Saturday, October 20, 2007
The Toco toucan is at home in South America's tropical forests but recognized everywhere. The toucan's oversized, colorful bill has made it one of the world's most popular birds. The 7.5-inch-long (19-centimeter-long) bill may be seen as a desirable mating trait, but if so, it is one that both male and female toucans possess. In fact, both sexes use their bills to catch tasty morsels and pitch them to one another during a mating ritual fruit toss.As a weapon, the bill is a bit more show than substance. It is a honeycomb of bone that actually contains a lot of air. While its size may deter predators, it is of little use in combating them.The birds use them to reach fruit on branches that are too small to support their weight, and also to skin their pickings. In addition to fruit, Toco toucans eat insects and, sometimes, young birds, eggs, or lizards. They nest in tree holes. They are omnivores.