It’s all but guaranteed you’ll spot a few Toucans on your Costa Rica Vacation
If the closest you’ve ever been to a toucan is holding a box of Fruit Loops, then you’ve never visited Costa Rica.
On the country’s southern Pacific coast, where the rainforest meets the sea, these striking birds are spotted with great regularity. In fact, if you’re planning a vacation at one of our rental properties, it’s all but guaranteed you’ll spot toucans gliding from tree to tree in search of a good meal.
Costa Rican Toucans
There are six species of toucans in Costa Rica: Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan, Keel-billed Toucan, Emerald Toucanet, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Collared Aracari and Fiery-billed Aracari. Chestnut-Mandibled and Keel-billed toucans are the most common and recognizable of the species, and they’re the ones you’re most likely to see in the wild.
In terms of size from tip to tail, the Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan is the biggest of the species in all of Central America. With its long, multicolored beak – a combination of bright yellow, red and brown – and distinct mating call, these toucans can be spotted high in trees searching for papaya, berries, and palm. From time to time, they’ll balance their fruit-based diet by hunting small reptiles, bird eggs, and insects.
Like most birds, these toucans are extremely active early in the morning – this is the best time to spot multiple Chestnut-Mandibles in action – and their mating calls of “a-yip, a-yip” can be heard from hundreds of yards away. The calls are made to alert other toucans to “follow me,” likely in search of a meal. It isn’t uncommon to see toucans travel in packs of four or more, and they can be extremely playful creatures. Sometimes they stage mock fights or even throw fruit back and forth, all in the name of good fun – at least that’s what the research suggests.
In addition to being a photographic masterpiece, the toucan’s large, lightweight bills are perfect for plunging deep into trees in search of food. They also use vast tree holes for nesting and giving birth, which is often two-to-four eggs at a time.
While slightly smaller in stature, the Keel-billed Toucan is a marvel to look at. A rainbow-colored beak serves as a perfect complement to its yellow belly and face, black body, and blue feet. In terms of sheer natural beauty, the Keel-billed Toucan ranks right up there with the Scarlet Macaw, another treasure of the Costa Rican skyline.
Keel-billed toucans aren’t as common in the Dominical area, but they are out there. More often than not, this species is found in Caribbean lowlands and on the north Pacific coast.
Toucanets, both Emerald and Yellow-eared, are like micro versions of the Chestnut-Mandibled. Their bodies and beaks are much smaller and not as colorful, but one glance is all it takes to determine that these birds are definitely part of the toucan family. The Emerald Toucanet is almost completely green with a dab of red around the eyes and a bit of blue near the chin. The Yellow-eared Toucanet features a black body, dark green wings and significant green-to-yellow stripes near both eyes. Sometimes, they’ll also have a hint of red on their undercarriage.
Fiery-billed aracaris stand out with a large beak – orange and yellow on top and black on the bottom – and a belly that is bright yellow with a thick red stripe. The red stripe is an instant giveaway of the Fiery-billed Aracari. If you spot one of these beauties near your rental property make sure to dash for your camera because they truly are rare birds.
All of these toucans are extremely impressive in the wild, and so much different than anything you’re likely to see throughout the world. But that’s the beauty of Costa Rica, a country where a cereal-box character like Toucan Sam can fly right over your head while you’re enjoying a bowl of Fruit Loops in the morning.