No other word fits them – toucans are spectacular animals. Their shape, brilliant coloring, and tropical quintessence make them one of the most popular “poster animals” for the tropical forests of the Americas and one most visitors want to see. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that the logos of several conservation organizations and tour companies feature toucans. The toucan family, Ramphastidae, is classified with the woodpeckers, and contains about 40 species – the toucans and the usually smaller toucanets and aracaris (AH-rah-SAH-reez); all are restricted to the American tropics. Six species occur in Costa Rica.
The first sighting of toucans in the wild is always exhilarating – the large size of the bird, the bright colors, the enormous, almost cartoonish bill. Toucans are usually first noticed flying from treetop to treetop in small groups. The bird’s most distinguishing feature – its colorful, disproportionately large bill – is actually light, mostly hollow, and used for cutting down and manipulating the diet staple, tree fruit.