keel-billed toucan is crepuscular, meaning that it is most active during dawn and dusk. It rarely flies long distances because of its heavy wings – it is, however, quite agile as it hops from branch to branch. The monogamous pairs make their nests in natural tree holes (or those created by woodpeckers), and they take turns incubating their eggs.

The Los Angeles Zoo’s pair of keel-billed toucans can be seen on exhibit near the jaguar habitat in the Rainforest of the Americas.