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23 Types of Toucans: Species, Identification, and Photos

One bird stands out in the lush tropical forests for its vibrant colors and large, distinct beak: the toucan. This head-turning feature helps it eat fruits and attract mates. With over 40 species, these avians exemplify diversity. In this post, you will learn about the distinguishing characteristics and behaviors of different types of toucan species.

Toucan Classification

Toucans are tropical birds that live in rainforests of Central and South America. They are known for their large bills and colorful feathers. They belong to the Ramphastidae family, with 43 recognized species distributed among five distinct genera2.

Ramphastos, or simply toucans, distinguish themselves with colorful bills and are renowned for harboring eight species across Central and South America. Next, Pteroglossus, commonly called Aracaris, houses 14 species primarily distributed in tropical rainforests. 

Moving higher in altitude, we find Andigena, or mountain toucans, with their four species in the Andes. Fourthly, Aulacorhynchus, known as green toucanets, has about 11 species. Lastly, the genus Selenidera, the dichromatic toucanets, encloses six species exhibiting a unique gender-based color variation.

In the following sections, learn more about the distinctions of some of the toucan species in detail.

Read more: Toucan Facts.

23 Types of Toucans

1. Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco)

toco toucan
Photo by gipe25 on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Toco Toucan is the largest member of the toucan family. It features a vibrant, oversized beak made of lightweight, hollow keratin. The beak helps the toucan reach and peel fruits, regulate its body temperature, and participate in mating rituals. 

The bird's body is black, with a white throat and chest and blue eyes encircled by a patch of orange skin. 

Toco Toucans move slowly in dense vegetation, feeding on fruits, insects, small reptiles, eggs, and occasionally other birds for protein. Moreover, they eat fruit by tossing it and catching it with their beak. 

The large bill of the Toco Toucan, accounting for a third of its body length, is believed to serve as a thermoregulator primarily. The bird uses it as an effective heat radiator by altering blood flow1.

2. Channel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos vitellinus)

channel-billed toucan
Photo by pelican on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Channel-billed Toucan lives in South American rainforests. It has a compact body and a large, brightly colored bill, primarily yellow with a black tip and a hint of red-orange at its base. 

These toucans often form groups and communicate with one another through distinct calls. They mainly eat tropical fruits, which they catch with their beaks. 

3. Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus)

keel-billed toucan
Photo by Ttschleuder on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Kell-Billed Toucan inhabits tropical rainforests from Central to South America, including the western Central Valley. Its bill mixes green, red, blue, and orange.

Moreover, their lightweight beaks help them feed, perform mating displays, and protect themselves. In humid, high-altitude forests, toucans often form groups and make distinct calls to communicate and mark territory. Despite their size, they are remarkably agile flyers. 

4. Yellow-throated Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus)

yellow-throated toucan
Photo by Charlie Jackson on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Yellow-throated Toucan, or Black-Mandibled Toucan, lives in the rainforests of Central and South America. It is mostly black, with a marked maroon hue on the back. The vibrant yellow face and throat, accentuated by crimson under-bands, give it its name. 

Subspecies showcase distinctive eye-ring colors and mandible tones, with the chestnut-mandibled toucan presenting a chestnut mandible, emphasizing the subtle inter-species diversities,

Moreover, the beak enables the bird to reach fruits on delicate branches. Regarding diet, it disperses seeds as it consumes tropical fruits. It also consumes insects, small reptiles, and bird eggs. 

5. Red-billed Toucan (Ramphastos tucanus)

red-billed toucan
Photo by domdomegg on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Red-billed Toucan or White-throated toucan lives in the rainforests of South America. As its name indicates, it has a large red bill with a white throat. It also makes croaking calls and often gathers in small groups. 

6. Choco Toucan (Ramphastos brevis)

choco toucan
Photo by Jonnathan Marin on Pexels.

The Choco Toucan is native to the Choco biogeographic region in Colombia and Ecuador. It has glossy black feathers, a yellow chest, and an oversized, curved bill with a light green hue that ends in a red tip. 

Moreover, the bird primarily inhabits dense tropical and subtropical forests, feeding on fruits, insects, eggs, and small vertebrates. These birds also support forest biodiversity by dispersing seeds around the forest floor. 

7. Citron-throated Toucan (Ramphastos citreolaemus)

citron-throated toucan
Photo by Ron Knight on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Citron-throated Toucan is native to the rainforests of Central and South America. It has a black coat, yellow throat, and a green, elongated bill. 

Moreover, this bird often forms small flocks, communicating through various sounds. Its diet includes fruits, insects, small reptiles, and bird eggs. The toucan maintains forest biodiversity through seed dispersion and pest control.

