Toucans and Toucanettes - General

By Rick Axelson, DVM

General Characteristics

"Hand raised babies that are well-socialized make charming affectionate pets whereas wild toucans are challenging to tame."

There are approximately 35 (or more) species of Toucans and Toucanettes (family Ramphastidae) including the smaller, slender Aracaris. They are found in Central and South America. Their most outstanding feature is the large, elongate, hollow beak that varies in coloration from black to multicolored. They are not commonly found in the pet trade industry. Hand raised babies that are well-socialized make charming affectionate pets whereas wild toucans are challenging to tame. They require a large cage with lots of perches, as they are very active, curious and enjoy hopping about. Their bill is both powerful and gentle. These birds will entertain themselves by throwing and catching toys and food at the end of their beaks with the greatest of ease. Toucans eat a large volume of moist food and are rather messy birds. They have frequent, loose and often projectile droppings that may render them as less desirable pets. They do not talk or sing and are only vocal when wanting attention or hungry. They have a pleasant rattle-like tremolo when happy or content. They can be aggressive with other birds and are known to occasionally kill and eat smaller species.

Commonly kept species are the Toco Toucan and the Sulfur-Breasted or Keel Billed Toucan.


Purchasing Toucans and Toucanettes

Toucans and toucanettes may be purchased from a pet store or a reputable breeder. When selecting a toucan or toucanette, try to choose a young bird, as it may be easier to tame and train. Older, wild, colony or parent raised birds may prove difficult to tame. Hand raised babies often make better pets since they have been completely socialized with humans. Young birds are easier to tame and adapt readily to new environments and situations. Your new bird should be exposed early to different events (young and old people, males and females, other pets, car trips, visits to the veterinarian, etc.) to help promote a calm, well adjusted pet. The lively, alert bird that is not easily frightened is more likely a healthy bird. After purchasing your new bird, have it examined by your veterinarian.

Veterinary Care

Toucans and toucanettes require regular, routine veterinary health check ups. Your veterinarian can perform a physical examination, grooming (beak, nail or feather trim as necessary) and laboratory tests as needed. During these semi-annual check ups, health, nutritional and maintenance issues can be identified and addressed. Veterinary check ups help prevent disease and will aid in the maintenance of a long lasting, healthy relationship between you and your bird.


Mature - Variety off color combinations comprising black, blue, white, yellow, red, green, orange and brown

Immature - Similar to adults but slightly duller


Mature - Both sexes look aliketoucans_and_toucanettes-2

Immature - Same as the adult

Weight Average 175 - 1000 grams (5.6-32 ounces)

Size Toucans: average 16 - 18 inches (40 - 45cm) in length

Toucanettes: average 15 - 17 inches (37.5 - 42.5 cm) in length

Aracaris: average 14 - 16 inches (35 - 40 cm) in length

Life span 15 - 25 years

Diet See Feeding - Toucans and Toucanettes

Breeding Some species are being bred in captivity

Brood Size 2 - 4 white eggs will hatch in 20 - 25 days, leaving the nest between 6 - 8 weeks

Cage Minimum 2 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft long (60 cm x 90 cm x 90 cm)

The larger the better

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