Toucans are some of the most recognizable birds in the wild, mainly due to their brilliantly colorful appearances and their large beak. Despite sharing several common traits, there are over 40 toucan species worldwide separated into 5 extant genera (more information can be found here).
In this article, we’ll be going over 15 common and beautiful toucan species you’re likely to find. Keep in mind, though, that this list is by no means exhaustive, and you may easily find other toucan species in the wild.
1. Toco Toucan
Scientific Name: Ramphastos toco
Range: Central and Northern South America
The toco toucan, otherwise known as the common toucan, is a large and brightly colored toucan with a large orange beak that has a black tip and base. Most of its body is black, except for a white throat, white rump, and a red vent. Its black eyes are surrounded by a circle of blue skin and orange plumage.
The toco toucan may be found in savanna and open woodlands in South America, where they often make their homes in tree cavities. They are not great fliers, so you may find them hopping from tree to tree instead.
As omnivores, the toco toucan mainly feeds on fruits but will also consume a plethora of other foods, such as berries, nuts, insects, frogs, small reptiles, and small birds, as well as their eggs and nestlings.
2. Keel-billed Toucan
Scientific Name: Ramphastos sulfuratus
Range: Central America
The keel-billed toucan is a large colorful toucan with a huge, multi-colored beak. It has black plumage throughout, with the exception of a lime-green throat, head, and large beak. Despite its size and bright plumage, the keel-billed toucan can be difficult to spot in the leafy canopy; instead, it’s often heard rather than seen. During the flight, its shape and color make it resemble a “flying banana”.
Typical habitats for the keel-billed toucan include the tropical, subtropical, and lowland rainforests of Central America (ranging from southern Mexico to Venezuela and Colombia.
The keel-billed toucan feeds mainly on fruit and berries but is also known to supplement their diet with insects, lizards, tree frogs, snakes, other birds, and their eggs.
These birds consume their food by grasping it with their beak, flipping it up into the air, and catching it with their mouths. They swallow fruit and small seeds whole while regurgitating larger seeds, meaning they play an important role in the reproduction of fruit trees.
3. Channel-Billed Toucan
Scientific Name: Ramphastos vitellinus
Range: Central and Northern South America
The channel-billed toucan is a large toucan consisting of mainly black plumage with a dark beak (sometimes the ridge on the beak is yellow), with variations existing across its range. Its throat color can vary between white and orange, the skin around the eyes can vary between blue and red, and western populations highly resemble the white-throated toucan. Its namesake groove is on the upper part of the beak, which is often hard to see in the wild.
The channel-billed toucan is found in the forest and woodlands of northern and central South America, with populations also seen in the Atlantic forests of southeastern Brazil. They are usually in the canopy of tropical rainforests but may also be seen in plantations and gardens occasionally.
The channel-billed toucan feeds mainly on fruit, especially the lipid-rich fruits of Virola and Euterpe palms. They will also supplement their diet with insects, small reptiles, frogs, and eggs. Since they swallow their fruit whole, channel-billed toucans are also important seed dispersers for their respective fruit trees.
4. Red-Breasted Toucan
Scientific Name: Ramphastos dicolorus
Range: Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay
The red-breasted toucan is a large toucan with a red belly, a red vent, a red rump, a large, mainly green beak with pale yellow edges, and a white and yellow throat and breast. Their underparts, back, and tail are mainly black. They have a circle of red skin around their eyes, as well as a black ring encircling the base of the beak.
The red-breasted toucan’s habitat mainly consists of the montane and lowland forests of Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. However, they may also be found in second-growth plantations.
The red-breasted toucan’s diet consists of fruit, nuts, and some animal prey. They are known to consume the contents of songbird nests, including both their eggs and hatchlings.
5. Choco Toucan
Scientific Name: Ramphastos brevis
Range: Panama, Colombia, Ecuador
The choco toucan is a large black and yellow toucan consisting of a yellow stripe on top of the beak so that it looks roughly half black and half yellow. Its throat and breast are of a similarly yellow color, while the rest of its body is almost completely black. It resembles the chestnut-mandible races of the yellow-throated toucan with the exception of the black area on its beak.
