About the Toucan

The view from the canopy tower at Posada Amazonas shows a panoramic sea of jade-green stretching to the horizon. Giant trees emerge from the Peruvian rainforest and stretch to the sky in search of sunlight. Bromeliads festoon many of their branches and some show a sprinkling of red, orange, or lavender-colored flowers during the dry season. Animals are out there too and a steady scan with binoculars or telescope sometimes reveals toucans perched in the treetops.

Medium-sized to large birds with over-sized bills, toucans are sometimes referred to as a “flying banana” when they take to the air. They glide between the crowns of rainforest trees and add color to the canopy with striking plumages highlighted by black, white, red, and yellow. Striking and exotic in appearance, toucans are an essential part of any Peruvian rainforest adventure.

The Tambopata region is especially rich in toucan species. Seven types of toucans make their home in the Amazon jungle of southeastern Peru and all can be seen at the Rainforest Expedition lodges. The two large species, Channel-billed and White-throated Toucans, are often encountered during visits to the canopy towers while the smaller and more brightly colored Chestnut-eared Aracari is a frequent visitor to the forest edge in many areas. Curl-crested Aracari is an uncommon, beautifully-colored species that is also regularly seen from canopy towers while the Lettered Aracari is usually found in riverside forest. The other two species that occur in Tambopata are the Emerald Toucanet and the Golden-collared Toucanet. These species are fairly common but they can be difficult to find due to their preference for dense vegetation.

Toucan in Tambopata
Toucan perched tree

Some interesting facts about toucans:

  • Toucans are omnivores: Most toucan species forage in the rainforest canopy for a variety of fruits, insects, and small vertebrates such as lizards. They also take bird’s eggs and nestlings.
  • Highly social birds: Toucan species are rarely seen alone. The larger species are usually seen in pairs or in small groups but the smaller aracaris frequently troop through the forest in groups of 10 or so individuals. The two toucanet species usually move around in smaller groups.
  • The beaks of males are bigger than females: Male toucans have slightly larger bills than females. This difference is very apparent when a male and female are seen together.
  • Intelligent: Toucans appear to be quite intelligent. In captivity, they can learn to do tricks and have been reported to “tease” other family pets. In terms of behavior, they act a lot like crows and jays; another family of intelligent, social birds.

How to see toucans during your Peruvian Amazon adventure:

  • Watch from a canopy tower: Most toucans are true canopy specialists and rarely descend into lower levels of the rainforest. They often perch on and display from the tallest of canopy snags.
  • Watch the treetops during boat rides: Traveling by boat on the Tambopata River is another great way to see toucans as they perch in riverside treetops and fly across this lowland rainforest waterway.

To experience toucans, toucanets, and other amazing Amazonian birds and wildlife, sign up for an Amazonian rainforest tour with Rainforest Expeditions!

A List of Toucans and Aracaris in the Tambopata National Reserve


Common Name Scientific Name
Emerald Toucanet Aulacorhynchus prasinus
Bron-Mandibled Aracari Pteroglossus mariae
Chestnut-Eared Aracari Pteroglossus castanotis
Curl-Crested Aracari Pteroglossus beauharnaesii
Ivory-Billed Aracari Pteroglossus flavirostris
Lettered Aracari Pteroglossus inscriptus
White-Throated Ramphastos tucanus
Yellow-Ridged Toucan Ramphastos culminatus
Golden-Collared Toucanet Selenidera reinwardtii


As Seen in

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