8. Green-billed Toucan (Ramphastos dicolorus)

Green-billed Toucan
Photo by Fernando Chacon on Pexels.

The Green-billed Toucan is a medium-sized bird with a distinct green bill. It measures 22 inches and forms groups of five to six members. Their diet consists of fruits, insects, and small reptiles. 

Moreover, they communicate with distinctive, low-croaking sounds and observe communal nesting, often using tree cavities or abandoned woodpecker nests. For instance, males and females take turns incubating their 2 to 4 eggs and nurturing the chicks.

9. Saffron Toucanet (Pteroglossus bailloni)

Saffron Toucanet
Photo by Renato Augusto Martins on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Saffron Toucanet lives in the Atlantic Forest of South America. It has a yellow-orange head and chest, a shorter and stouter beak, and a mostly green plumage. 

The Saffron Toucanet feeds on fruits, insects, small reptiles, and bird eggs. It also forms pairs or small groups and makes a distinctive 'peeping' call.

10. Chestnut-eared Aracari (Pteroglossus castanotis)

Chestnut-eared Aracari
Photo by Bernard DUPONT on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Chestnut-eared Aracari is a medium-sized toucan that measures around 16 inches. It has black and yellow plumage with a chestnut hue around its ears. Moreover, its beak is yellow with a black tip and a red-orange stripe. 

 It usually lives in the rainforests of Brazil, Bolivia, and Colombia. Regarding diet, it primarily feeds on fruits and insects but may consume small birds and reptiles. The bird can catch insects mid-air using its oversized beak.

11. Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus)

Collared Aracari
Photo by Bernard DUPONT on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Collared Aracari is a medium-sized toucan, approximately 16 inches long and weighing around eight ounces. It lives in the forests of Central and South America, particularly the North Pacific slope in the Guanacaste Province.  

Moreover, it has a black head, neck, chest, a bright yellow belly, a red rump, and a vibrant red-and-yellow collar. It also has a large, curved bill, primarily yellow, with a black spot at the tip. 

This species also gathers in groups of up to 15. When nesting, several females lay their eggs in the same nest and take turns caring for the eggs and chicks. 

Additionally, the Collared Aracari is an agile climber adept at moving through the dense network of branches in the rainforest. 

12. Fiery-billed Aracari (Pteroglossus frantzii)

Fiery-billed Aracari
Photo by CRaPuLe on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 3.0 (Cropped from original).

Residing on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, The fiery-billed aracari boasts a vividly colored bill, black mandible, and largely red maxilla adorned with a yellowish tip. Its body features a blue-green back and red rump, contrasted by bright yellow underparts with a red belly band. Chestnut thighs and a black throat further enhance its flaming look.

13. Plate-billed Mountain Toucan (Andigena laminirostris)

Plate-billed Mountain Toucan
Photo by Mike's Birds on Flickr licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Plate-billed Mountain Toucan lives in Ecuador and Colombia’s sections of the Andes. It has a colorful beak and spreads seeds to promote forest regeneration. 

It has a two-toned bill, black at the front and red at the back, featuring a namesake yellow plate on the upper mandible. Its yellow under-eye and turquoise upper-eye area complement the black crown, bronze-olive upper parts, and blue-gray underparts with conspicuous yellow patches. Noteworthy are the yellow rump, black tail with chestnut tips, vibrant red vent area, and maroon thighs.

14. Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan (Andigena hypoglauca)

Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan
Photo by Dominic Sherony on Flickr licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan lives in the Andes, 11,400 feet above sea level, in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. These types of mountain toucans have grey and white plumage, a black-crowned head, and a red undertail with a colorful bill. 

The bird's diet includes fruits, insects, small reptiles, and bird eggs. It also disperses seeds to support forest regeneration.

15. Hooded Mountain Toucan (Andigena cucullata)

The Hooded Mountain Toucan lives in the high-altitude cloud forests of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Its head has a distinct blackish 'hood' and a colorful bill that transitions from blue to vivid yellow, which helps regulate its temperature. 

This bird consumes fruits, insects, eggs, and small vertebrates. It disperses seeds and promotes biodiversity in its native habitats. Moreover, the species often form pairs or small groups, communicating through unique vocalizations. 

16. Black-billed Mountain Toucan (Andigena nigrirostris)

Black-billed Mountain Toucan
Photo by Gary L. Clark on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Black-billed Mountain Toucan is native to the Andean highlands of South America. It has a black bill with a yellow tip and black feathers, a blue-grey collar, and red lower tail feathers.

Adults typically measure 20 inches. The black-billed mountain toucan lives in humid mountain forests and degraded areas 11,000 feet above sea level. It eats fruits, insects, eggs, and small vertebrates. It disperses seeds and promotes forest regeneration.

