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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)
Omnivorous; mainly feeds on fruits, but occasionally eats insects, reptiles, birds and eggs
16–20 days
Clutch Size
2–4 eggs
Fledging Duration
8–9 weeks
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 3–4 years
Life Span
Up to 20 years
Southern Mexico to northern Colombia
Inhabits tropical and subtropical rainforests
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. The toucan's beak appears quite heavy, but is actually light. It is hollow, made of the protein keratin with thin rods of bone to support it – similar in consistency to a hard sponge.
  2. Its tongue is like a feather that is used to catch food and flick it down its throat.
  3. Although scientists have yet to discover the exact function of such a large bill, they believe it may play an important role in the courtship display and as a defensive weapon.
  4. When toucans sleep, they turn their head so that their long bill rests on their back and their tail is folded over their head. The bird becomes a ball of feathers. Often found in abandoned tree hollows or old woodpecker holes, 5–6 adults may sleep in one hole.
  5. The keel-billed toucan is the national bird of Belize, or "bill bird" as it is known locally.
  6. In its native region, toucans are 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.
  7. The toucan is a poor flyer, moving from tree to tree mostly by hopping.
  8. Toucans have a loud frog like call that can be heard up to a half mile away in the jungle!

Ecology and Conservation

Due to this specie's range, it is the vulnerable to heavy deforestation.

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


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: