Everyone coming to the American Tropics wants to see a toucan. They are among the most colorful and bizarre-looking birds in the forest. This is everything you need to know about toucans!

The Famous Toucan Bill

Certainly, the most famous feature toucans have is their long, colorful, and thick bills. Some species even have bills longer than their bodies. Toucans use those bills to reach fruit and berries from thin branches. Their bills are hollow but extremely tough, allowing toucans to defend themselves from predators. 
Those bills also have an important role in nature.
Ecologists consider toucans among the most important seed dispersers in the rainforest. Toucans prefer to eat very eat ripe or even rotten fruit, and the seeds of the well-ripened choices have a much higher germination rate. As these tropical birds spread more and more seeds, the opportunity for the seeds to grow becomes greater. 
While fruit is a staple of their diet they actively hunt other animals including tarantulas, lizards and other birds – especially eggs and hatchlings from nests.

Toucans' Other Traits

Toucans are cavity nesters. They pilfer woodpecker holes for nesting and roosting. One of the funniest things to watch is five or six toucans squishing into a small woodpecker hole, one on top of the other. They are so fixated on taking over the hole, they stack themselves up, one on top of the other, like a tropical totem pole. 
And did you know that toucans spend more time hopping than flying? They have small wings, so they need to flap their wings a lot to fly. To conserve energy, that's why they are more often found sitting in trees than flying. Who would've thought! 
When it comes to reproduction, toucans typically breed during the spring and are believed to be monogamous, at least throughout the breeding season and while rearing the young.
Detailed studies on toucan longevity are lacking, but most sources suggest that toucans live for an average of 12 to 20 years in the wild. They spend much of their lives in the canopy and rarely see the forest floor, but hey! This is the best place to see toucans in the wild, so keep an eye out for birds in Costa Rica and you should see toucans at some point.
Sadly, even with the destruction of their habitat, the biggest threat these birds face is the pet trade. Their colorful nature makes them very appealing to people, but it threatens their numbers. Protecting toucans is a job for all of us! Never buy a toucan and denounce those who sell them.

Species & Where to See Them

There are six species of toucan in Costa Rica:
  • Keel-billed toucan
  • Yellow eared toucanet
  • Black mandibled toucan
  • Fiery billed Aracari
  • Emerald toucanet
  • Collared Aracari
All the 6 species mentioned can be found in the rainforests around the country and they generally live in small groups. 
Some of the best places to observe these birds are the Arenal Volcano & La Fortuna area, Manuel Antonio National Park, Sarapiqui, Puerto Viejo, Limon, the Pacific Coast in Guanacaste, Monteverde, Turrialba, Cartago, and the mountains in the Central Valley
Basically everywhere! During your next visit to the tropics, listen for their distinctive calls and look for trees with ripe fruit, and you’re bound to spot a toucan. Also, there are guided tours with nature experts if you want a more educational experience and a birdwatching adventure!

Fun Facts

  • Great at gymnastics: Toucans are awesome acrobats, swinging around and even hanging upside down to grab their favorite fruits.
  • Friendly eaters: When they dine, toucans take turns, showing how well they cooperate and share within their groups.
  • Forest gardeners: Toucans help forests grow by spreading seeds around, playing a vital role in the rainforest ecosystem.
  • Colorful flyers: Their flashy colors don't just shine on their bills – they're also a stunning sight when they glide through the air.
  • Sound imitators: Some toucans are talented mimics, copying the sounds of other jungle animals with remarkable accuracy.


FAQs About Toucans

Can you touch toucans in Costa Rica?

No, it is not recommended to touch or interact with wild toucans in Costa Rica or any other location. Toucans are wild animals and should be observed from a respectful distance to avoid causing them stress or harm.

Where can I see toucans in Costa Rica?

Toucans can be spotted in various regions of Costa Rica, such as Manuel Antonio, Corcovado National Park, Arenal Volcano, Tortuguero, and Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Guided birdwatching tours and nature reserves offer opportunities to see these colorful birds in their natural habitat.

Are toucans endangered in Costa Rica?

While some toucan species may be threatened or vulnerable due to habitat loss and other factors, many toucan species are still thriving in the diverse ecosystems of Costa Rica. Conservation efforts and protected areas contribute to the preservation of these iconic birds.

What is the significance of toucans in Costa Rican culture?

Toucans hold cultural significance in Costa Rica, often representing the country's vibrant biodiversity and rainforest ecosystems. They are celebrated as symbols of the rich natural heritage and are frequently featured in art, souvenirs, and local folklore.


About the Author

Matthew Briscoe

Matthew Briscoe - Costa Rica Travel Consultant
Travel Consultant at Costa Rican Vacations
Meet Matt, a world explorer who settled in Costa Rica in 2021. From Alaska to Fiji, it is Costa Rica that has won his heart, captivating him with our scenery, wildlife, and endless beaches.
Local Experts

We live, work & travel in Costa Rica.

Tailored Travel

Every trip is designed for you.

Super Service

5000+ reviews from dazzled guests.

Ready for the trip of a lifetime? Call us!
(800) 262-1578