A long colorful beak and vibrant colors are the first clue to a toucan's playful and energetic personality. The birds can be easier to care for than a parrot or cockatoo, but require a lot of interaction with their owners. Familiarize yourself with toucan facts before choosing this bird as your next pet.
Toucan Sam and Friends
The biggest members of the toucan family grow up to 20 inches and are best kept in outdoor aviaries or cages suited to other large birds. Smaller varieties take well to living in the home. No matter the size, the birds need abundant room to fly and plenty of toys to keep them busy.
The Biggest Birds
The toucan made popular in the cereal commercial, Toucan Sam, is a cartoon version of a keel-billed toucan. It is the national bird of Belize where it often frequents outdoor eateries to beg for fruit. The bird is black with bright rainbow colors on its beak, a yellow head and chest and green rings around its eyes. This intelligent and playful bird grows to about 20 inches. It's the most vocal member of the toucan family, but is only moderately noisy compared to cockatoos and macaws. The Toco toucan grows to the same size as the keel billed but has an orange bill accented with black at the tip and the base. Tocos require large flying cages and will often get into mischief when at liberty inside the house.
Growing to 16 inches, the Swainson's toucan has a white "tuxedo front" contrasting with its black feathers. It's not as flashy as the keel billed toucan, but has an orange strip on its abdomen and a yellow and orange beak. The Swainson's toucan is easily trained and can learn how to play catch or perform tricks. The bird takes to displays of aerobatic athletics such as midair somersaults but can quiet down and enjoy a cuddle with his owner.
Aracari toucans don't grow to more than 12 inches in height and some varieties weigh as little as 5 ounces. The Aracari is best suited toucan for indoor life as they are quieter than their larger cousins. Their vocalizations range from little yips and yelps to humming and purring sounds. However, the little toucan's activity levels require plenty of interaction, toys and flying space. Aracaris enjoy being part of the family and will bond with every member. You'll sometimes find them crawling inside your shirt for a snuggle.
Dining Toucan Style
Toucans are considered soft bill birds because the food they eat is soft. Juicy fruit such as papaya, grapes, banana, cantaloupe and blueberries. Low iron pellets meant for soft bill birds provide the bird with protein. Toucans naturally absorb large amounts of iron from food, so don't give them dog food or other proteins containing significant amounts of iron. A diet rich in fruits and protein from low iron sources provides all the nutrition they require for health with no additional supplements or vitamins. Toucans develop gout if they ingest too many minerals in their diet.
Watch out for the ingredient propylene glycol in low iron bird diets, which can cause a fatal reaction in toucans. Don't feed toucans citrus, pineapple, tomato and other fruits high in citric acid, which stimulates their digestive system to absorb too much iron.
Toucans as Pets
Toucans make easier pets for the novice bird enthusiast than parrots. Their simple dietary needs coupled with quieter and less messy behavior makes daily care simple. The birds are playful, friendly and interactive. They respond well to parrot training techniques and are willing students for learning new tricks. Unlike some species of parrot, toucans don't produce powdered down or feather dust -- tiny particles of feathers that can irritate the respiratory tract. This helps people with dust allergies tolerate the bird's presence. When flying free, their watery droppings are easily cleaned from household surfaces, but they can be trained to relieve themselves only in their cage.
Toucans have few health problems but are susceptible to bacterial infections if their food gets contaminated by rodents. Parasites of the gastrointestinal tract -- such as capillaria, roundworms and proventricular worms -- can be fatal without deworming medication. If fed a low iron diet of fruit and pellets, the bird is unlikely to get gout or iron storage disease and will live to about 20 years old.