Common Name: Keel-Billed-Toucan
Latin Name: Ramphastos sulphuratus
Family: Ramphastidae, this family encompasses all toucan species


From southern Mexico to northern Columbia and northwestern Venezuela. Altitude wise they range from sea level to 4,00 ft in Costa Rica.

The Keel-Billed toucan is listed as "Least Concern" in its abundance in the neo-tropics

Coloration and Morphology:
The bird including its bill is 17 to 20 inches long. The bill alone is about a third of its length ( 5-6 inch). The greater part of its upper mandible is yellowish-green. The upper basal half of the cutting edge has an elongated orange patch. The terminal end of the bill is dark red. The lower mandible is green at the base, followed by a patch of blue, then the dark red at the tip. The rest of its body is compromised of white, black, and red. There are no coloration differences between the sexes. The bill is compromised of a hollow bone covered in light yet durable protein called keratin. They have grayish-blue zygodactyl feet( this means their toes face in opposite directions) it ensures stability as they hop from branch to branch.

Reproductive cycle:
The mating ritual for toucans involves tossing fruit at each other. In a natural tree cavity the female toucan will lay two to four eggs known as a clutch. The male and female will take turns incubating the eggs, then after about 15 to 20 days the eggs hatch and the chicks have no feathers and their eyes are closed for three weeks. Both the male and female feed the chicks. After eight to nine weeks the new borns’ bills are fully developed and they are ready to leave the next

Keel-Billed Toucans live cramped in hollowed out trees. They tuck their beaks under their bodies to conserve space while they are sleeping. They spend their time in the lowland canopy of the rainforest hopping from branch to branch since they are poor fliers. Sometimes they may venture out into shaded scattered neighboring trees such as those in cacao and coffee plantations, pasture land, and secondary growth forests to find food or even nest.

A very poor vocalist compared to even non-melodious birds such as trogans, motmots, and jacamars. They sound like the croak of a frog but with a faster repetition. They throw their heads back and shake them side to side while calling or singing. In addition to their croaking sounds, they utter a rattle sound that is actually vocal and not mechanical.

A very social bird, seldom found alone. They are usually found in groups no larger than twelve. When one flies off the others will eventually follow behind the other in a single file line. While flying from tree to tree they nose-dive with their large bill, then regain altitude with their wings.

They are the most frugivorous (an omnivore that prefers fruit) arboreal birds in the rainforest; they eat almost any kind of fruit that grows in the forest canopy. They can eat fruits of all sizes by picking the fruit apart then toss the contents in the air, lift their head back and swallow the tossed fruit pieces. Insects, spiders and sometimes small lizards are on the diet.

Personal Experience:
When I saw the keel-billed toucan it was flying around the upper campus of the La Selva Biological Station. This was also the only site where I saw a keel-billed toucan. In the primary and well-developed secondary forests I did hear the croak like call of the toucan but could not see it. It was possible that it was high in the canopy; even though the literature said it is only a mid-canopy bird. When I did see the toucan it was flying alone and was not making any calls. According to literature it is rare to see a toucan flying solo. I also didn't see a swooping effect when the toucan flew across from one side of the station to the other.


Skutch, Alexander F. (1971): Life History of the Keel-billed Toucan. Auk 88(2): 381-396

Van Tyne, Josselyn (1929): The Life History of the Toucan, Ramphastos brevicarinatus. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Miscellaneous Publications 19: 1-43.