Keel-billed toucan

Keel-Billed Toucan

Scientific Classification

Common Name
keel-billed toucan
Genus Species
Ramphastos (large beak) sulfuratus (yellow)

Fast Facts

The keel-billed toucan is a large bird with mostly black plumage and a very large multi-colored bill. It has red and white coverts under and on top of its tail, green skin around the eyes and lore (the area between the eyes and the bill), a yellow face and throat, and blue legs.
Approximately 50 cm (20 in); beak 20 cm (8 in.)
Up to 400 g (14 oz)
These birds feed primarily on fruit, but will occasionally eats insects, reptiles, birds, and eggs.
16 to 20 days
Clutch Size
2 to 4 eggs
Fledging Duration
8 to 9 weeks
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 3 to 4 years
Life Span
Up to 20 years
This species has a very large range and can be found in Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela.
Inhabits tropical and subtropical rainforests
Partners in Flight estimate the total population to number 50,000 to 499,999 individuals. The population appears to be decreasing but is not severely fragmented.
IUCN: Least Concern
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

The toucan's beak appears quite heavy, but is actually light. It is hollow, made of the protein keratin with thin rods of bone for support. Although scientists have yet to discover the exact function of their large bill, they believe it may play an important role in the courtship display and as a defensive weapon.

When toucans sleep, they turn their head so that their long bill rests on their back and their tail is folded over their head. Often found in abandoned tree hollows or old woodpecker holes, 5–6 adults may sleep in one hole.

The keel-billed toucan is the national bird of Belize.

In their native regions, toucans are sometimes associated with evil spirits and are thought to be the incarnation of a demon. In certain religions of South and Central America, the father of a new child must not eat toucan flesh as it might bewitch the newborn and cause it to fade away. The toucan can also be a tribal totem and the medicine man can use it as an incarnation to fly to the spirit world.

This bird is a poor flyer, moving from tree to tree mostly by hopping.

Toucans have a loud frog-like call that can be heard up to a half mile away.

Ecology and Conservation

The primary threats to this species are forest destruction and habitat loss.

Many species of toucan are popular in the pet trade due to their brightly colored bills and keen intelligence.

The population is suspected to be in decline locally owing to taking of young as pets and unsustainable levels of hunting.


Gotch, A.F. Birds - Their Latin Names Explained. Poole. Blandford Press, 1981.

Perrins, C. Birds: Their Life, Their Ways, Their World. New York. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. 1979.

Perrins, C. M. and A. L.A. Middleton, eds. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York. Facts on File Pub. 1985.

Perrins, C. M. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds: The Definitive Reference to Birds of the World. New York. Prentice Hall Press. 1990.

Belize Zoo:

BirdLife International. 2016. Ramphastos sulfuratus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22682102A92931404. Downloaded on 06 March 2019.

Photo Credit: Keel-billed toucan.jpg. Source Wikimedia Commons. Image by: Brian Gatwicke. Year Created: 23 February 2010. Website: License: CC by SA 2.0 Generic.