The choco toucan inhabits the lowland and foothill rainforests to the west of the Andes, but it can also appear in pastures and plantations that contain fruiting trees near these rainforests.
Fruits make up the majority of the choco toucan’s diet; however, they often supplement it with a variety of animals, such as fish, frogs, lizards, smaller birds, and a range of insects.
6. White-Throated Toucan
Scientific Name: Ramphastos tucanus
Range: Central and Northern South America
The white-throated toucan is a large black-and-white toucan consisting of mainly black plumage throughout, with the exception of a white throat, blue skin around the eyes, and a large black beak with a band of yellow on top and a combination of yellow and blue at the base.
Compared to the channel-billed toucan, which shares its range with the white-throated toucan, the latter has a slightly longer beak and is larger. However, the main difference is its voice, with the white-throated toucan creating a series of loud yelps while the channel-billed toucan makes a croaking sound.
The typical habitats for the white-throated toucan include the lowland forests and tropical humid forests of central and northern South America. However, it may also be found in woodland and in riverine forests within Cerrado, Brazil.
The white-throated toucan’s diet consists mainly of fruit; however, they often supplement it with insects, lizards, smaller birds, and their eggs.
7. Hooded-Mountain Toucan
Scientific Name: Andigena cucullata
Range: Peru, Bolivia
The hooded-mountain toucan is a brilliantly colored toucan with green wings, mainly blue underparts, a sky-blue collar, and a medium-sized yellow beak that transitions to a black tip along with a black spot near the base. Its range overlaps slightly with that of the gray-breasted mountain toucan; however, its beak pattern differs significantly.
The hooded-mountain toucan is restricted to the east side of the Andes from southeastern Peru to western and central Bolivia. Its usual habitat includes humid temperate and subtropical forests.
Information on the diet of the hooded-mountain toucan is quite limited due to its very limited range, hence making it difficult to observe. However, as with most toucans, it’s assumed that its diet mainly consists of a combination of fruit and protein-based meals.
8. Plate-Billed Mountain Toucan
Scientific Name: Andigena laminirostris
Range: Southern Colombia, Ecuador
The plate-billed mountain toucan is a very colorful toucan with blue underparts, a rusty back, a black crown and nape, red undertail coverts, and yellow plumage below the eyes. Its namesake refers to the yellow patch on either side of its beak, which can be difficult to spot in juveniles. They make a metallic wailing sound that is preceded by the rattling of the beak, a sequence repeated every few seconds.
The plate-billed mountain toucan is found in the humid temperate forest and forest edges along the lateral slope of the Andes. They are often moving through the forest canopy, which may include epiphytes, bromeliads, and mosses.
Fruit makes up the majority of the plate-billed mountain toucan’s diet, though they will also feed on insects, smaller birds, rodents, snails, and bird eggs. Insects make up a good portion of the juveniles’ diet.
9. Groove-Billed Toucanet
Scientific Name: Aulacorhynchus sulcatus
Range: Venezuela, rarely in northern Colombia
The groove-billed toucanet is a small toucan with lime-green plumage throughout, a circle of blue plumage around the eyes, and a pale blue-gray throat. Its tail is slightly blue at the tip, and its beak is either a combination of black and dark red (Venezuela Coastal Cordillera) or black and yellow (Santa Marta and Andes). Its green undertail covers and rump, along with the blue tip at the tail, distinguishes this bird from other similar species.
Typical habitats for the groove-billed toucanet include the subtropical and upper tropical humid forests and woodlands in the mountains off of northeastern Colombia and northern Venezuela. They may also occasionally be found in suburban gardens.
As its range is quite limited, the groove-billed toucanet’s diet is not well known. However, they are believed to be omnivorous, consuming a combination of fruit, invertebrates, other small vertebrates, and their eggs.
