The keel-billed toucan, also known as sulfur-breasted toucan or rainbow-billed toucan, is a colorful Latin
American member of the toucan family. It is the national bird of Belize.
Including its bill, the keel-billed toucan ranges in length from around 42 to 55 cm (17 to 22 in). Their
large and colorful bill averages around 12-15 cm (4.7-5.9 in), about one-third of its length. It typically
weighs about 380-500 g (13-18 oz). While the bill seems large and cumbersome, it is in fact a spongy, hollow
bone covered in keratin, a very light and hard protein.
The plumage of the keel-billed toucan is mainly black with a yellow neck and chest. Molting occurs once per
year. It has blue feet and red feathers at the tip of its tail. The bill is mainly green with a red tip and
Keel-billed toucans have zygodactyl feet (or feet with toes facing in different directions) two toes face
forward and two face back. Because toucans spend a large portion of time in the trees, this helps the birds
to stay on the branches of the trees and jump from one branch to another.
Distribution and habitat
The keel-billed toucan can be found from Southern Mexico to Venezuela and Colombia. It roosts in the canopies
of tropical, subtropical, and lowland rainforests, up to altitudes of 1,900 m (6,200 ft). It roosts in holes
in trees, often with several other toucans. This can be very cramped, so the birds tuck their tails and beaks
under their bodies to conserve space while sleeping. Adding to the lack of space, the bottoms of the holes
are often covered with pits from the fruit the toucans have eaten.
Like many toucans, keel-billed toucans are very social birds, rarely seen alone. It travels in small flocks
of approximately six to twelve individuals through lowland rainforests; it is a poor flyer, and moves mostly
by hopping through trees. It has a family structure within the group. Birds will often "duel" with each other
using their bills, and throw fruit into each other's mouths. Keel-billed toucans live together in these
groups, often sharing cramped living quarters of holes in trees.
The female keel-billed toucan will lay 1-4 white eggs in a natural or already-made tree cavity. The male and
female share in the caring of the eggs, both taking turns incubating. The eggs hatch approximately 15-20 days
after being laid. After hatching, the male and female again take turns feeding the chicks. When the chicks
hatch, they have no feathers, and have their eyes closed for approximately 3 weeks. The chicks have
adequately formed heel pads, which assist on the pit-covered bottom of the nest. The chicks stay in their
nest for approximately eight to nine weeks while their bills develop fully and they are ready to fledge from
Food and feeding
The diet of keel-billed toucans consists mostly of a wide range of fruit, but may also include insects,
eggs, nestlings and lizards, as well as small birds. The bill, surprisingly dexterous, allows this toucan to
utilize a large variety of fruit that might not otherwise be reached. When eating the fruit, it uses its
bill to dissect the fruit, and then tosses its head back to swallow the fruit whole.