Sunday, December 18, 2016

fun with toucans

I did a little research on the subject of toucans and found the website ""beauty of birds" had a lot of interesting information about them - so I thought I would pass it along.  The birds we saw this time at the hotel in Cartagena (they had three) were not the same one I saw there the last time despite the fact that they can live to 20 years in the wild and 25 in captivity.

Here are photos of my toucan friends from 2012 and 2016 with a 2016 of one of them showering in the fountain in the courtyard of the hotel

From the website-

How heavy is that bill, and what do they eat with it ?

Surprisingly light for its size, in some larger species the bill is equal in length to the body size. The neck is strong and short to help the bird with balance.  The bill's structure is formed by a highly organized matrix of thin criss-crossed bony 'rods', filled-in with a spongy form of keratin, creating a horny sheath (similar to fingernails) with serrated edges resembling teeth designed for tearing fruit, the principal component of the diet.  The bill is quite weak in the sense that it cannot bite, but it is so incredibly strong that some aircraft have been designed following the principles of its construction.  The thin, feather-like grey tongue extends to the end of the bill which is otherwise hollow. The feathering effect exposes more taste-buds, enhancing the importance of taste to the toucan.

Researchers have noted multiple benefits of toucan's bill:

  • It is a very efficient thermo-regulation system, serving as 'air-conditioning'.
  • The long reach aids in gathering food, with minimum energy expenditure, and it can reach into areas unavailable to other birds. The bill reaches fruit on branches that might not be able to support the bird's weight.
  • It intimidates other birds, allowing the toucan to plunder their nests.
  • It is unlikely that the bill's coloring or size is related to mating as female and male toucans have similar markings, although the females' bills are usually a bit shorter and straighter.
  • It does play a role in the mating ritual as the pair throw choice bits of fruit to one another.
  • Toucans fence with their bills and wrestle, possibly to establish hierarchy within a group.
  • It is theorized that subtle distinction in bill markings help individuals identify one another.
  • Berries and seeds are collected with the tip of the bill and then flipped into the throat by tossing the head.
  • Toucans supplement their diet with insects, small lizards, eggs, and the nestlings of other birds. This extra protein is required during breeding season.
  • Toucans in captivity must be fed a diet specific to the requirements of their species which make them difficult to breed and raise, as they are subject to health problems such as hemotomacrosis. Many breeders do not support them being kept as pets as the current supply in captivity is not enough to sustain the demand (for zoos and other such venues) and this increases them being harvested from the wild.

Physical Characteristics:
  • Wings are relatively small, suitable only for short distance flights.
  • The bills can be solid black, blue, brown, green, red, white, yellow, or can be colored patterns.
  • The bills are not strong enough to bite or destroy objects.
  • Bright plumage serves as camouflage in the colorful rain forest canopies.
  • Body length ranges from the smallest species at 7 inches to over 2 feet.
  • Tails vary in length from equalling half the length to the whole length of the body, according to species.
  • Predators include humans, large birds of prey and wild cats, particularly jaguars.
  • Eggs and nestlings are subject to plunder by all sorts of animals, especially snakes and other birds.
  • Toucans can live 12-20 years, depending upon species; larger toucans have lived up to 25 years in captivity.
Toucans are very intelligent and trainable, They are friendly and playful.

So there you have it- toucans - beautiful, cute, friendly and extremely photogenic! here is one showering - on film!