17. Emerald Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus prasinus)

Emerald Toucanet
Photo by Brian Gratwicke on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Emerald Toucanet lives in mountainous regions from Mexico to northern Venezuela and Peru. It boasts a bright green plumage, lighter on the underside. It has a white throat, green-yellow flanks, chestnut undertail coverts, and a large bill with a yellow maxilla and black mandible. Unique tail colors vary from green to blue, with chestnut tips.

It prefers humid forests and woodland habitats 9,000 feet above sea level. Still, they can adapt to altered landscapes. Its diet consists mainly of fruits but includes insects, small lizards, eggs, and occasionally small birds.

18. Blue-throated Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus caeruleogularis)

 Blue-throated Toucanet
Photo by Hans Norelius on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

Residing in Central America, the Blue-throated Toucanet is characterized by a large black bill with a yellow stripe along its ridge and a white strip at its base. Its feathers are primarily green, subtly transitioning to a lighter hue below. The species also features a deep blue throat and a chestnut tail base, with its upper tail surface shifting to blue towards the end.

19. Crimson-rumped Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus haematopygus)

 Crimson-rumped Toucanet
Photo by Alejandro Bayer Tamayo on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Crimson-rumped Toucanet lives in South America's humid forests. It has a dominant green plumage with a crimson rump, blue throat, and chest, and a black bill with a touch of yellow on the upper mandible. 

This type of toucan measures 16 inches and weighs around 10 ounces. It inhabits the verdant Andean highlands, which span from western Venezuela to central Ecuador, 7,874 feet above sea level. However, the bird can also adapt to lower or higher altitudes. 

It primarily feeds on fruit but can consume insects, small reptiles, and bird eggs. During the nesting period from April to June, both parents take turns incubating 2 to 4 white eggs and rearing their young.

20. Yellow-eared Toucanet (Selenidera spectabilis)

Yellow-eared Toucanet
Photo by Haui Ared on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Yellow-eared Toucanet, found in forests from southeastern Mexico to western Panama, sports vivid yellow ear coverts, a black body, a yellow rump, and a red vent. Males have a black throat, while females have a yellow one. It has a yellowish-green beak with a black tip.

Moreover, it feeds on fruits, insects, and occasionally small reptiles or bird eggs. The bird makes a distinctive call and vibrant colors, which help it blend well with the forest canopy for camouflage.

21. Guianan Toucanet (Selenidera piperivora)

Guianan Toucanet
Photo by Manjith Kainickara on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Guianan Toucanet is a medium-sized bird found in the northeastern region of South America. It exhibits an appealing mix of colors, displaying a black crown, gold "collar," and green upper parts. Its tail is green, with chestnut feather tips, and its red undertail coverts stand out. Their distinguishing feature is the black and red beak, framed by bare blue skin around the eyes.

The bird inhabits dense, lush forests and nests in tree cavities; male and female birds share parenting responsibilities. Regarding diet, they mainly eat fruits, insects, spiders, small lizards, and bird eggs. 

22. Tawny-tufted Toucanet (Selenidera nattereri)

Tawny-tufted Toucanet
Photo by Zieger M on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Tawny-tufted Toucanet lives in the dense tropical forests of Brazil, Guyana, and Venezuela. It has a green body, a bill striped in yellow and black, and a tawny tuft of feathers as its crown. Additionally, it has a contrasting red rump. Despite its vibrant colors, its small size and the thick forest canopy make it challenging to spot. 

The Tawny-tufted Toucanet uses its large bill for foraging, allowing it to reach fruits in high tree branches. It occasionally consumes insects, eggs, or small reptiles. 

23. Gould's Toucanet (Selenidera gouldii)

Gould's Toucanet is native to the rainforests of Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. It is approximately 16 inches long and has black feathers, a yellow-rimmed bill, and a patch of blue skin surrounding its eyes. 

Regarding food, the bird primarily feeds on palm tree fruits, insects, small reptiles, and bird eggs. It also observes ‘'bill-rattling' behavior, where it clacks its bill rapidly to create a resonating, rattling sound. 

Regarding nesting, these colorful birds often take over the tree holes made by other species, and both parents take turns incubating their 2-4 eggs.

1

Tattersall, G. J., Andrade, D. V., & Abe, A. S. (2009). Heat exchange from the toucan bill reveals a controllable vascular thermal radiator. Science, 325(5939), 468-470.

2

Gill, F., Donsker.D., & Rasmussen, P. (Eds). (2023). IOC World Bird List (v13.1).

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by Melissa McMasters on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).
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