Co-Parenting of The Keel-billed Toucan


I n 1995 I acquired my first pair of Keel-billed Toucans. Imported from Nicaragua by jerry Jenning of Emerald Forest Bird Gardens, they are part of a Cooperative Breeding Program for toucans, known as the "Toucan Preservation Center." The Keelbilled toucan is found from southern Mexico and includes central America to Northern Columbia. As I found while researching toucans, not a lot was known about them. Before I could even pronounce Ramphastids, I found very few articles and those that T did find were mostly found in the AFA Watchbird back issues

I was determined to make the surroundings for my toucans as natural as possible. The flight which is 20 feet long and eight foot wide has a building at the rear. The flights are surrounded by potted bamboo plants along with other tropical plants, such as bananas. Misters are set to simulate rain, and the toucans love to sit in the mist and enjoy the shower.

In addition to the plants, a bamboo reed fence meets the wire for added privacy and a natural look. It also helps to prevent a raccoon or other critter from reaching in with his paws, and recently (for added security) it was extended to include the side on which the morning sun appears. The fence now reaches all the way around the aviary complex without obscuring the sunlight. The wire is the same gauge as is used for parrots but the spacing of the bars of the flight is 1/2 inch, so that a raccoon paw can

not reach in, although raccoons do have claws three inches long.

The nest is a palm log which has been hollowed our and a slice of the log serves as a lid on which a tropical plant rests. The plant helps to prevent the toucans from attempting to enter via the top (knocking the lid off, so to spaek) while they are working the nest. The food dishes were placed close to the nest log which enabled me to keep an eye on the nest and what is inside. This was helpful in co-parenting, as I believe my being near the nest became a natural thing. It helped the parents as well. The nest log is four feet high and rests on the floor of the flight, giving me the opportunity to see into the nest as I approach the food dishes.


The breeding behavior begins in spring and one can usually find sawdust on the ground from the birds tapping the nest with their beaks. The male will feed the female and some will chase the hen around the flight, making repeated visits to the nest while purring. I have even seen the male place his head and beak over the female's back as if to give her a hug.

Incubation of the eggs begins with the second egg and only takes 16 days for toucans. The first baby Keel-billed was hatched June 7, 1998, and with my bucket of crickets ready for the first sound or sight of a piece of eggshell I was ready.

Encountering a piece of shell on the floor, I walked to the side of the nest where the food is located. Depositing the fruit, I then checked the food and looked down into the hole of the nest as I passed by. The hen did not come out. Leaving, I deposited a treasured piece of grape at the opening. In this way l communicated to the hen that I, like the male, am feeding her. I left the bucket of crickets nearby and the male began taking crickets to the nest.