12 Wonderful Keel-Billed Toucan facts

It’s arguably one of the most wonderful birds in the world, and in this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of keel-billed toucan facts.

1. They are part of the amazing toucan family

Keel-billed toucans are also sometimes referred to as sulfur-breasted toucans or rainbow-billed toucans, mainly because of their colorful plumage and bills. They are a member of the toucan family, which includes 5 genera and over 40 different species.

While keel-billed toucans are part of the “typical toucans” genus, the other ones include green toucanets, araçaris, dichromatic toucanets, and mountain toucans.

In case you wonder, all toucans have large and mostly colorful bills!

keel-billed toucan facts
Keel-billed toucan in a tree. / Source

2. They live in Latin America

So where do keel-billed toucans live? These birds have quite an extended range as they live in the tropical forests of southern Mexico in Central America, all the way to Colombia in South America.

They can also be found in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and a small portion of northwestern Venezuela.

3. There are 2 recognized subspecies

These birds are known by their scientific name of Ramphastos sulfuratus. There are just 2 subspecies called:

  • Ramphastos sulfuratus sulfuratus – Lives in the northern part of the bird’s range.
  • Ramphastos sulfuratus brevicarinatus – Lives in the southern part of the bird’s range.

The Ramphastos sulfuratus brevicarinatus was initially thought to be a completely different species but has been classified as a valid subspecies.

Keel-billed toucan interesting facts

4. Keel-billed toucans can grow quite big

These birds are relatively big as they can grow anywhere between 42 and 55 centimeters (17 and 22 inches). This length is measured when including their massive bill.

With a length like this, they can also weigh up to half a kilo as their average weight is between 380 and 500 grams (13 and 18 oz).

5. Their bill is their most prominent feature

The keel-billed toucan is one of the easiest birds to recognize as they have a massive colorful bill. It’s so big that it takes about 1/3 of their entire body length! This means that it grows anywhere between 12 and 15 centimeters (4.7 and 5.9 inches).

So that must be quite a hassle right, to drag that massive bill along everywhere?

Not really! One of the most interesting keel-billed toucan facts is that their bill is nothing more than a light, hollow bone, covered in a hard protein called “keratin.” This simply means that they don’t have any problem carrying their bill around as they probably don’t even notice it’s so huge!

The main color of their bill is green and it has a red tip and shades of blue and orange on the sides. An absolutely stunning feature!

Their bill is lightweight. / Source

6. These birds have peculiar feet

Another one of those remarkable keel-billed toucan facts is that they have blue feet. Their overall plumage is black and their chest and neck are yellow, which makes their blue feet really stand out.

But that’s not all! They also have something referred to as zygodactyl feet, which simply means their toes are facing different directions. 2 of their toes face forward and the other 2 faces backward, which allows them to get a tight grip on the branch of a tree, and actually jump onto another branch as well!

keel-billed toucan feet

7. Keel-billed toucans don’t have a nice bed to sleep in

These amazing birds make their nest and sleep in hollow trees. That’s a very small space so they literally need to tuck their bill beneath their body to make room for each other.

Bot comfortable in any way, but they are fine with it!

8. They like each other’s company

Don’t you think that keel-billed toucans look very friendly? Well, that’s because they are some of the most social animals on the planet! They just love each other’s company and are usually spotted together with one of their friends or family members.

They also love to play games, either play fighting with their huge bills or throwing fruit at each other so their friend can catch it. These birds just love to have fun!

keel billed toucan playing

9. Both males and females take care of the chicks

The female will lay 1 to 4 eggs and both the male and female keel-billed toucan will incubate them, something which takes about 15 to 20 days. When the chicks are born, both the male and female feed the chicks as well.

For 8 to 9 weeks the chicks stay with both the mother and father and they form a close-knit family together, each doing their part!

10. Keel-billed toucans are omnivores

So what do keel-billed toucans eat?

They aren’t picky with their food, that’s for sure! They enjoy eating fruits which they can dissect with their bills, but also eat a wide variety of other things. These include seeds, insects, invertebrates, lizards, snakes, and small birds and their eggs.

11. It’s the national bird of a Central American country

Just as the peafowl is the national bird of India or the bald eagle of the United States, the keel-billed is the national bird of a country, namely Belize.

12. Keel-billed toucans aren’t listed as endangered species

Since these birds have a wide range and live in lowland rainforests and can easily live at altitudes of up to 1,900 meters (6,200 feet), they aren’t listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List and are marked as “Least Concern.”

This doesn’t mean they are safe though because their population is marked as “decreasing,” mainly because they are hunted for their meat and beaks.

keel billed toucan in a tree