TOUCANS  (Ramphastidae)

Toucans use their huge yet beautiful beak to manipulate even the smallest item

The purpose of this site came out of the fact that I just couldn't find enough information on these spectacular birds who haven't broken through into aviculture as much as they deserve to. I have dealt with toucans for some years now but by no means take what you read here as absolute truth. Email link at bottom of page or go to

NOTE:  It is our honest opinion and experience that the larger species should be kept as housepets only if sufficient room can be allotted for them because of their size, behavior, and level of activity.  This is the reason for us raising aracaris.  


Toucans are softbills much like mynahs and the like not because their bills are soft by any means, but because they exist on a diet that does not include hard-to-digest food items like seeds and nuts. The toucan in its native habitat would typically exist on fruits and some smaller organisms like rodents, insects, or lizards.

In captivity, however, their diet can be made much simpler for you and the bird as well as more nutritional than even a varied wild diet as most zoological parks can attest. Fruit is, of course, what at least 75% of the diet must consist of. I give mine papayas, seedless grapes, pears, apples, carrots, etc. I tend to stay away from citrus fruit and green vegetables because of their high iron or Vitamin C content which I'll come back to in a moment. I limit the banana intake because it tends to spoil the other fruits.

The purpose of feeding a low-iron diet is because softbills in general are prone to iron storage disease which is clinically known as hemochromatosis. Softbills have trouble synthesizing this metal and therefore, accumulate it in the liver, impairing its filtering function. As the other part of the toucans' diet, I give them Zupreem Low Iron Softbill Pellets because, for some reason they hate the colored pellets and choose to pick out the plain, brown ones first. Each batch of this diet is analyzed individually and contains less than 70 ppm iron.

Basically, toucans are as easy to feed as any other  bird, they just eat a different diet than hookbills!


It's not that hard!  I find that individual birds that I've cared for both in our program and in private homes have done fine in large cages that are suitable for large macaws.  Their needs are basic but important:  they need room to move back and forth, from perch to perch, and should be able to move their wings about as well.  If you have a handfed, tame bird, you'll have them out of the cage for exercise anyway so this is even more important.  For breeding on the other hand, they'll need even more room.  I'm in Chicago so outdoor housing just isn't a reality, but the research shows that some species can be bred indoors without problem, as long as the enclosure is large enough and they have access to natural light.

Rhamphastos toco
Toco Toucans (Ramphastos toco) are the largest species of toucan.

Rhamphastos swainsonii
Hey, it's Zeus! 

(male Swainson's Toucan, aka Chestnut-mandibled Toucan  Ramphastos swainsonii)

Toucan chicks waiting for food...
These are Toco Toucan chicks that are waiting for some handfeeding formula.
Thanks to Gail Worth for this picture!

Courtesy of Joyce Tatum, Well Bred Toucans

This is my keel-billed baby at 14 days old (7/15/00)  

Parents of NEO!!!  
Courtesy of Joyce Tatum, Well Bred Toucans

Here are the beautiful parents of this baby housed at Well Bred Toucans.


Courtesy of Joyce Tatum, Well Bred Toucans

Here is my same baby at 25 days (7/26/00) 


Courtesy of Joyce Tatum, Well Bred Toucans

Same baby at 25 days (7/26/00)

Home ] Virtual Zoo ] [ Toucans ] Consumers Reports ]