Toco toucan chick

Get to know toucans!

Toco toucan mother feeds mashed up food to its chick

For the first time in over 30 years, the San Diego Zoo welcomed the hatching of toco toucan chicks—two of them! The pair fledged in July of 2017, after spending nearly two months in the nest, and now they’re getting to know their exhibit habitat in Parker Aviary at the Zoo.

Toco toucan mother bird sitting on a tree branch

Life in the rain forest

With its large, bright-orange and yellow beak, the toco toucan is the best known of the toucan species. They are also called the common toucan, giant toucan, or just "toucan." In the wild, toco toucans live in rain forests in South America, where they make their home in the trees. These birds are not the best at flying, and prefer to hop from tree to tree.

Toco toucan eating grape

Top billing

Toco toucans are large birds that can grow to be 25 inches tall—and their beaks are over 7 inches long! Even though that beak looks big and heavy, it’s actually light because it is hollow and made of keratin (like your fingernails) with thin rods of bone to support it. Researchers think this large bill is used to show off to potential mates and as a defensive weapon. The toco toucan’s tongue is long and featherlike, and is used to grab food (like fruit, insects, and small reptiles) and toss it down the bird’s throat. Because the bill is so light, a toco toucan can use it to reach fruit on branches that are too small to support their weight.

Toco chick peaking through leaves

Flock talk

Toco toucans live in small flocks of about six members. They make their nests in tree holes. Both parents care for eggs in the nest. Young toucans do not have a large beak when they hatch—it grows as they develop. A toco toucan has its full-size beak by the time it is several months old. At the Zoo, the youngsters have shorter (their bills are long now), all-yellow bills. They're growing fast! And who can see them at the Zoo? You can!