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Black-mandibled Toucan

Ramphastos ambiguus

Black-mandibled Toucan

  • Order: Piciformes
  • Family: Ramphastidae
  • Polytypic 2 Subspecies

Authors: Rice, Ari A., J. D. Weckstein, and J. Engel


The Americas

The Black-mandibled Toucan is an uncommon resident of the Andes in lower montane forests and foothills from northwestern Venezuela south through Colombia and Ecuador to Peru. In Colombia and Venezuela, it is found on both slopes of the Eastern Cordillera, becoming restricted to the east slope in Ecuador and Peru (Short and Horne 2001, Hilty 2003, Donegan et al. 2007). An isolated population also occurs in the coastal range of northern Venezuela (Hilty 2003).

The Black-mandibled Toucan lives at relatively high elevations compared to other Ramphastos. It typically occurs between 800-2000 m but may reach lower elevations in areas such as the Maracaibo Basin, where it has been recorded as low as 100 m. Part of why it inhabits this narrow altitudinal range and not the adjoining lowlands may have to do with competition from the White-throated Toucan (R. tucanus). The White-throated Toucan tends to replace Black-mandibled at lower elevations, and where White-throated is absent (e.g., the Maracaibo Basin), the Black-mandibled thrives at lower elevations (Haffer 1974). According to Donegan (2007), R. a. ambiguus and R. a. abbreviatus replace each other on opposite slopes of the Eastern Cordillera, and are “unlikely to have any permanent zone of contact due to the high ridgeline of the East Andes in this region.”
R. a. ambiguus lives on the eastern slope, whereas R. a. abbreviatus inhabits valleys and foothills between the Central and Eastern Cordilleras, extending east as far as the middle Magdalena valley (where it may meet with Chestnut-mandibled Toucan) (Hilty and Brown 1986).

Outside the Americas

Endemic to South America.


Similar to Chestnut-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos swainsonii). Lives in humid montane forests, preferring primary forest, but can also be found in edge habitats such as clearings and older second-growth rainforest (Hilty and Brown 1986, Short and Horne 2001, Hilty 2003, Schulenberg et al. 2007).

Historical changes

Formerly occupied the headwaters of the Magdalena valley of Colombia, south to Huila, but no longer occurs there (Hilty and Brown 1986), presumably due to habitat loss. It also has decreased in abundance, and perhaps suffered local extinctions, in the coastal cordilleras of Venezuela (Hilty 2003).

Fossil history

No information.

Recommended Citation

Rice, Ari A., J. D. Weckstein, and J. Engel. 2010. Black-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

This map provided by Robert S. Ridgely.