For the best chances of breeding, privacy and the feeling of security are at least as important as aviary size. All of the on-exhibit aviaries have a solid back and ends, leaving only the front open to zoo guests. With 3 sides of the aviary solid, the birds are assured that they cannot be approached from any direction except the front. This tends to make the birds feel safe and far less threatened than if they were in an open-sided aviary. The aviaries also have mature plants and trees that further insulate the birds from clamorous attention. The keel-billed toucans are very nervous when keepers enter the aviary, but the birds accept any amount of attention from onlookers because of the natural screen provided by the foliage.
A solid-sided aviary is even more important to protect the birds from the cold winter winds. In addition, a partly solid roof can offer protection from driving, freezing rain, as well as helping to exclude pathogens that may be introduced by the feces of wild birds or mammals. The exhibits at Riverbanks have roofs that are seven-eighths solid. Even with such well constructed aviaries and the provision of heat boxes, shown below, maintaining toucans outside year-round in our climate carries a small risk. We are always aware of the weather, and constantly observe the birds for any signs of injury from frost. However, all of our birds currently look excellent, perhaps due to good nutrition; and overall, they appear far healthier and livelier outside than inside, regardless of the weather.
Heat boxes are installed in all of the outdoor toucan aviaries. It is not thought that any of the toucans actually enter the boxes, but instead, they may sit in front of the opening as the warm air emerges. Equally, the birds may stand on top of the boxes to warm their feet, the part of their body most likely to be frost damaged during the winter. The boxes are made of plywood and mounted to the back of the aviary about 8 feet above the ground. A 250 watt heat lamp is fitted inside each box. This is turned on when temperatures of less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit are predicted.