Toco toucans are medium-sized birds weighing about 500 grams (a little more than one pound). They are mostly black with a white throat, orange face and blue ring around each eye. Their most striking feature is an orange-yellow beak with a large black spot at the end. Toucan beaks are made up of a very lightweight, honeycombed structure covered in a tough protective layer. The bills are powerful, serrated, and about 9 inches long on the male and slightly shorter on the female.
Toucans are arboreal birds of the tropical rainforest, living almost entirely in the canopy and mid-heights. They rarely, if ever, come to the ground, drinking from pools of rainwater in tree crotches, and feeding on fruits, especially fibrous fruits such as Ficus berries. In varying degrees, all toucans are semi-predatory. However, toco toucans are the largest members of the toucan family and the most predatory, also eating small birds, amphibians and even small snakes. Chicks of smaller bird species in unguarded nests are especially vulnerable and are swallowed whole as the toucans can toss them back into their open bills.
Adult females normally lay three or four eggs. Both adults incubate the eggs for about 18 days, and both rear the young. Here at the Zoo, crickets are fed to the chicks for the first seven days. Once the chicks have grown larger, they are fed pieces of the adult diet, which includes fruits, baby mice, and specially manufactured bird pellets. The chicks leave the nest when they are 5 weeks old, and they are able to feed themselves at 8 weeks of age. From that point, they are independent and given their own aviary. In the wild, adults chase the young away from the nest site to force them to make their own way in life.