My love of aviculture started when I was very young and probably led to my love of biology. I have held a variety of species over time: psittacines, softbills and others. Of all the softbills with which I have worked in the past twenty years, my favorite is the focus of my aviary, the green aracari. I have been enthralled with the toucan species and its related taxa for many years and have found the green aracari (pronounced ah-rah-sorry') to be a wonderful specimen in so many ways: its relatively quiet demeanor, its playful attitude, and its fearlessness in most household situations. Keeping one as a pet, which I frequently use in education programs, has proved to be extremely rewarding as people who see her become instantly fascinated by her appearance and are surprised by her sociable personality. Basic husbandry for an individual aracari is not difficult as they eat a simple fruit mixture along with some low-iron pellets. Breeding has been a bit more of a challenge as they have different requirements than many parrot species. In this article, I will detail my personal experience including the feeding regimen, breeding requirements and basic breeding and husbandry tips that have worked for us after working with other breeders and avian veterinarians.
Pteroglossus viridis is the smallest species in Family Ramphastidae, averaging around 130g. In the wild, they occupy a range in the Northern part of South America that includes Brazil, Guyana and other nearby areas that contain tropical forests. They can be gregarious, living in small groups outside of the breeding season. Green aracaris consume mainly fruit though protein intake in the form of insects and small vertebrates can increase during breeding season. Like most fruqivores, they fill an important niche in their natural habitat by spreading seeds in their droppings after quickly digesting the various fruits they devour daily. It is unclear just how many different fruit trees these birds frequent but, with the diversity in these tropical forests, you can be sure the number is vast. It is also thought that these birds, like many arboreal primates, utilize a water source in the trees and not on the ground. Water is collected in the hollow notches in trees where groups of organic compounds seep into the water from the fallen leaves, tree bark and other plant components. These compounds, mainly tannins, have been found to bind to dietary iron, disabling excess storage in the liver that causes hemochromatosis, a disorder to which Ramphastids seem to possess a predisposition.
In my dietary preparation, I include everything I have at my disposal. Living in the Midwest, the diversity of fruit available through the winter is small so adaptations must be made. We offer some fruits as a staple, using mostly organic fruits that have been thoroughly washed. We avoid citrus fruits because they are high in ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), which increases the uptake of iron. Our diet includes:
• Apples, organic and washed
• Pears, organic and washed
• Cantaloupe, organic when available and soaked in cleanser
• Honeydew, organic when available and washed
• Papaya, washed
• Blueberries, US Domestic only and soaked in cleanser
• Grapes, same as blueberries (avoid Chilean imports due to
dangerous fungicides used)
• Plums, organic when available and soaked in cleanser
• Nectarines, organic when available and soaked in cleanser
• Peaches, organic when available and soaked in cleanser
• Carrots, washed and steamed or defrosted when frozen
• Figs, soaked in cleanser when in season
• Banana, organic
• Sweet potato, organic, peeled and steamed
• Squash varieties, organic and steamed
• Others including other berries and some fleshy fruits
Some fruits like blueberries are frozen when they are abundant and stored until winter when domestic produce is largely unavailable. In addition to the fruit above, greens are added twice weekly for enrichment purposes. We also sprinkle...
Becker, K.S. The Importance ofTea in Avian Diets. Lecture: The Avicultural Society of Chicagoland. Available online: www.tasc-chicago.org
Lindholm, Ill, J The Aracaris. Paper presented: AFA National Convention. August, 2006.
Nashville Zoo. Ramphastidae. Available online: www.nashvillezoo.org/piciformes/ramphastidae.htm
Seibels, R. & Vince, M. Toucan Husbandry Manual. AZA Piciformes Taxon Advisory Group: April, 2001