10. Guianan Toucanet
Scientific Name: Selenidera piperivora
Range: Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname
The guianan toucanet is a small toucan consisting of a rusty-colored back, dark green wings, and a black head with a yellow band around the nape. Its beak is a combination of red and black, and its underparts are either black (males) or dark gray (females).
The guianan toucanet’s habitat includes mainly moist forests, including gallery forests, savannas, and forest edges. They are often seen at fruiting trees, where they will reach from a perch in order to pluck fruit from adjacent trees.
The guianan toucanet feeds mainly on fruits and berries. However, they will also eat plants and a small number of insects if they happen to come across any.
11. Spot-Billed Toucanet
Scientific Name: Selenidera maculirostris
Range: Brazil, Paraguay
The spot-billed toucanet is a small toucan with an olive-green back, blue skin around the eyes, a red vent, and a green tail with a chestnut-colored tip. Its beak is gray overall, with three black vertical bars above and one black bar below. This species shows sexual dimorphism as the males have black-colored heads and breasts, while the females have brown ones.
The spot-billed toucanet can be found in old-growth and secondary forests, as well as specifically logged and remnant forests, palm groves, and gallery forests near the edges of the Cerrado.
The spot-billed toucanet mainly feeds on fruit from a variety of plant species. However, they’ll also supplement their diet with insects and small vertebrates, such as lizards, and their eggs.
12. Chestnut-Tipped Toucanet
Scientific Name: Aulacorhynchus derbianus
Range: Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia
The chestnut-tipped toucanet is a small toucan consisting of mostly green plumage, a white throat, a green tail with a chestnut-colored tip, and a black beak with a thin, white line along the base. Some regional birds may have red patches at the base and tip of the beak. They resemble the southern emerald-toucanet but lack the yellow coloration of the beak.
The chestnut-tipped toucanet’s habitat consists of the subtropical montane cloud forest as well as the tropical forests of Bolivia. They are often found high above the canopy.
Due to their limited range, the chestnut-tipped toucanet’s diet is not well known. However, it is believed to consist of mainly fruit, seeds, and a limited number of insects, such as ants and grasshoppers.
13. Lettered Aracari
Scientific Name: Pteroglossus inscriptus
Range: Central and northern South America
The lettered aracari is a small toucan consisting of a dark brown head, a black back, pale yellow underparts, and an area of blue skin surrounding the eyes. They are named for the dark markings along the beak.
The lettered aracari is typically found in the canopy of lowland forest and forest edges, all the way into the foothills of the Andes. They can be seen perched on a snag or foraging in a nearby fruit tree.
The lettered aracari feeds mainly on fruit, small arthropods, other insects, and the eggs and juveniles of other birds, which they gather from their nests.
14. Many-Banded Aracari
Scientific Name: Pteroglossus pluricinctus
Range: Northern South America
The many-banded aracari is a small toucan with black plumage above and pale yellow below, with two contrasting dark bands across the belly. It also has an area of blue-green skin surrounding its eyes and a black-and-yellow beak with a red tip.
The many-banded aracari may be found in the canopy of lowland forest and forest edges up to the foothills of the Andes. Within the forests, they can be seen perched on a snag or foraging in an adjacent fruiting tree.
The many-banded aracari is considered frugivorous and so feeds mainly on fruit, though they will also supplement their diet with insects, small birds, their eggs, and lizards.
15. Ivory-Billed Aracari
Scientific Name: Pteroglossus azara
Range: Northwestern South America
The ivory-billed aracari is a small toucan consisting of a red breast, a dark belly band, a yellow lower belly, and a beak that is mainly a pale creamy-yellow color with some random dark markings along the mandibles.
The ivory-billed aracari is mainly found in the subtropical and tropical moist lowland forests. Other forest landscapes include Varzea forests, gallery forests, and secondary forests.
The ivory-billed aracari’s diet consists mainly of fruit, especially Ficus figs and Cecropia catkins, as well as insects and other arthropods.
Toucans are some of the most unique birds you can see in the wild, as each has its own unique physical traits (hence the very specific names). Although most are found in Central and South America, much of their range overlap, so you shouldn’t need too much luck finding one on your next trip.