The Collared Aracari


The Collared Aracari Pteroglossus torquatus is a colorful native of Central America, ranging from southern Mexico south all the way to Colombia, and as such is the most common of the Central American toucans to be encountered in the wild.

Though the Collared Aracari is common in the wild, it has been quite rare in captivity until the Fall of 1994, when a few dozen birds were imported from Nicaragua. Prior to these importations, less than a dozen individuals were known to exist in the U.S., and in just two collections, where they were reproducing in small numbers.

The Collared Aracari is a small toucan slightly larger than an Emerald Toucanet, with a comparatively long beak. They are monomorphic, requiring surgical sexing to distinguish males from females, though adult birds show some differentiation in beak length, with the male sporting the longer bill. The breast is a bright yellow, with a horizontal red and black stripe across the middle.

Between the stripe and the black feathers on the throat there is a black spot, which varies in size among individuals from very large to very small, and in some individuals it is non-existent. The yellow breast feathers are suffused with red, and the amount increases as the size of the spot declines.

The head and neck of the Collared is black, the back, wings, and tail dark green. Separating the black neck feathers from the green back is a brown ring or "collar", that runs from ear to ear and gives the species its name. Some writers have suggested that the size, thickness, or shade of brown is determinitive of sex, though this is definitely not the case.

The beak of the Collared is black at the tip changing to silver along the sides then becoming red at the base. The eyeskin is deep red, contrasted against a bright yellow iris. The rump is red, and the legs blue-gray.

While the Collared is a small toucan, it is one of the largest of the aracaris. We weighed 20 adult birds, all in good flesh, and found a range of 185-218 grams. Newly hatched young weigh 8-9 grams, and double in weight every four days.

Collareds were first bred in captivity in the U.S. by the author in 1989, and have reproduced into the second and partial third generations. Because of the small number of founder stock, these birds quickly became inbred. In an effort to rapidly increase the number of birds, babies were pulled for handfeeding, which succeeded in producing a number of imprinted birds, the males of which made poor parents. Fortunately, the sudden appearance of a number of recent imports of this species promises to improve the Collared's genetic diversity and reproductive potential in captivity.

Like other species of toucans, Collareds prefer to nest in hollow nest logs, which we easily construct from sections of palm tree trunks. However, any hollow log will work, and there has even been successful breeding in a wooden box with a concave bottom.

Collareds lay three to five elliptical, white eggs per clutch and are capable of. producing three nests per year. Incubation lasts 16 days (same for all toucan species) and the young hatch at a weight of about 8 grams. Young birds leave the nest in about six weeks, looking like their parents, except the iris is blue, the eyeskin pale yellow, and the beak dark. They achieve their adult coloration in about 10 to 12 months.

In the wild, all aracaris exhibit "help- ing" behavior, wherein the young from the previous nest help the parents feed the new offspring. While not uncommon in the world of birds (bluejays, for example), this behavior is not encountered in other toucan species. The behavior may also occur in captivity, however, we have not attempted to permit it, since our flights are only 8 ft. x 12 ft. x 8 ft., far smaller than the space they occupy in nature. The poten-

tial for aggression between male parents ---------------and offspring, though low compared to

other toucan species, is nevertheless, a

real concern.

Diets for Collared Aracaris are simple. We feed a papaya based diet supplemented with grapes and cantaloupe. Other fruits are also suitable, with the exception of citrus, because of the high acid content (acid is thought to facilitate the uptake of iron). However, we believe it is useful to provide fruits that are available all year, since it may take time for the birds to adjust to new dietary items, many of which may have so short a season as to disappear from the marketplace at the very time the birds begin to eat them.

While toucans are primarily frugivorous, they require some additional source of protein. We have relied on Wayne's Bite (two sizes available: "chunk" and the smaller "bite") dog kibble, which is also verylow in iron (80 ppm). This is fed ad lib, and the fruit is offered fresh every day. When chkks hatch we soak the dog kibble to soften it, and make it a moisture source rather than a moisture drain, in order to avoid chick dehydration.